Why ‘Thigh Gap’ Is Absolute Crap: Loving Your Body Is So Much Better
“Thinspiration” is taking the world by storm. Obsessing about the way we look and comparing ourselves to an unrealistic ideal is nothing new. But social media has been playing a large role in amplifying that message with images at every turn magnifying imperfections.
A quick Google search for “thigh gap” will get you caught up on this phenomenon. Even influencers who claim “every body is beautiful” are seen, photo after photo, for days, weeks, and months on end, revealing lots of skin, with not much of it attached to inner thigh fat. And, hey, if you have a healthy body, rock it, but when the duck-face-bikini-shot overwhelms your feed, it’s less about what you say and more about what you do that sends the smoke signal, INNER THIGH FAT IS A FAIL. Which begs the question, how, in a world where so many worship thigh gap, can we bring up our children, especially our girls, to love rather than hate their bodies?
First Things First – Defining Thigh Gap
Thigh gap is the space between a woman’s upper-mid thigh, right below her lady parts. And you guessed it, the bigger the gap the more “desirable” the woman is. Or at least that is what the modeling, fitness, and cosmetic world has espoused for years in an effort to separate the inner-thigh-fat haves from the inner-thigh-fat have-nots, causing the former group to be on an unending quest for the world’s best inner thigh exercises.
Negative thinspiration that idealizes slim legs and thigh gap can make us want to hide our young girls from the world, throw away the TV and computer, and not allow one magazine to enter the house for fear of them losing their innocence. Remember the viral video of the toddler standing in front of the bathroom mirror praising herself, and everything about her life with carnival-barker-like enthusiasm? What do you suppose happens when she starts getting the memo that she better remain stick thin, and especially steer clear of inner thigh fat, or she won’t have much to praise herself for?
It’s a Genetic Phenomenon
The thing is, inner thigh fat is normal, healthy, and most people have it, but if they don’t it’s less about their will and certainly their worth, and more about their DNA. On The Doctors, Dr. Travis Stork proved that inner thigh gaps are a genetic phenomenon based on bone structure. So a million reps on the inner thigh machine, in a desperate attempt to lose inner thigh fat, combined with a seven-day cleanse followed by swearing off carbs, gluten, fat and sugar will not help you get thigh gap! You’ll just end up exhausted, annoyed, deflated and probably grouchy that you still have inner thigh fat… what’s the point? We know it’s science. But women still want it.
In fact, a highly paid, sought after “plus-sized model” (a relative term considering she’s a size 12) became the target of the inner thigh gap conversation after a photo of her wearing a corset appeared on Facebook. She wrote a thoughtful post for the Daily Beast (taking a stand against all the negative Nellies who hated on her picture), stating that she learned about thigh gap as a pre-teen but has since risen above the delusional din, “The truth is I couldn’t care less about needing a supposed “thigh gap.” It’s just another tool of manipulation that other people are trying to use to keep me from loving my body.”
And who ever said we couldn’t love a body unless it was waifish? Culture. Note that during the Renaissance, culture told a very different story. Voluptuous women with many curves, most of them soft and layered, and LOTS of inner thigh fat were the “influencers” of the time. The more flesh you had, the more faith, was the notion of one of the most famous painters of the 1500’s, Sir Peter Paul Rubens, whose work was so renowned his female subjects became known as “Rubenesque”. Well, there is a definite gap between that story and the one we are telling now, especially when it comes to inner thigh fat.
Which makes us wonder, why not start shifting the narrative once more? And why not start to tell a story about health, no matter what shape that takes? Inner thigh fat, outer thigh fat, booty fat, belly fat and more. Because most people who work out most days have things on that list and that’s just life. And while most of us today consider our bodies healthy because we are strong and fit, some of us enter into adulthood with a seriously warped body image and really codependent relationship with food and exercise as a consequence of the messaging from what we see on our TVs, phones and advertisements. This can lead to obsessive exercising and an unhealthy diet designed to offer control over the uncontrollable (hello, thigh gap!).
