Latest obsession of American teens: the ‘thigh gap’


The latest weight-loss craze among American teens is the “thigh gap,” in which slender legs do not touch when standing with feet together.

Experts say that the cost of what teens see as an ideal body shape — but one that is for most of them unattainable as they strive to emulate the models they see in magazines — is self-esteem problems that can lead to eating disorders, depression and even suicide.

On Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook, “thigh gap” photos abound: close-ups of sometimes unbearably skinny legs published by young girls eager to show off their success — or bemoan what they see as a failure to whittle away fat.

“My thigh gap is huge,” brags a Tumblr user with the handle “foster-the-beatles.”

Another, “skinnysizezero,” cheers her fellow dieters on, saying: “Together we can lose weight. Together we can be skinny. Together we can be a size zero with a beautiful thigh gap and flat stomach. Together we can be happy and finally say that we love our bodies.”

Another poster, “elleskyyy,” said she felt better when she “realized I’m getting a thigh gap.”

A user called “starving for perfection” complained about her “mediocre/nonexistent thigh gap” and flagellated herself for her “fatfatfatfat.”

Experts say the obsession with leg shape is not new but has been dramatically amplified by social media websites and their 24/7 influence on the lives of American teens.

The fan Twitter account Cara’s Thigh Gap is dedicated to the extreme slenderness of British model Cara Delevingne, while dozens of Facebook pages and websites propose diets and exercise regimes to achieve the almighty gap.

But clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg warned that for most women, the “thigh gap” is a pipe dream, even via extreme dieting and exercise.

“Most women are not built that way to have that space between their thighs,” she explained. “It is a matter of bone structure (that) the majority of women do not have.”

For teenagers, adopting what Greenberg called an “unrealistic obsession” can be dangerous — increasing pressures that can lead to depression, even suicidal behavior, as well as to severe eating disorders, which can cause lasting brain and bone damage.

Indeed, starvation diets — and self-loathing — are a common theme on the “thigh gap” pages of young girls.

“Yesterday i had 380 calories but then i ate candys so much that my calorie number switch to ca. 650. . . . faaaaaaaaaaaaaat,” writes Anastasia, a young German girl, on Tumblr, while praying, “Please God let me be skinny.”

The World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of around 2,500 calories to support the energy needs of a growing teenage girl.

However, a countermovement against the “thigh gap” is building, with girls also taking to social media to mock the obsession.

On Twitter, for instance, “Common White Girl” declares herself relieved that her thighs touch, saying: “Not having a thigh gap saved my phone from falling in the toilet.” And one YouTube video, “5 Ways to Fake a Thigh Gap,” posted by “tadelesmith,” suggests that girls who want a gap between their thighs should simply move their legs apart.

  • Dolliedoo

    Do teens have to follow every yip and yap on the market? Don’t they understand this is just a game to get them pulled in some marketing system which THEY end up paying for in the end financially as well as emotionally?

    It’s a hook and sinker. Put thoughts of how ‘ugly’ a teen is right now in their current state. They double-back on themselves. Then they turn towards these advertisers who drain them tons of money. Then they have certain people who
    1) Either hire as influences to write such stupid articles for the look or product their promoting for
    2) Someone who’s already into the fad and encourages others to get in it too

    It’s all a big fat game and an unrealistic one. That’s what makes this one dangerous because there will be teens who believe and fall for this thigh-gap nonsense. Pyschological Warefare. Teens are much too easily influenced and emotionally unstable to handle such nonsense. This is why I believe there should be laws passed that debunk certain “beauty fashions” that are not only unrealistic, but also can be a health-hazard for teens or life-threatening. Obliviously, the audience that this thigh-gap is being aimed towards is still children. Children who believe everything their told and shown by adults who take these pictures and write these articles.

  • It does not necessarily follow that people loose their self esteem because of the obsession with thin bodies. It also should be acknowledged that ‘calorie starvation’ is good for you. These kids are not collapsing in the streets; and if they are fat or thin, the issue is not purely about ‘body’, its actually more about ‘mind’, the reason they think the way they do. Nothing the media types shows me they have any respect for the mind, so why should we expect any more from these teens. That is the perspective missing from such articles.

    • Hanten

      Only the overwhelming majority of people obsessed with having a thin body without achieving it lose self-esteem.
      The media is missing many perspectives which is why social media could be a blessing. But in both the traditional newspapers, magazines and television as well as in online communities there appears to be a greater importance put on how things look. I am more interested in how things feel, what values we’re building into our lives and the inner lives of the people on the planet.

  • tesmith47

    it is only the white teens obsessing about this the latino and black teens do not

  • Matt

    I have noticed the thigh gap thing for years. The girls with thigh gap have no hips – like a guy. Girls with no thigh gap have wider hips – much sexier. Wider hips means the legs are pointed in, not straight down. That angle means no thigh gap. It also means sexy.

  • budgie

    Men find skinny legs unattractive. It’s always the judgmental eye of other women that drives girls to such extremes.

  • JC

    When I was a teenager, long ago, I remember my younger sister saying that the thought of her thighs touching made her queasy. I was built differently and no matter how much I weighed I could never find a way to stand that my legs didn’t touch. One of the reasons I hated corduroy trousers was because they would always show wear between the legs.