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How Do I Talk To My Daughter About “Thigh Gap”?

I was standing in line to check out at my pharmacy the other day when I saw the most frightening sight. A teeny-tiny barely-there skirt clinging to boney hips was all that stood between me and a clear view of the most skeletally thin legs I’d seen on a grown woman in my life: thigh gap! My team has been trying to get me to blog about it, but until I saw it first hand I didn’t realize how horrifying it really can be. The young woman in front of me looked a lot like this photo, which I found at the proud blog of an anorexic.  As unattractive as you might find this, all-too-many tween and teen girls find it appealing…sexy even. And they’ll do anything to achieve it. And many girls who obsess about thigh gap, end up struggling with eating disorders.

Think your daughter is to bright to fall for that? You might consider that it’s often the brightest and most promising young girls that fall for anorexia.

Think your daughter’s too young to fall for that? Anorexia often hits girls in their tween years, not their teen years, with some eating disorder clinic patients being as young as five. (Bulimia tends to hit when a girl is older.)

So let’s muscle up our minds, moms! And be brave enough to have real conversations about a real problem. Here are five things you need to discuss with your daughter.

1.) Ask her if she knows about thigh gap and what she thinks about it? Your daughter’s body condition, the existence or lack of a thigh gap, and conversation about it will not be what clues you in to a problem. In general, girls who loathe their bodies don’t wake up one day and say, “Hey, mom. I really hate my body. I think I’ll starve myself until I achieve thigh gap. Yeah! A little miserable anorexia sounds just great!” You have to ask. I have two especially thin daughters and we have open conversations about their weight and how they feel about themselves. This always begins with me asking about trends and just hearing their heart on the matter. You might also note if there is a sudden interest in diet or exercise, as sometimes that is a sign of the obsession.

2.) Explain to her that a thigh gap is not about how skinny a person is, but how their bone structure was formed at birth. Doctors warn that very few women have the true bone structure that leads to thigh gap naturally and healthfully. I found this great illustration on a women’s health and nutrition site. You might share it with your daughter.

 

 

3.) Show her photos of photoshopped thigh gap and explain that it’s usually not real. Then, show her examples of real women in video or photos where you can see how a woman is supposed to look. (No gap!) As much as you’d like to think she never sees these kinds of photos, she probably does. It’s better to show them to her and talk about it than to pretend they don’t exist.

 

4.) Explain to her the risk of reducing body fat to the point of actually having “thigh gap.” Risks include harming your body to the point of creating “brain gap.” You better believe it. Losing too much weight can impact your brain, heart, lungs. It can also lead to loss of her period if she’s already cycling. Nothing good comes of excessive weight loss.

5.) Above all, pray! I remember reading in Beth Moore’s “Feather’s From My Nest” of the account of praying her daughter Melissa’s struggle with an eating disorder. Oh, how that mama prayed. And called down the power of heaven to reduce the stronghold in Melissa’s mind to rubble. What a glorious day it was when her daughter realized that she was feasting her eyes on images that were unattainable and unholy and asked her mother to come help her take magazine pages off her bedroom wall! Remember, whatever we worship and dwell on will inform what we believe about ourselves.

At the risk of sounding sacreligious and trite (but, oh, I rely on a lotta laughter to get me through the ugliest stuff), I invite you to share with your daughter these “celebs” who really do have real “thigh gap!” Perhaps that will curb her appetite!

 

Dannah Gresh’s Secret Keeper Girl Tour is a faith-based mother-daughter connecting experience. This 2 1/2 hour event features two fun fashion shows that demonstrate modesty and true beauty, deep Bible teaching, live worship, and stories that help girls aged 7-12 embrace true beauty and modesty. Incredible balloon sculptures, bouncing beach ball competitions, mother/daughter conversation time & colorful confetti cannons make the night unforgettable. Click the video below for a sneak peak.

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Dannah Gresh
 

Dannah Gresh is the best-selling author, speaker , and creator of Secret Keeper Girl, America’s most popular tween stage show for moms and daughters. Dannah has authored 27 books, including And the Bride Wore White, and Lies Young Women Believe (with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth) and is considered one of the leading experts on the subjects of sexual purity, modesty, and true beauty. More than 350,000 people have attended her live events. She has been a guest on CNN, Fox News, and the 700 Club and is a frequent guest on Focus on the Family and Family Life. Her TEDTalk on tolerance for virginity offers thought-provoking look at why sexuality is enhanced by self-control. She lives in State College, Pennsylvania with her husband, Bob on a hobby farm with a menagerie of animals. The couple has four young adult children.

Wanda - September 13, 2013

I admit that I’ve seen the pictures and thought that those women must be healthier than I, since they have so much less fat on their legs. It’s nice to read something that brings the subject to light and informs moms (and daughters) what this is really all about. I didn’t even realize it had a name, nor that it was causing people to resort to anorexia to attain “thigh gap.”

