From the use of corset-like garments dating back to 1,600 BC to the popularization of waist trainers by celebrities today … it isn’t all that surprising if you’re always thinking about getting a smaller waist.
It’s almost as if the desire for a tiny waist is coded into our DNA. We’d do anything for it.
And bam! We’re sucked right into the misinformation and false advertising surrounding how someone can get a smaller waist. We end up believing that there’s a workout routine, diet program, or fat-burning supplement that’ll magically shrink the waistline.
These may work in the short term. But in the long-term? They’re costly, unsustainable, and, worst, downright dangerous.
No more. I’ll show you how to get a smaller waist – safely and sustainably.
Setting clear expectations before diving in
Let’s get this out of the way. This article is all about how to get a smaller waist safely and sustainably. That’s why you’re not going to find any of the following here:
- Crazy low-calorie diets: You’d lose weight for sure. But let’s be honest; you could also die in the process. Also, how sustainable is just eating a slice of apple for lunch (for instance) going to be (1)?
- Hardcore abs training routines: I’m all about having a strong core. But doing a ton of abs exercises in hopes of getting a smaller waist is a little like training for a marathon by taking brisk walks around the neighborhood. A little bit helpful – but not really.
- Secrets to ‘overcoming’ your anatomy: While you can change how your body looks through exercise and diet, you cannot change your anatomy. The only way around that is going under the knife and removing 3 ribs or something. Definitely not recommended.
- Magical ways to burn fat: Just … no. The law of thermodynamics dictates that if you’re looking to lose fat, you’re going to need to be in a calorie deficit. This means you need a clear idea of how many calories you need daily.
So, what can you find in this article? Just the things you’d ever need when it comes to how to get a smaller waist naturally: 1) an honest assessment on what’s possible, 2) practical training tips, and 3) sustainable nutritional practices.
This article focuses on teaching you how to get a smaller waist safely and sustainably. That means you won’t find information relating to hardcore diets, workout routines, or fat-burning quick fixes (e.g. ‘how to get abs the fastest’ or ‘how to get bigger hips’).
What you must know about getting a smaller waist
Here’s something you need to recognize right from the get-go.
The smallest your waist can get depends on the shape and size of your ribs – something that cannot be changed unless you choose to put yourself through a dangerous procedure known as rib removal surgery.
This is where a surgeon removes the 12th, 11th, and, occasionally, 10th rib.
While none of them are ‘true ribs’ (i.e. attached to the breastbone and sternum), they still offer protection for your internal organs (2). The removal of these ribs is thus associated with the risk of damaging your kidneys, gallbladder, and even the stomach. Not a good idea!
Thankfully, if you’re like many of us out there, you probably still have a way to go from your smallest possible waist size (natural, with all 24 ribs present).
This means you could still get a smaller waist from making a few lifestyle tweaks.
Here’s an important disclaimer. If you’re already at a low body fat percentage – typically anything below 20% (for women) – and are still looking to get a smaller waist … stop.
Getting a smaller waist shouldn’t come at the expense of your:
- Mental health and/or
- Physical health
But if you’re currently at a body fat percentage that’d allow you to lose fat safely and happily? Then reducing your waistline could be an option. So, here’s how to get a smaller waist.
There’s a limit to how much you can reduce your waistline. That’s because your ribs determine how small your waist can actually get. Be realistic – only pursue a smaller waist if you have a good amount of body fat to lose and can maintain a calorie deficit safely.
How to get a smaller waist
There are 3 things you need to do when it comes to getting a smaller waist: 1) lose overall body fat, 2) build more muscle on shoulders, back, and hips and 3) stay mentally and physically healthy through the process.
Let’s dive into each of these ‘to-dos’ in detail.
#1: Lose body fat
Losing fat around your midsection area is key to getting a smaller waist.
But don’t fall for the all-too-common fitness myth of spot reduction; studies have consistently proven that you can’t choose to remove fat from specific areas of your body (3, 4, 5).
