The Infamous Thigh Gap

A few weeks ago, upon completion of a tough workout, I was cooling down in the aerobics room (the one at the gym completely made up of mirrors) and I thought to myself "hey, I don't have a thigh gap!" Admittedly, at first, I was a little bummed out. But in after the 10-second pity-party, I realized that I didn't mind having thighs that touched.  Why? Because this body has carried me through 15 years of competitive swimming, an Ironman triathlon (140.6 mile race), hundreds of miles on the bike and spent running.  These legs help me keep up with my beloved niece and nephew and they walk me through the Farmer's Markets on the weekends.  In that moment, I felt grateful for my two healthy legs that have carried me through my 30+ years on this earth.  But, if you're on social media or watch the news, you've heard or seen the words "thigh gap" mentioned, spoken or described over and over and over again.

If you haven't heard about it, the thigh gap is exactly what it sounds like: the gap between your thighs when one's feet are touching.  Most people, well, most people I know, don't have the thigh gap and those that do are naturally thin.  Yes, there are people who are born that way.  But there's a movement of younger women (and some not so young) who are striving to create a thigh gap thorough diet and exercise, with the mindset that limiting calories or running for hours will give them the elusive gap.  But does this mean they're healthy? Not really.

A story ran in the Washington Post yesterday about the increased concern surrounding the "thinspiration" hashtags and "thigh gap" posts on social media, especially among teenaged girls. Thinspiration, created by mashing the words "thin" and "inspiration" together, is a picture, person or video that gives the teen inspiration to work out and eat less with the primary goal of "getting skinny."  The thigh gap is always found in "thinspiration." 

Doctors and researchers are, rightfully, concerned that this wave of photos will create a rise in eating disorders. In the Washington Post piece, Angela Guarda, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine said "most women -- even those who are very thin -- do not have a thigh gap." Many athletes, even lean female athletes, do not have a thigh gap because whether a woman's thighs gap depends only on their bone structure, how far apart the hipbones are and the shape of the public girdle.  Most legs touch, at some point, between their crotch and their knees, says Guarda.

With social media and online platforms promoting the unhealthy body images, it gives the girls a sense of community and belonging.  It provides them an outlet to vent or seek out advice and connects them to other girls who are in hopes of attaining the infamous "thigh gap."  I'm not a parent, but I am an aunt to an 8-year old girl, and I try to be cautious of what I say in front of her, even if I'm joking.  And when it comes to us, as women, it's important to treat ourselves with love and kindness.  While not perfect, nor do I do it 100% of the time, but I try to only say things to myself that I would say to my niece or to my best friend.  As far as I know, neither one has a thigh gap and I love them to pieces.