Why Girls Shouldn't Let The Thigh Gap Trend Leave Gaps In Their Self Esteem

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TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Most teens deal with body issues at some point -- but add social media to the mix and it could be sending girls the wrong message.

13's Sarah Plake talks about a damaging body image trend that your teenage daughter probably knows about.

The trend is called the "thigh gap" - and it's all over social media as a standard for thinness.

13 News visited with some high school girls in Topeka to find out if it's leaving any gaps in their self esteem.

Google "thigh gap" and you'll see pictures of bony legs and perfectly photoshopeed models, and girls showing off their thigh gaps - encouraging others that legs that don't touch define beauty.

Hayden students Nicole Wooten, Gracie Ortega and Maria Adkins had no problem defining it.

"The space between your legs, and it's not that easy to get one because you have to be incredibly skinny for that to happen," Maria said. "So girls nowadays are working really hard practically starving themselves to achieving that, because a lot of celebrities all have them."

The desire to get the elusive thigh gap is becoming obsessive. Some pages are dedicated entirely to thigh gaps and getting skinny. Girls tweet about wanting a thigh gap, and others use pictures that show underweight girls to illustrate that they have eating disorders or body image problems.

"I see them basically everyday," Gracie said. "Things popping up like that, it's hard to avoid them, and you start to think about them sometimes."

Dr. Ann Sachs sees women of all ages everyday. She says striving for a thigh gap is a waste of time.

"No matter how much you diet or exercise there would be no way to achieve a thigh gap unless you are genetically prone toward it," Sachs said. "You have to have wide hips so depending on how your bone structure is, there would be no way for most women to be able to achieve that look."

The girls said they have seen girls judging others on their bodies at Hayden High, but it's not a huge issue.

"I mean no one really worries about it," Nicole said. "There's other topics that I think girls are more concerned with than thigh gaps. It's a trend that will slowly go away."

What it really boils down to is body image. All three of the girls are in the school's SADD group, and the entire month of November is dedicated to body image awareness. They recently launched "Project Beautiful," a campaign that practically screams at the school that they are loved and beautiful. SADD members post signs all over the school, including bathroom mirrors and inside textbooks, with positive messages written on them.

SADD moderator and science teacher Elizabeth Meredith says she encourages her SADD kids to always smile and be nice to others because it could make all the difference to someone having a bad body image day.

"Some girls feel like they're alone, when they look in the mirror they're the only ones that look like that. I think it all revolves around self-esteem and if their peers can be positive about it and help them have a positive image of themselves, then it can be remedied."

The way girls treat one another is important, the girls said, and one bad comment about another's body can be damaging.

"Even if they're just joking around, sometimes that just like, haunts you and just one little thing could stay in the back of your mind," Gracie said.

But it can be hard to stay positive for girls when they wake up feeling fat or ugly.

"Try to install a positive mindset and love your body for what it is, but be healthy," Maria said. "It's hard nowadays because of all these trends."

"That's just how social media is, we're just judging everyone and there's no one out there that's just like 'you're beautiful,'" Nicole said.

"Everyone has those days where they're just feeling down about themselves and if they see [pictures] like that, it says that that's beautiful and they start thinking bad about themselves thinking like 'I wish I had that.' And other days you can just breeze over it," Gracie said.

When girls are having "one of those days," how do you get through it?

"Mainly like support from your friends, like when you're having that bad of a day, that's when you go to your friends. I think that's when it's the hardest is when you don't think you have anyone there and that's never true. There's always going to be someone there for you," Nicole said.

"Those days are kind of hard but I always think everyone is beautiful in their own way. I used to have a problem with that but I've come to accept my body for what it is," Maria added. "I don't have a thigh gap at all. It's looking in the mirror and knowing you have a supportive system."

Dr. Sachs emphasized that in no way is it healthy to do extreme dieting or exercising to get a thigh gap because of how unrealistic it is, but said that girls who do have natural thigh gaps aren't necessarily unhealthy.

"Have a healthy body shape and hopefully a healthy body image also."

And let's not skip over the fact that a lot of girls want to get skinny to attract guys' attention. Do guys really care if a girl has a thigh gap?

"I honestly don't think they care," Nicole said. "I don't think they look 'oh do you have a thigh gap? Oh, we can date. You don't? We can't date.' I don't believe that at all. And if a guy really believes that, he's not the right guy for you and you really need to find someone new. He has some problems."

The whole table nodded their heads in agreement.

Maria, Nicole and Gracie have all felt a little insecure now and then, but say it narrows down to one message:

"Every girl is beautiful," Nicole said. "I think sometimes it's hard for girls to realize. No imperfection is going to make you less beautiful."

"Girls should be looking at pictures of what real women look like, unphotoshopped," Maria added. "If we could get more people showing who they really are, I think more people would be more accepting of themselves."