UA health and wellness experts are expressing concern over a re-emerging obsession with having a “thigh gap.”
A “thigh gap” is an evident gap between the thighs when a person’s feet are together. The trend of the thigh gap is not new but was a concern for women in the 1970s as well, said Laura Orlich, a Counseling and Psych Services counselor and mental health clinician at Campus Health Service.
However, this is not a normal feature, according to Orlich.
Orlich said body structure is a factor in whether or not someone has a thigh gap, and that some women’s bodies are not physically made to have one. An obsession with getting a thigh gap could lead people to force their bodies to do something they were not meant to do.
“It can be dangerous — emotionally, psychologically and physically,” Orlich said. “A person could go to really, really lengthy measures to achieve that.”
Orlich said a lot of women focus on their thighs as a problem area, and young women’s spreading obsession with the “thigh gap” only presents another unachievable ideal for them to try to measure up to.
Shannon Snapp, a post-doctoral research associate with the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, said the thigh gap is yet another unrealistic body feature people try to obtain through unhealthy exercise and eating habits.
Snapp, who studies women’s body image and youth’s sexual behaviors, said many women show dissatisfaction with their bodies. Images in the media lead to women internalizing messages about the way their body should look. But they don’t take into account that the media heavily alters these images, Snapp said.
“For many people, their bone structure is simply not going to create the thigh gap,” Snapp said. “I think it’s a lack of awareness about how those images are created and not really thinking about whether that’s a realistic thing for that person and whether or not it’s even a healthy thing for that person.”
Body images manufactured by Photoshop are non-existent in reality, Orlich said, adding that women are striving to achieve something that can only be done with photo editing software.
Gale Welter Coleman, a coordinator of Nutrition Services with Campus Health Service and a nutritionist and registered dietitian, said eating disorders are generally seen in developed countries where there are cultural and societal pressures to be thin.
“You get an impression as a young girl that to be feminine, you should be thin,” Coleman said, “and as a young man, you should be hard and ripped.”
Coleman said the people who have this view then see that as a standard for being desirable. When a person fails to measure up to such impossible standards, it can then perpetuate the thought that they are not good enough.
One way this trend of obsession with body image can be prevented is by reaching out to others and reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders, Orlich said. People who have body image issues can surround themselves with positive influences, including friends, Orlich said.
“If people are manipulating food in order to have a thinner body,” Orlich said, “I think that we have a responsibility to educate them how to find happiness with being fit and with being strong and going for a healthy approach.”
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