Have you heard about the latest teen girl obsession? It’s a thigh gap—or space between the upper thighs when you stand with your feet together. I never had one, even when I was 12, and for most girls it’s not physically attainable regardless of how little they eat or how many calories they burn.
But that hasn’t stopped them from posting and sharing thousands of thigh gap photos on social media sites like Tumblr and Pinterest. There’s even a wikihow website with outrageous tips on getting a thigh gap, which includes stretches and recommendations to take birth control pills.
Psychologists worry that the thin thigh obsession could be spurring a rise in eating disorders and extreme exercise.
“It’s definitely something that’s been sort of a barometer, if you will—it’s sort of a barometer in the anorexic’s mind, or in the eating disordered person’s mind. It’s another indicator of ‘success,’” psychologist Mia Holland, told Today.com.
Young women, though, aren’t the only ones striving for unrealistic bodies. Young men have been guilty of the same thing, taking steroids or other dangerous dietary supplements in an effort to get six-pack abs, thick necks, or ultra-ripped pectorals. In fact, researchers have found that men often overestimate how much muscle women find attractive.
Parents concerned about their teens’ obsession with the latest crazy body trends may have a tough time keeping them away from all the negative—and often photo-shopped—images that they scroll through on their social media accounts.
But psychologists emphasize that parents can be positive role models by avoiding words like diet, thin, and ripped and emphasizing the importance of eating well and exercising for being healthy and physically fit.
Parents may also want to join the same social media sites their teens are on to see the images they’re coming across. For example, if they see their teen pinning unrealistic body types on a social media board called Pinterest, they may want to use it to start a conversation about the fruitless pursuit of body perfection.