There’s always been talk about body image, but I’ve noticed that in the last few years—and the last few months, especially—the volume seems to have been cranked up on that conversation. Whether it’s airbrushing models or the latest Biggest Loser winner losing too much weight, women and body image have been all. over. the Internet. I actually just came across an incredibly interesting infographic on Upworthy called “5 Reasons Why My Girlfriend Thinks She’s Not Beautiful Enough, No Matter What Anyone Tells Her.” It’s an incredibly powerful image… and, even in my own experience, scarily accurate. As a woman with what seems to be almost the exact opposite of model proportions (I consider myself more “solid” than skinny, and having a large bust has always been more of an annoyance to me than a benefit—though some may disagree), I’ve had my own struggles with body image—it can be hard to find clothes that are both cute on the skinny model AND on me. Many a shirt or a skirt looked totally normal on the model and magically transformed into a skankeriffically shrink-wrapped crop top when I put it on.
But what I really want to talk about is the “thigh gap.” True story: up until just a few years ago (definitely after I had graduated from college), I had absolutely no idea that your thighs weren’t supposed to touch. I’m a lifelong soccer player, and my affectionately-named “thunder thighs” have ALWAYS touched. I knew I had big, strong legs, and I knew that finding jeans was always a struggle (akin to bathing suit shopping—the worst!), but I never really thought that much of it. Fast forward to post-college: I’m now a triathlete, and my legs have slimmed some… but there is no way in hell I am ever going to have a thigh gap. Ever. And that’s OK with me. Because I feel great about how I look, and there are things more important than that stupid thigh gap.
According to this great post I read on Fit-Bottomed Girls/Mamas, for most people, “the thigh gap is virtually unachievable no matter how much you run or hit the gym.” Which means that, as girls become more and more concerned with having one, they become more and more twiggy, until their legs look like they’ll just snap right in half. That, to me (and to many other people, by the way), isn’t cute! You need to look healthy, and emaciated is not healthy. Toned, fit women look the best to me. Look at fitness models. You can tell they take real care of their bodies, their muscles are impressive (not to mention they have great assets!), and the confidence they exude is just downright sexy. And I’m sure at least 90% of them do not have a thigh gap because their quads are just too damn strong. Women need to have some meat on their bones—whether it’s pure muscle or a mixture of muscle and squish, they both look better than skin and bone.
Whether you can achieve a thigh gap or not, I think everyone should make a concerted effort to be fit. Just as I don’t believe in getting as skinny as possible to meet some unattainable and unhealthy body image ideal, I don’t buy into the rhetoric of, “I’m fat, but I love myself, and that’s all that matters.” I do think women should be comfortable in their skin; that’s the first step. But it goes beyond that; you have to actually be healthy, and obese is not healthy. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder, or diet until you can’t stand it anymore—but you really should exercise on a regular basis and eat as healthily as you can. I never deny myself anything (I love my ice cream and junk food), but when I have a choice, I normally go with the healthier option. It just makes me feel better. You just have to strike a balance, and stick to it—leading a healthy lifestyle will make you feel good AND look good. Thigh gaps not necessary.