Resist giving in to the temptation of the following ‘spot reduction’ techniques (because they’re useless):
- A ridiculous amount of ab training
- Slathering your stomach with handfuls of fat-burning cream
- Suffocating yourself with a waist trainer
How to drop body fat percentage
Instead, focus on dropping your overall fat percentage. And you can do that by:
- Staying within a calorie deficit: As mentioned earlier, if you want to lose fat, you’re going to need to eat fewer calories than your body burns. The best way to stick to your calorie ‘budget’ would be to: 1) stay physically active and 2) make better dietary choices. Speaking of which …
- Prioritizing protein intake: Protein is more satiating than fats and carbohydrates. So ensuring that you hit your daily protein intake requirements can help you better control your appetite – and that could make sticking to a calorie deficit less challenging for you.
- Resting and recovering well: Sleep is critical for bulletproofing your willpower against food cravings. Just one night of lousy sleep can increase activity in brain regions associated with pleasure and reward in response to food. And this can lead to more impulsive eating habits. So, make sure you get those precious 7 to 9 hours of ZZZ’s! Here’s a guide on improving your sleep you should check out..
Oh, and do note that results will take time – even if you nail all that down. So don’t expect a smaller waist within days or weeks!
Experts commonly agree that the healthiest, most sustainable weight loss rate is anywhere between 0.45 to 0.9 kg (1 to 2 lb) per week. Any more than that, and you’d be looking at health concerns (e.g. menstrual irregularities, constipation, hair loss) and an increased risk of muscle mass loss (6, 7, 8).
It’s simply not worth rushing the process.
Losing body fat percentage will help you in getting a smaller waist. And you can do that by:
- Eating in an appropriate calorie deficit
- Prioritizing protein intake
- Resting and recovering well
#2: Build more muscle on your shoulders, back, and hips
When figuring out how to get a smaller waist, there’s no reason to limit yourself to just losing fat.
Instead of going ‘smaller’, think about getting ‘bigger’.
You can create the illusion of a smaller waist by building more muscle around your:
- Back (especially the lats)
- Glutes (especially the gluteus medius)
If you’re wondering where the gluteus medius is, check out this guide on getting a bigger butt – it has everything you need to know about glute training.
What’s more, since muscle mass burns more calories at rest compared to fat mass, gaining muscles provides a boost for your metabolism. This, in turn, can make the task of losing body fat easier for you.
Now, a few tips when it comes to muscle-building:
- Train each muscle group at least 2 to 3 times a week: Depending on your training experience, you should hit each of your muscle groups at least 2 times – and with a sufficient volume of around 10 to 20 sets – per week. Check out this training volume guide for a clearer picture.
- Focus on progressive overload: You need to increase the stimulus placed on your muscles over time to ensure they keep adapting. This is the process that stimulates muscle growth – and bigger muscles are what you need for the optical illusion of a smaller waist.
- Eat in a very slight calorie deficit: Your body builds muscle optimally in a calorie surplus. Obviously, that goes against the basis of getting a smaller waist. So one way around this would be to aim for a ‘body recomp’ (i.e. build muscle and lose fat at the same time). You want to eat in a very slight calorie deficit (9). Anywhere between 100 to 500 calories. The only catch? Body recomp isn’t for everyone.
To elaborate on the last point a little more, body recomp generally only works well if you:
- Are new to lifting
- Are a detrained lifter
- Have a high body fat percentage (above 30%)
Building up your shoulders, back, and hips can create the illusion of a smaller waist. Train them with adequate volume (i.e. at least 2 times a week) and focus on progressive overload. You should also eat in a very slight calorie deficit; doing so may help minimize the usual drop-off in muscle protein synthesis in a calorie deficit.
#3: Focus on achieving a healthy body composition for you
I want to be clear. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to learn how to get a smaller waist.
But the truth is that focusing on an aesthetic goal like this can lead to issues with body image. It can also push your body past where it likes to be at its healthiest.
So here’s a piece of advice: sit down and think about what your waist size means for your health and well-being.
Would having a smaller waist make you healthier? Happier? More fun to be around with?
If you can’t seem to decide, improving your self-awareness could be a great first step. Only by understanding yourself better can you make decisions that you’re truly happy with.
Honestly, though, if you’re already at a healthy level of body fat, the size of your waist rarely ever matters to anyone else but you. Being the healthiest version of yourself doesn’t have to mean a tiny, teeny waist.