Thank you for sharing.

Sarah - September 13, 2013

This informed me a alot!

Angela - September 13, 2013

Boys/Young men need to see the lie of false body images as well. They are just as susceptible to this as girls are.

nicole - September 15, 2013

I think you forgot to mention the most important thing. Be healthy yourself and have a healthy body image and you may never have to talk about the thigh gap!

Ruth - September 17, 2013

Very interesting. Maybe we should think about how we can help other girls also, not just our daughters.

Kelly Haines - February 6, 2014

I faced anorexia after I had my third child. Yes, a mom of three had anorexia. I remember the importance that was given to thigh gap while I was hospitalized for 4 months. I lost almost 50% of my body weight. I never once achieved a thigh gap. As the model shows your body structure plays a huge role in that thigh gap. Girls are trying to attain something that is not attainable even in the skinniest of people. For me to reach the point of thigh gap would never have happened because I almost lost my life to anorexia and never had that thigh gap.

Anne - February 6, 2014

Thanks for this, Dannah. Although my 14year old is currently in remission/abstinent from anorexia, she still checks her thighs every day. Satan keeps trying to get her to fall back into the pit of Hell. Through God’s mercy and grace she sees that world as a place she doesn’t want to revisit.

Lynn - February 6, 2014

For so long, I was really insecure about my body. I was on the chubbier side but my parents always told me that it’s ok, I’m beautiful regardless. But to conform to what society thinks is “beautiful”, I wanted to be skinnier= THIGH GAP. I wanted it so bad I cut my eating and exercised like crazy (a lot of cardio, no weight training). I did drop a lot of weight eventually, 22 pounds but that didn’t get me to the thigh gap. I soon realized that I was beautiful, with or without the thigh gap. The lost 22 pounds allowed me to change my lifestyle and start eating much more healthy rather than the binge/anorexic eating style. I started to exercise regularly and put on muscle on my body. My body changed. I had more definition on areas that were before, full of fat. I was doing this for myself, not for anyone else. I gained confidence in my body and learned to embrace it. I learned to be comfortable in my own skin, regardless of the thigh gap demand of “beautiful”.

The thigh gap no longer mattered to me and I was assured of what my parents had told me before, I am beautiful regardless. God made me anyways, who cares. 🙂 Later down the line, I met a lot of gentlemen in the gym who are now my friends who always tell me that girls who have muscle on them are more attractive to them than the girls with the thigh gap and the small, frail skeletal frame. Only because that’s not healthy. And they respect me and my journey, they actually help me out with training and some even attend my Zumba classes (I also teach Zumba fitness, which also helped me to gain more confidence in myself.) That’s just a plus to it and my journey to discover my confidence in my own body.

Samantha - February 6, 2014

This is an issue my daughter has brought up. There are so many girls in her school that try so hard, even to the point of wearing their jeans so tight it cuts into their skin to achieve this because they want to be attractive to boys. We need a blogger to jump on the teen boy helping wagon too. They are so exposed to what is suppose to be considered attractive and sexy by today’s society.

LIzZ (@217ZIL217) - February 6, 2014

The first time I ever heard about this was when I was 8 or 9 years old. A girl I just met and who was a lil’ older than me was walking home with me from school and she pointed to the girl walking in front of us and said, ” Look at her gap between her legs! That means she’s loose!” I’ll never forget that because I remember asking her what “loose” meant and thought I actually believed her. Girls can be so mean to eachother! Even at a very young age.

Julia - February 6, 2014

Some girls have this gap naturally, let’s be open to all body shapes please. My daughter has been lectured by well meaning teachers and counselors about anoxeria since grade school making her hyper conscious about her body image.

lindsay - February 6, 2014

I see the point that you’re trying to make here, I think, which is this: Love your body for how God made you, but I fear that you wound up marginalizing women who don’t fit into the category of “healthy” that you describe. While you say that some women have a natural thigh gap based on bone structure, points 3 and 4 indicate that thigh gap isn’t “real” and that only those who are “anorexic” can have a thigh gap. As a mother of 4 children, I am still very thin. I eat well. I don’t count calories, ever. Heck, I don’t really ever worry about what I eat. I exercise moderately–mostly for stress relief rather than weight–and yet, I still have a thigh gap (which, by the way, I didn’t even realize UNTIL I read this post. I’m 36 years old and and took this long for me to even notice.) And now, according to your post, I’m left wondering if I’m too thin, if you’d perceive me as anorexic, and I now know that those who’ve read and agreed with your post will perceive me as such. Why can’t we just focus on loving our bodies for what they are, for embracing ourselves as God made us? Why can’t we emphasize “healthy living” w/o attaching a weight or an image to it? You knew nothing about that woman in the store. She could have been struggling with cancer. She could have lost weight due to a severe stress in her life. She could have just been naturally thin–and hating herself bc she just can’t gain weight. Yes,(gasp!) skinny girls struggle with self image, too–especially when we’re told that our natural weight is unattainable, that it isn’t real, that it’s only achieved through starving ourselves. If we want to raise our daughters to love their bodies, we cannot marginalize skinny or thick. And I fear that’s what you’ve done here.

