‘Thigh Gap’ Dangerous New Weight-Loss Craze

Hips of thin woman"What the heck is a thigh gap, honestly?" I demand of my suitemate as we trudge through the rain back toward our dorm after an early morning run. "Thigh gaps are those unhealthy things models share with the starving children in Africa,” she says. Something models share with African kids who are plagued by horrible malnutrition? Do models even have thigh gaps? They don't have perfect skin and they certainly don't have perfect eyebrows. The way almost all models and celebrities look in magazines and commercials can usually be attributed to the tech nerds behind the scenes who work magic with Photoshop. If every time someone took a picture of me they digitally airbrushed all of the blemishes on my face and the flab on my thighs, I'd look that good, too. Thigh gaps aren't normal, though. They are very rare naturally; space between our thighs shouldn't be something to strive toward, and yet, so many girls still do. So why?

It's not just unintelligent girls who wish to be skinnier and have a perfect rear end with just the right amount of cleavage and the sliver of a gap between their legs when they stand. And it isn’t to be more appealing to men, because if you ask a boy what he thinks about a thigh gap, he’ll ask what that is and whether it's contagious. Girls want thigh gaps for the same reason they want perfectly thin but healthy looking eyebrows—because it's what the media tells us is pretty. That is the image we are shown daily as a guide for what is acceptable as beautiful. We want a gap between our thighs because doesn't everyone want that? Isn't that what makes us look good in the summer when we put on a bikini? The messages the media send out are always critical. They tell us what would make us look better, hotter, sexier and prettier. They never tell us to wake up every morning and smile because that is what will make us beautiful. We are never taught how to accept ourselves for who we are and the bodies we were born with. Instead we are told how to take those bodies and make them better -- make them more attractive and skinnier and smoother.

I can honestly say that I have never turned on the television to find a show or a movie with a character that had an average, healthy body and was happy with it. The girls are shown as either skinny and beautiful with perfect skin or as extremely overweight and they are allowed to make fun of themselves because they've obviously made the choice to look that way and have to be proud of it. There's never the average girl with hips and thighs and unclear skin. We are never shown an image of ourselves, and therefore we feel inadequate. We never see ourselves in movies and TV shows and billboards and magazines, so we feel the need to change how we look to emulate the women we do see; the ones with unrealistic skin and whose cellulite is airbrushed out of pictures.

So what does this mean to the “average” college student? It means we are so confused by the mixed messages of the media and our parents and our friends and our enemies that we overcompensate. We want to be skinnier so we eat less and go to the gym more. We run and run and run until we feel like we must have burned off SOME fat. And then we see a commercial that is overtly feminist and we feel empowered and say, “You know what, the heck with this! I'll have a burger and extra fries!” And then the cycle starts again. We keep striving for this “perfect” image that doesn't exist. Models don’t all have gaps between their thighs or perfectly smooth skin that never breaks out. If they did, they would share their secrets with the world and the paparazzi would be out of jobs because photographs of makeup-free models wouldn't make headline news.

So, what are thigh gaps? They are bad. They are unhealthy.

Posted on October 21st, 2013
Posted in Eating Disorders

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