Working toward a healthier self-image
Still struggling with that? Here are a few things that might help:
- Reframe how you think about exercise: Stop viewing exercise as a means to an end (or worse, a punishment). Instead, frame it as something that gives you joy, a way to celebrate your body – and keep it healthy.
- Marie-Kondo your social media feed: Exposure to media featuring unrealistic body types is, time and time again, linked to lower body image (10). Take control of what images you allow into your brain. Look at the accounts you follow – and delete accounts that feed you unrealistic expectations of your body.
- Practice gratitude with your body: Looking tiny isn’t your waist’s responsibility – but protecting your internal organs is. Your core is also key to keeping your body strong and stable during exercises like the hip thrust, for instance. So, practice gratitude for all the things your body does for you daily. It’s a step toward a happier and better self-image.
Learning to love your body when all you want is a smaller waist is not easy. You might understand – rationally – that there’s nothing wrong with your current waist size. But getting there emotionally can sometimes take some guidance.
After all, a negative body image isn’t something that can be overcome instantly.
So, don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist or coach who can support you on the journey. They’ll be able to give you tailored advice. And, most importantly, catch you when you fall.
Focusing on an aesthetic goal (i.e. ‘how to get a smaller waist’) can lead to frustration and issues with body image. Instead, sit down and think about what getting a smaller waist can do for you. If you’re already at a healthy level of body fat, trying to push your waist to an unhealthily small size isn’t a good idea – both for your physical and mental health. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if necessary.
Things you shouldn’t do for a smaller waist
Now that we’ve covered all the things you should do regarding how to get a smaller waist … it’s time to talk about everything you should avoid.
- Do abs exercises 24/7: Just … no. Spot-reduction is a myth. Just doing abs exercises isn’t going to help you lose fat from the area – unless (and only if) you’re eating in an appropriate calorie deficit. In fact, focusing on abs exercises might even make your entire core region look blockier as your abs (in particular, the obliques) get stronger and bigger.
- Pack in as much cardio as possible: Yes, cardio can make it easier for you to stick to a calorie deficit – essential for losing fat and getting a smaller waist. But doing cardio excessively at the expense of strength training? That’s a recipe for muscle mass loss. Plus, how long can you keep the demanding cardio schedule up for? Here’s an article on strength training vs. cardio that talks about this topic in detail.
- Spend money on waist trainers: Waist trainers belong – squarely – in the category of ‘fake quick fixes’ that promise you weight loss without changing your dietary and exercise habits. But they don’t work. At all. At best, they cause you to lose water weight (because it increases sweating). But at their worst? You can have breathing difficulties, increased heartburn, indigestion, and even face organ compression.
- Take fat-burning supplements: Popular fat-burning supplements on the market work primarily through 3 mechanisms: 1) reduce appetite, 2) reduce the absorption of nutrients (e.g. fat), and 3) increase fat-burning. But guess what? There is no solid scientific evidence that any of them work – particularly in the long term (11). And this is only made worse by their sketchy safety profiles.
- Go on restrictive or ‘special’ diets: You don’t need to eat in a particular manner (e.g. intermittent fasting) or go on a special diet (e.g. ketogenic diet) to get a smaller waist. These fad diets are unsustainable. And, besides, they all work on the premise of helping you stick to a calorie deficit. So, all you need to do is focus on finding a sensible, sustainable eating approach that works for you.
The answer to ‘how to get a smaller waist’ is actually pretty simple. It’s (primarily) about losing fat. And you can do that safely and sustainably without resorting to any of the following:
- Tons of abs exercises
- 24/7 cardio
- Waist trainers
- Fat-burning supplements
- Restrictive diets
Getting a smaller waist is a long process
Look at it this way. Instead of obsessing over ‘how to get a smaller waist – fast’ … think about how you can get a smaller waist in a safe, sustainable approach that’ll allow you to:
- Establish a healthy relationship with food
- Enjoy your workouts
- Learn to embrace your body
- Enjoy life to its fullest
- Prioritizing protein intake
- Resting and recovering well
Prioritize consistency and avoid doing anything too extreme or unsustainable. That’s how you can get the results you want. And hold onto them for years to come.