Shine On

‘Thigh gap’ fixation results in teen girls starving themselves

Young women are using photos like this as "inspiration" to starve themselves. (Twitter user: Fat and Broken)Young women are using photos like this as "inspiration" to starve themselves. (Twitter user: Fat and Broken)If the term “thigh gap” hasn’t made it into your daily vernacular yet, consider yourself lucky.

The concept isn’t new. In fact, it’s biology for some. A "thigh gap" is essentially the space between two skinny upper legs that don’t touch, a mainstay of fashion models and teenaged girls who haven’t reached full maturity yet.

What is new, however, is the proclivity among teen girls (and some boys) to acquire this “gap” by whatever means, including starvation and other unhealthy practices.

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The obsession has gotten so pronounced that there are web pages and Twitter profiles dedicated expressly to the gaps between these women’s thighs. Among them are written declarations of self-hatred that spring from these young girls professed admiration of superskinny frames.

“Everytime I look in the mirror, I want to get a huge pair of sharp scissors and cut all my fat off,” writes Twitter user @miarexia, a name no doubt coined with the word “anorexia” in mind.

“My fear of food is back in full force. ‪#ohjoy I thought I was recovering,” writes another Twitter user “I want a thigh gap.”

And here are just a few tweets from user "Fat and Broken": "I'm obsessed with photos of thin people", "I don't want to be slim, I want to be skinny", "Oh what I would give to have a normal, carefree attitude to food".

This space-obsessed group has appointed a number of ultra-slender celebrities to be their unwitting "thigh gap" high priestesses.

Models Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss dominate the fashion quotient, while television presenter Alexa Chung and One Direction girlfriend Eleanor Calder have also inspired countless girls to write lengthy online praises.

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The sickening truth is that "thigh gap" is just the latest focal point in an ongoing “thinspiration” motif -- a term used to describe a series of online communities where (mostly) young people post photos of incredibly slim women and then self-flagellate for failing to meet that physical standard.

Online members use “thinspo” forums to deify slim or underweight models and celebrities and to “motive” themselves to lose weight.

But it’s not exactly a badge of honour to the women singled out for their slender stems.

The Daily Mail notes that a photo posted by Alexa Chung last year drew an inordinate amount of attention, but probably not in the way she’d intended.

In the image, the 29-year-old fashion star is leaning against a wall beside her mother, but all eyes were drawn to her thighs.

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Though she received the regular heap of praise for her skinny body, the backlash that followed wasn’t pretty.

“It is equally alarming that people ENVY this degree... as it is NOT a healthy degree of underweight. Certainly, they shouldn't want to be like this,” wrote one commenter, articulating a view that soon snowballed into a marathon of reverse body-shaming.

The comments shook up Chung to such a degree she temporarily shut down her popular Twitter feed.

“Ok everyone thanks for the teen angst discussions,” she wrote. “People are different sizes. I'm not trying to be thinspo for anyone.”

Whether she’s trying or not, the conversation is not going away any time soon. And that’s a good thing.

Watch the video below about three Canadian students who received a grant last summer to make a music video about eating disorders.

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