    Jessica K. - June 3, 2014

    Thank you so much for your reply to this post! I was about to say the very same thing. Point #2 says that although very few women naturally and healthfully have a thigh gap, SOME do! And then Point #3 says: “Then, show [your daughter] examples of real women in video or photos where you can see how a woman is supposed to look. (No gap!)” This is just ridiculous. I am a REAL WOMAN even though I have a natural thigh gap. I am healthy and I look EXACTLY the way I am supposed to look…the way God made me. This post is very disappointing. As I unfortunately see all-too-often, instead of promoting and uplifting all body types, posts such as this one nag and downgrade those with a specific body type.

    Hannah - August 2, 2014

    I’m 22 yrs old, 5,7 and weigh 108. I don’t throw up to be skinny. And every time I read these self love posts I feel like they do leave out the naturally skinny girls.
    I can’t gain weight and idk why, but know that if I mention my plight in public then I get the stink eye.
    Teach on both sides of the spectrum please.
    I had no idea what thigh gap was but I have it…

      Dannah Gresh - August 3, 2014

      Don’t mean to leave out the naturally skinny girls. That can be a problem, too! But our concern is that girls who aren’t naturally skinny are doing unhealthy things to achieve what is natural to you. We’ll try to remember to put in some disclaimers next time just for you!

lindsay - February 7, 2014

And just one more thing: The picture you’ve posted of the thigh gap/no thigh gap example, proudly proclaiming “Busted” as the caption, the girl on the right is WALKING, so I would pray she’d have thigh gap. Let’s not create a reverse effect here, focusing so much on the girls/women who strive in unhealthy ways to be skinny that we demonize those who are naturally (and healthfully) thin. That doesn’t seem to be at the heart of your organization, but I think you’ve lost your compass here in this post.

Ellie - February 7, 2014

With all due respect to the real and grave issue of body image damage and anorexia, please allow me a criticism. You won’t make headway in this area of concern by mocking people who are thin or calling their bodies unattractive. Why would such shaming and cruel judgement be used while one is attempting to discuss body type acceptance is ironic and illogical, as well as plain wrong. Consider removing these aspects of this post, as well as the Sponge Bob joke? Thank you.

Taz Bright - February 9, 2014

Wow! That’s just insane. It is definitely time to teach our daughters to not fall for the ignorant “perfect image” promoted by Hollywood.

Rachael - June 3, 2014

I think the most important thing to focus on is being healthy and that we all have different bone structures. I don’t like that people think you are NOT “supposed” to have a gap and you must be starving yourself if you so have one. Personally, I have always been thin even though I try hard to gain weight. I have always had a thigh gap (less noticeable while pregnant) but people are always assuming I’m not eating or have a problem. I think the stereotypes go both ways and those who are naturally really thin (& feeling self-conscious) need to know their bodies are OK, too. So, again, I think we just all need to teach our girls “healthy and acceptance.”

Stacey Has Six - June 3, 2014

I think it is important to examine why girls are so obsessed with an area of their body which is so close to their private parts and making that part of their bodies more appealing to boys. Why are they trying to draw attention THERE?

missy - June 3, 2014

I had anorexia as a tween. Thigh gap was the last thing I look at. For me it was the stomach and butt.

vera - June 22, 2014

i have a thigh gap since i was a teen. i am naturally skinny and i workout. and i eat more than you think i do.
You calling me not sexy, too skinny and unhealthy is just as bad as if i would call someone fat. THIS IS BULLYING.
Why can’t we teach children to accept themselves without putting down other people? why can you just say ,, hey we all are pretty and sexy in our way” don’t say ,, oh thigh gap isn’t even sexy”. don’t learn them to build their self esteem by referring to other people.
it is just as stupid.

    Dannah Gresh - June 23, 2014

    Our apologies for offending, Vera. It certainly was not meant to do that. You are correct that we have to be careful with how we discuss this so those who have a natural thigh gap don’t feel judged. But please understand that medically speaking it is very unlikely for a teen or beyond body to have a natural thigh gap. Some cultures (Asian generally) have pelvic bone structure that creates a likelihood for a thigh gap but most have a pelvic bone structure that would create just the opposite. Our goal is for girls to be healthy not thick or thin or anything other than God created them to be!

Bella - August 14, 2014

I have a thigh gap but I’m not even skinny so I would say it’s mostly about the bone structure. You don’t have to be skinny at all to have a thigh gap really.

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