Wednesday, 26 November 2014, 4:00 pm

The lies between your thighs

Studies show that 50 per cent of high school girls are “terrified” of gaining weight and are disgusted by their bodies. PHOTO BY MAZIE BISHOPBy MAZIE BISHOP
Staff Writer
The thigh gap has been the trending fitness goal for women for the past year, but experts are alarmed by the health risks women are taking trying to change their skeleton structure.
The unobtainable goal is to be able to stand with your feet together and to still have a gap between your thighs. Some women are going to unreal lengths to achieve it.
In 2012, the thigh gap craze exploded online and found its way into every news feed of every form of social media. But at some point between the start  of this trend and now, it changed from a fitness phenomenon to a status symbol for teenage girls.  An Australian study shows  more than 50 per cent of 1,000 high school girls are “terrified” of gaining weight and are severely unhappy with their bodies.
In the past two years there have been reports of starvation, eating disorders and extreme exercise to try to achieve this near impossible body figure. All of this just to be popular and fit in, but these girls fit into their jeans fine before.
Sara Tellier, 40, an Acting for Film and Television student here, knows what these young women are going through.
“I first had my eating disorder when I was 12. Mostly it was because I wanted to be skinny like the ‘popular’ and ‘pretty’ girls in school. It was also due to the fact that I was bullied by my stepfather and kids at school. I was told I was fat, that I was a cow and that no one liked me because I was so disgusting. So, I stopped eating.”
Tellier says the thigh gap is just another way for girls to divide themselves from each other and create a dangerous social status. “We are all built differently, and to set this bar for girls and women to attain this gap, when some of us just will never achieve it, is so very wrong,” says Tellier.
“Who came up with this thing anyway? Someone built us this way for a reason and we need to appreciate our form as it is. If you want to be healthy, great, but to starve ourselves for unattainable motives, not good.”
Two weeks in a hospital with regular psychiatric help kickstarted Tellier’s recovery and 28 years later she is here to reassure these women that it is all right to love themselves the way they are.
The women posting “Thigh Gap Thin-spiration” photos on their social media sites say any goal can be achieved with enough hard work and dedication, but experts say they don’t realize their goal is actually based on an obscure combination of body type, bone structure and connective tissue length.
Kyle Gruarin, 20, a personal trainer and fitness coach in the Niagara region, encounters a lot of women trying to achieve their ideal body type without having the proper education about their image goal.
“This can lead to destroyed relationships with food and self image and potential eating disorders. Image gets distorted to the point where one is never quite thin enough,” says Gruarin.
“After a certain point it’s incredibly unhealthy to maintain a low body fat percentage, as body fat is crucial for many bodily functions,” says Gruarin. “Girls looking to diet down will often stop getting their periods and have a whole whack of other issues such as losses in lean mass, lethargy, mood swings, increased hunger – all normal physiological responses to dieting.”
Many dangerous setbacks can occur from overworking or unhealthy dieting. In the fitness world, decent nutrition and knowing your limit is extremely important.
Body image as a social status is not only an unrealistic indicator but also a dangerously unhealthy stigma.
Michelle MacIntosh, a social worker from the Niagara College Student Success Centre, explains that a body image crisis like the thigh gap can lead to body dysmorphic disorders.
“The challenge with something like the thigh gap is that it is focused on one part of the body,” says MacIntosh. “This type of selective focus creates a sense of dismemberment to our bodies.  A healthy body is a whole body.  When we target one area we are creating an opportunity for our mind to become stuck and obsessed.”
There are many social movements against the thigh gap, and MacIntosh urges women to refer to www.proud2bme.org as a great resource for positive body image. Close the gap not only as a trend, but an ideal fantasy as well.

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