When Did Everyone Start Caring about Thigh Gaps?

I wrote this post in June 2013. While the thigh gap craze has definitely died down, it's still really relevant: there's always a new desirable trait (big butt and tiny waist, thigh gap, "hip bridge") and all of them are just as problematic as thigh gaps. There are hundreds of ways to feel bad about your body. It amazes me that we still find new and interesting ways to make women feel bad. 

A few weeks ago, I read a really interesting article that posed a really fascinating question: When did we all start caring about thigh gaps so much? And where did the obsession come from? 

If you use Tumblr, or Instagram, or Twitter, or any social media site actually, you've probably noticed an obsession with thigh gaps. The impressive Casey of PopPilates has several "get a thigh gap" videos. Pinterest is flooded with simple work out routines promising thigh gaps and thin thighs, as well as a reduction of love handles, an increase in the size of your butt, and to flatten your stomach so much it's like you've traded your internal organs for pure nothing. Tumblr is overrun with pictures of girls and their thigh gaps.

It's become an internet obsession. Let's be real, it's totally kind of creepy. I mean, do women really need another thing to nitpick our bodies about!? I'm already obsessed with the size and shape of my nose, my stomach, my chest, my arms, and my ankles. Please don't make me paranoid about the fact that my thighs touch, world. 

The article I read actually mentioned that it's confusing as to where the thigh gap obsession originated: obviously, there are roots in the pro-ana Tumblr community. Somehow, it spread to mainstream, to every day not-that-eating-disordered women thinking that having thighs that don't touch is the ultimate measure of a perfect body and perfect health. And then, of course, it spread into pornographic images, which makes its origins in pro-ana communities super weird. 

I've always followed a ton of fitness accounts on Instagram, another community that I would use the word "weird" for. The other day, though, I noticed most of these accounts frequently tagged photos with #thighgap. Um, excuse me? Aren't you supposed to be "healthy living bloggers"--and don't most humans know that a thigh gap is ultimately a measure of your body type (aka how wide your hips are, how your femurs are positions) and not your health? 

As a reminder, there are a few things we all should know. They are: 

  1. Having a thigh gap is not a measure of health. You can have a thigh gap and be overweight (yep!) -- it just depends on your body composition. You can have a thigh gap and be healthy. You can have a thigh gap and be very unhealthy. You can be very thin and not have a thigh gap. You can be not very thin at all and have a thigh gap. A thigh gap is primarily a measure in the width of your hips and your muscular structure. Seriously. 
  2. Losing weight to get a thigh gap is terrifying and if you're trying to lose weight to get a thigh gap, you need to look and the mirror and ask yourself what you're really doing. Time to confront some truths.  
  3. No amount of exercise is going to widen your hips. Coming from a wide-hipped lady, trust me, you don't want that to happen. 

The thing is, some human bodies just aren't meant to look a certain way. I'm never going to look like Giselle Bundchen in a bikini: I'm not that tall, that tan, or that slim-hipped. It's just a fact. Some bodies aren't every going to have thighs that don't touch. And that's totally okay

Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.
— J.K. Rowling

There are more important things in life than having a thigh gap. It's okay to want a body that is healthy and strong. It's not okay to try to manipulate your body into behaving a way that it just might not be able to. It's like a lactose intolerant person eating milk and cheese every day, even when it makes them sick, because they feel like "to be healthy" they need to eat milk and cheese!

Being healthy is about how you feel, throughout your day and about yourself. I've struggled for a long time with body image issues and I've spent my fair share of time in front of a mirror wondering why my belly isn't perfectly flat and why my butt is so dimpled. The fact is: that's just how my organs are arranged inside my body; that's just how my (female) body decides to store fat. There are things I can change and things that I can't. 

I've come to accept though that my body is a certain shape and I just have to work with it, not against it. It's easier to say that, of course; in reality, there are many days where I just want to hide away because I don't have a thigh gap, I haven't lost the weight I want. But when we start letting things like this--like thigh gaps and work outs and weighing our food--we start ignoring the things that really make us who we are. 

We're all more than bodies. We are bodies that create, and write, and love, and work. We can make pumpkin spice lattes and we can write novels. These bodies can hug a friend. 

What's more impressive? Dedicating yourself to passion, whether it's fitness, hiking, writing, scrapbooking, or whatever, or having a thigh gap? 

That's what I thought.