The Message Must Change
Exercise is about feeling good. Eating is good for you. Taking time to relax and rejuvenate is a must. When it’s all said and done, there’s no prize for the person who worked out the hardest or ate the least. As long as we feel it’s okay to judge others for having inner thigh fat, what they look like, how hard they work out, the food they consume, or where their priorities lie when it comes to their fitness, we have a big problem.
Will we still struggle to see the person we are on the inside when we catch a sideways glance in a mirror under bad lighting?
Will we still worry about what people will think of our inner thigh fat when they see us in a bathing suit, shorts, or workout clothes?
Yes. Should we? Hell no. We are all a work in progress.
Bottom line. Our self-worth should not be determined by any amount of inner thigh fat, or any other body dysmorphic BS. Our thighs take us places: on long bike rides, up mountains, around corners, through Target, to the playground and back, up stairs, and through life. How about we thank our thighs and hope that every day they grow stronger to keep up with all we want to do?
Perhaps we should replace the negative thinspiration images with those of incredibly strong, healthy women, thigh gap or not. (Because we don’t want to throw shade at women who were born with the DNA that excludes them from the inner-thigh-fat majority.) We celebrate all body types. And not designated areas of the upper body or lower body, but whole bodies that are not judged by their parts. Because you are more than your right leg, right? (And we’re sure your right leg is awesome, there’s just more to you.)
Strong, Healthy Thighs Start Here
Just to manage expectations, this is NOT an inner thigh workout meant to blast inner thigh fat. It’s a series of effective exercises meant to strengthen the entirety of your upper legs so you can confidently stand in your power.
Alright, time for some lower body love. (We love you, too, upper body, but that’s another post.)
Stability Ball Wall Squats
This one strengthens your thigh muscles and glute muscles. Starting position: Place the ball against the wall and lean up against it at a 45 degree angle. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with your weight on the ball. Bring your knees to 90 degrees as you inhale, and exhale, straightening your knees as you come up. 15 reps.
The Split Squat
The split squat is a stationary lunge. Starting position: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Stand up straight with shoulders square and in a straight line with your hips as you prepare to bend your knees and step out on your right foot to lunge. Step forward with your right leg and place your right foot out in front of you, keeping your left leg back and your left foot on the ground resting on your left toes. Lunge straight down, bending your right knee about 90 degrees and your left knee about 45 degrees, then straighten your right knee and repeat. After 15 reps, bring your right foot back, and do another set with your left foot forward, lunging with your left knee.
The Chair-Assisted Sissy Squat
For this squat you will need, surprisingly, a chair! Starting position: Stand tall with the chair beside you. Make sure both feet are shoulder width apart, knees soft. Place your left hand on your hip, your right leg alongside the chair and your right hand on the chair back. Come up to your toes, then carefully (and slowly) bend your knees while simultaneously leaning back to a 45 degree angle, then stand back up. Keep that core tight and make sure your knees, hips, chest and shoulders are in one straight line for the entire dip back. Do 15 reps, then switch sides placing your left foot next to the chair.
Now let’s move to the machines!
The first order of business with a leg press machine is the starting position. Adjust the back pad for comfort then start with a low weight…maybe 90 pounds. Warm up your leg muscles with about 12 reps and see how it feels. If your legs are not fatigued during the last few reps, increase the weight. Take care to slowly bend your legs back to protect your knees.
Leg Extension+ Leg Curl Superset
Here we will work one set of muscles in your legs and then its opposite with no rest in-between. Use a lower weight here because you’ll be fatigued and have little time between sets. Starting position: For leg extensions, point your toes upward as you extend your legs. After 12 reps, begin on the Leg Curl machine. Let the pads rest just above your ankles, keep your hips tight against the bench and slowly bend your knees bringing your heels up until your legs are at about a 90 degree angle. Do 12 reps, rest for one minute, then repeat. NOTE: If your heels are coming up at different times, you may be using too much weight. Try to asses, for instance, if your left knee is bending more quickly than your right, if it is, reduce the weight stack until things feel equal.
When it’s all said and done, look down at that incredible lower body, your right leg, your left leg, those gorgeous, strong thighs, inner thigh fat and all, thank them for getting through the workout, then tell them they’re great, without relentless inner thigh exercises and regardless of their gap status.