It’s the latest weight loss craze among American teens striving to emulate the models they see in magazines: the ‘thigh gap’, in which slender legs, when standing with feet together, do not touch.
The thigh gap trend is inspired by models, who are usually so thin and bony that there is a pronounced space between their thighs. It’s most noticeable when they model swimsuits or lingerie. The truth is, thigh gaps are actually a genetic phenomenon based on bone structure. Even the thinnest women may not have a thigh gap, simply because their hip bones are shaped differently.
Experts say the cost of what teens see as an ideal body shape — but really is for most unattainable — 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.
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 said. “It is a matter of bone structure,” she explained, which “the majority of women do not have.”
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.