By MAZIE BISHOP
Written for Niagara News
The thigh gap has been the trending fitness goal for women for the past year, but experts are alarmed by the health risks some women re taking in try to change their skeleton structure.
The virtually unobtainable goal is to be able to stand with your feet together and to still have a gap between your thighs and women are going to unreal lengths to achieve it. In 2012, the thigh gap exploded online and found its way into every news feed of every form of social media. But at some point between the kick off of this trend and now, it changed from a fitness phenomenon to a status symbol for teenage girls. An Australian study shows that more than 50 per cent of 1000 high school girls are “terrified” of gaining weight and are severely unhappy with their bodies.
What lengths are these girls going to, you ask? In the past two years there have been reports of starvation, eating disorders and extreme exercise to try to achieve this near impossible body figure. All of this just to be popular and fit in, but these girls fit into their jeans fine before.
Sara Tellier, 40, an Acting for Film and Television student at the Niagara College, knows what these young women are going through. “I first had my eating disorder when I was 12. Mostly it was because I wanted to be skinny like the ‘popular’ and ‘pretty’ girls in school. It was also due to the fact that I was bullied by my step-father and kids at school. I was told I was fat, that I was a cow and that no one liked me because I was so disgusting. So I stopped eating,” says Tellier.
Tellier says the Thigh Gap is just another way for girls to divide themselves from each other and create a dangerous social status.
“We are all built differently, and to set this bar for girls and women to attain this gap, when some of us just will never achieve it, is so very wrong. Who came up with this thing anyway? Someone built us this way for a reason and we need to appreciate our form as it is. If you want to be healthy, great, but to starve ourselves for unattainable motives, not good,” says Tellier. Two weeks in a hospital with regular psychiatric help, kick started Tellier’s recovery and now, 28 years later she is here to reassure these women that it is alright to love themselves the way they are.
A lot of the women that are posting these “Thigh Gap Thins-poration” photos on their social media say that any goal can be achieved with enough hard work and dedication, but experts say that they don’t realize is that their goal is actually based off an obscure combination of body type, bone structure and connective tissue length.
Kyle Gruarin, 20, is a personal trainer and fitness coach in the Niagara Region and comes across a lot of women trying to achieve their ideal body type with out having the proper education about their image goal. “This can lead to destroyed relationships with food and self image and potential eating disorders. Image gets distorted to the point where one is never quite thin enough,” says Gruarin.
“After a certain point it’s incredibly unhealthy to maintain a low body fat percentage, as body fat is crucial for many bodily functions,” says Gruarin. Girls looking to diet down will often stop getting their periods and have a whole whack of other issues such as, losses in lean mass, lethargy, mood swings, increased hunger, all normal physiological responses to dieting.”
There are many dangerous set backs that can occur from over working or unhealthy dieting, and in the fitness world, decent nutrition and knowing your limit is an extremely important part of becoming fit.
Body image as a social status is not only an unrealistic indicator but also a dangerously unhealthy stigma. Michelle MacIntosh, a social worker from the Niagara College Student Success Center explains that a body image crisis, like the thigh gap can lead to body dysmorphic disorders. “The challenge with something like the Thigh Gap is that it is focused on one part of the body. This type of selective focus creates a sense of dismemberment to our bodies. A healthy body is a whole body. When we target one area we are creating an opportunity for our mind to become stuck and obsessed,” says MacIntosh.
There are all kinds of social movements up and running against the thigh gap now and MacIntosh urges women to refer to www.proud2bme.org, as a great resource for positive body image. Close the gap as not only a trend, but an ideal fantasy as well.