An Focal · Fashion · Features · Health

The New Worrying Teenage Obsession: The Thigh Gap

Teenage girls are always obsessed with something. If it isn’t the hottest guy in Hollywood or the newest band on the block it’s the latest in neon clothing.

However some obsessions are a little more serious than that. Growing from the ‘popularity’ of pro-ana websites the new teenage obsession is the thigh gap.

Teens are starving for a “happy gap”, the space between a female’s super-skinny upper legs that don’t touch.

It appears that the latest form of teenage hysteria is starving oneself to get this gap and, of course, using social media to instantly bond with like-minded folk.

It is the latest obsessive-compulsive activity of (mostly) teenage girls, and of boys who watch Project Runway.

This thigh gap is the latest deified look, a tumblr darling and a disturbing body trend fixating and hurting teen girls.

Glamourised and glorified, teens are copying thigh gaps sported by skinny fashion models and celebrities, by dieting, exercising and outright starving themselves so their thighs don’t touch.

And they share their pain, pleasure and pictures on countless thinspiration forums. Shocking images of impossibly thin thighs and alarming declarations of self-body hatred are trending worldwide, filling web pages, and Twitter profiles, dedicated to the elusive gap, like those of models Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss. The thigh gap craze even extends to Pinterest where tips on how to achieve the gap are shared.

While the pressure to be uber thin is not particularly new, what is different is the far-reaching and powerful impact social media has on its captive teen audience.

Pro-ana websites have caused uproar in the recent past but the usage of websites like Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest have taken it to a whole new level. Pro-ana refers to the promotion of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. It is often referred to simply as “ana” and is sometimes personified by anorexics as a girl named ‘Ana’.

Pro-ana organizations differ widely in their stances. Most claim that they exist mainly as a non-judgmental environment for anorexics; a place to turn to, to discuss their illness, and to support those who choose to enter recovery. Others deny anorexia nervosa is a mental illness and claim instead that it is a “lifestyle choice” that should be respected by doctors and family.

Thinspiration is the amalgamation of the words ‘thin’ and ‘inspiration’. A person’s thinspiration is usually an image or photo but can include other things such as lyrics, poems, quotes or sayings. It is something that mostly anorexics and bulimics use.

These websites that provide thinspiration are just a gateway for easy access to tips on how to get the new and elusive thigh gab.

Encourage your daughters, sisters and friends to focus on the space between their ears and not their thighs.

(Original text published in An Focal 19 March 2013 and online at  http://www.anfocal.ie/lifestyle/6683/the-new-worrying-teenage-obsession-the-thigh-gap)

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