The Elusive ‘Thigh Gap’ May Be Encouraging Eating Disorders In Teens

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shutterstock_151320365__1381068633_142.196.156.251A day doesn’t go by that I don’t thank the stars above that social media didn’t exist when I was a teenager. It’s hard enough being a teenager without the added pressure of documenting how you look everyday via the dreaded “selfie” that kids today seem to love so much. With seemingly unattainable trends like the “thigh gap” the pressure to look a certain way is just getting worse and worse.

The “thigh gap” is pretty self-explanatory. The visual goal is to become so skinny that your thighs don’t touch when you are standing with your feet together. I can pretty confidently assert that I have never had a “thigh gap” in my life. I’m just not built that way. Even when I was a slender kid and teenager, my thighs always touched. What can I say – I have a thick legs and a big butt. Even when I was skinny I was built this way. I have absolutely no idea what it feels like to walk around without your thighs touching. If my daughter takes after me, she’ll have no idea what this feels like either.

Why am I even thinking about this? Because hard to attain physical attributes like the “thigh gap”- combined with social media and an emphasis on women being thinner and thinner – are all aspects that are encouraging eating disorders in young women:

‘The intrusion and presence of social media in our lives really does make it very difficult,’ said Nancy Albus, chief executive officer of Castlewood Treatment Center, a suburban St. Louis facility that focuses on eating disorders.

‘The important distinction about thigh gap is it gives you an actual visual to achieve, this visual comparison of how your body does or doesn’t stack up.’ 

…experts believe that ‘exposure to online images of extreme beauty standards and the drive to compare does increase the risk of developing eating disorders.’

Now that I have kids of my own, I’m already totally horrified thinking about how their teenage years will be – especially my daughter’s. Who knows what the world of social media will even be like when she is a teenager, 13 years from now? The only thing I can do is teach her to appreciate her body and let her know as she is growing up that people are shaped all kinds of ways – and no one way is the best. There’s nothing wrong with a “thigh gap” if you are genetically predisposed to having one. But trying to attain something like that is ridiculous and maybe even impossible:

Dr. Vonda Wright, a Pittsburgh-based orthopedic surgeon and fitness expert, said the spacing between a person’s legs is based mostly on genetics. And even extraordinarily thin people may not have a body type that can achieve a gap. You have to be both skinny and wide-hipped, she said.

Besides, Wright said, it isn’t a goal worth chasing. Most fit people won’t have a thigh gap because their thighs are muscular enough that they touch, she said.

‘Skinny does not mean fit or muscular,’ said Wright, who works with Division I athletes. ‘I cannot think of one athlete I deal with’ who has a thigh gap.

Stupid thigh gap. What’s the next trend going to be? Sunken cheeks? Really skinny fingers? Who knows.

(photo: Anton Oparin/ Shutterstock)