Opinion: Life 101 — Body image and “thinspiration”

This week's "Life 101" takes a look at . (Josh Shettler/CU Independent Graphic Illustration)
 (Josh Shettler/CU Independent Graphic Illustration)

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A couple months ago, a friend asked me, “What is all this obsession about a ‘thigh gap?’” I gave her some offhand answer, guessing that it was just another strange term for some new fetish that guys were talking about. I didn’t think it was all that important, let alone a well-known term.

I was wrong. Recently while browsing the Internet, I discovered that the thigh gap actually is a health-threatening cultural craze that has taken social media by storm. And it needs to stop right now.

For those that don’t know, the “thigh gap” is a space between the upper thighs of girls and women. Users on social media sites like Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter have taken on the task of making the thigh gap a full-blown obsession, with pages like “OPERATION THIGH GAP.” The “thigh gap” tag on Tumblr alone gives you a good, if disturbing, image of what this craze has amounted to.

Wanting to be thin is nothing new, but the thigh gap takes it to another level. The trend of “thinspiration,” posting photos of attractive, slender women in order to give viewers a goal to strive toward, solidifies the thigh gap as more than a mere craze — it has become a quantifiable goal with real-life consequences. Young girls are even posting their body weights online to document their quest for the thigh gap.

As the well-known Dr. Oz tells us, the thigh gap is “anatomically impossible” for some people, and chasing it can lead to eating disorders. If you aren’t biologically set up to have a thigh gap — if your hips aren’t naturally wide enough, or if you don’t have a wicked-fast metabolism — chances are you can’t achieve that look without straining your body to the point of damaging your health.

On a personal basis, trying to achieve the thigh gap is certainly dangerous, but the craze itself is a wider issue. As a culture, this kind of hyperfocus on unattainable standards of beauty is how “America’s Next Top Model” ends up setting examples for young girls. This is how Victoria’s Secret models come to define what women should look like. It’s how our society grows to accept “Toddlers and Tiaras.” 

A culture like ours that centers around unrealistic images can push people to develop eating disorders and even symptoms of depression. Ask yourself: Is a gap between the thighs worth your health or sanity?

I understand that there’s a lot of pressure to change your body and to strain yourself to look like some model. But it isn’t realistic, and it isn’t necessary. Don’t try to be skinnier than what is healthy for you. By chasing these standards, you’re only giving them more validity for others to follow them.

The bottom line is that you have to work with what you’ve got. Be the healthiest you can be with your own body type. Don’t try to live up to the standards other people are giving you. Don’t go starving yourself and living at the gym. Try to view your body in a healthy and realistic way.

And let me be clear, the thigh gap in itself is not a bad thing. If you naturally have the body for it, hey, that’s fine. But pushing your body past its limits in an attempt to change for a society that’s giving you expectations? That’s not helping yourself or the people around you.

And if it counts for anything, I’ve never heard a guy stop and say, “Damn, check out that thigh gap.”

Contact CU Independent staff writer Ellis Arnold at Ellis.arnold@colorado.edu.

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