Die, Thigh Gap Obsession!
Summer brings vacations, time with friends and a break from academics. To the person struggling with body image, summer also connotes obsessions: namely, shorts, bikinis and the elusive quest for a thigh gap.
A thigh gap is the latest obsession among adolescents and young women. A thigh gap is the space that emerges between a woman’s inner thighs when she stands with her ankles together. This is completely opposite how shapely legs were defined back in the day. Ask anyone from the 50’s and 60’s and they will tell you that the ideal leg touched at the upper thighs, knees and ankles. Today, many teens and young women are restricting, excessively exercising and enduring extreme procedures to achieve the gap. The fact is the majority of women cannot achieve a thigh gap. Here are the facts:
· Before puberty, young girls may have a thigh gap depending on their race, genetics, and hip bones. After puberty however, the skeleton system has finished developing and hips become wider and rounder and thighs become curvier. This lower body distribution is necessary for a strong, stable base in order to support child bearing.
· Even a very low calorie, low fat, restrictive diet will not result in a thigh gap for the vast majority of people.
· Excessive exercise, cardio or strength training will not result in a thigh gap for most people.
· The very few people that have thigh gaps are genetically predisposed. Think of this as your foot size. Your foot’s length and width is genetically determined. No matter how many times you squeeze your foot into shoes that are too small, your foot size remains the same.
· Do not believe everything you see. Pictures are easily digitally enhanced and thigh gaps are easily created.
Also important to remember is that actually determining the presence or lack of a thigh gap is difficult to assess. A woman must be wearing yoga pants, swimsuit or similar clothing and be standing with her legs together, ankles touching. Most people simply do not stand like this! Most people stand with their legs apart and a knee is bent. But the big picture is if you ARE examining a person this closely for the presence or absence of a thigh gap then perhaps YOUR values and priorities need to be reconsidered.
My recommendations for a fun (gap-free) summer include avoiding images of women (digitally enhanced or not) with thigh gaps, resist comparing yourself to others and mostly learning to appreciate the body you have.
Pam Chin-Lai, MS, RD, LD, CEDRD specializes in the nutritional rehabilitation of eating disorders in children, adolescents and adults.