Here's What Happened When I Wore a Belly Chain to Lose Weight

I had visions of Tara Reid's abs dancing in my head.
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I had visions of Tara Reid's abs dancing in my head.

Welcome to Fitness Week! All week long we'll be posting stories about fitness, with a distinctly Fashionista spin.

Miss Jackson (ca.2002 here) should be the only one who's ever allowed to wear belly chains. Photo: L.Cohen/WireImage/Getty

Miss Jackson (ca.2002 here) should be the only one who's ever allowed to wear belly chains. Photo: L.Cohen/WireImage/Getty

I have never worn a belly chain, and never thought I ever would.  In fact, I tend to avoid any sort of belly adornments at all costs. Why draw attention to places that don't need scrutiny from outsiders? So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to try out the Malory Band, a simple belly chain-like device that's supposed to assist in weight loss.

Penny Mallory, a UK-based TV presenter and former Rally car competitor, has dealt with yo-yoing body weight most of her life. She had an "A-ha!" moment a few years ago while on vacation, when she struck up a conversation with a man who was wearing a string around his waist. He told her that he had been overweight as a child and it acted as a physical reminder to not overeat. Mallory claims that she's spoken to dancers and models who use this trick. She even found some evidence that the ancient Egyptians did it, too. (Probably because the Atkins diet hadn't been invented yet.) And thus the Malory Band was born.

The Malory Band ($40) is made from a soft polyester cord that doesn't stretch. The cord contains button holes at different intervals to allow you to make it tighter or looser, with two metal charms at the end to help thread it and hold it in place. Essentially the band acts as a psychological cue. When you eat and your stomach expands, it will get tighter around your waist, sending you the message, "You've had enough fettuccine alfredo, don't you think?" 

This is the Malory Band. Those are not my abs. Photo: Malory Band

This is the Malory Band. Those are not my abs. Photo: Malory Band

Because I'm always willing to subject myself to psychological mind games in the name of weight loss, I wore this thing on and off for a month. Mallory is quick to say that it's not supposed to be a miracle cure, just a support mechanism. It caused me a certain amount of distress seeing it nestled in the folds of my soft tummy the first time I put it on. It also doesn't help that I Googled "celebrity belly chain" before I tried it. Don't do this if you're not feeling good about your abs. 

I was hyper-aware at all times that I had a semi-tight piece of polyester string around my waist, which I guess is the point of it. But I'm already very aware of what's going on with my waistline pretty much every second of the day, so this added squeezy reminder threw me beyond mere awareness and into anxiety. Mallory told me some people do experience this. 

Possibly I ate more mindfully, because there were definitely a few dinners where I skipped the bread. Towards the end of the day especially, the cord got tighter. I have to admit, though, that a few times I just loosened the thing up and dug in. (For future iterations of this device, I'd like to suggest a "sushi setting" on the band. Soy sauce is so bloating.)

My greatest pleasure at the end of the day is taking off anything constrictive -- jeans, tights, bra, socks -- and putting on my beloved Old Navy lounge pants. So the Malory Band really prevented me from fully relaxing. It was like wearing a very thin corset all the time. Ideally, you're supposed to sleep in it, but I just could not go that far. 

Tara Reid wearing a loincloth and belly chain in 2003. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Tara Reid wearing a loincloth and belly chain in 2003. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

From a wearability perspective, I had a few issues. I took it off at the gym, because I favor lightweight, loose, white t-shirts when I work out, which sometimes ride up while I'm jumping around and burpee-ing. The last thing I wanted was questions about the band around my waist, which looks a bit fetish-y to me. The metal charms were also an issue when I wore thin knits -- you could clearly see that I had two knobby bumps on my belly. I figured out how to tuck them into my waistband, but the band definitely presents some styling challenges. 

There was one surprising area where the band really helped me, though: Posture. I spend a significant part of my day slumped over my laptop. When I slouched, the Malory Band lodged in the little fat rolls which form on my belly in that position, which was a disgusting and immediate reminder to sit up straight. My good posture was then rewarded with a tightening of my abs and a slackening of the now-hated stomach lasso. 

So I didn't lose any weight during my Malory Band experiment, though I possibly ate less bread. But I can see an exceptionally motivated person using it for some extra incentive. The concept makes sense to me, and the company has sold over 8,000 of them. But looking at 2002 Janet Jackson wearing a belly chain is probably more motivational for me than wearing one myself.