Mind the Gap – The ‘Thigh Gap’, That Is

Opinion

5e4e1efe24f93e892b171c1e843f4ba4-jpeg_191608

Type “thigh gap” into Instagram or Twitter, and you have yourself a huge collection of photographs of women’s slowly disintegrating legs. You will also find the Twitter page @CarasThighGap. Yes, it is exactly what it says on the tin, a Twitter account dedicated to Cara Delevingne’s thigh gap, with various photographs and tweets from followers, paying their great respects to the nothingness between her limbs. Cara is one of the the few women on the planet who can have (if it is possible to ‘own’ thin air, I am not entirely sure of the correct terminology here) a thigh gap, without becoming completely emaciated – though I’m fairly sure you won’t catch her down McDonalds. The problem is, that young girls, teenagers and to be honest even some “fully-grown” women see this obsession sweeping across social network sites and believe that, in order to be good enough, they too must look like this. This is partly down to low self-esteem, bad body image and the media, but a large part of it is down to other women.

We, women, are so judgmental of each other in all aspects of life, but when it comes to weight, it is every woman for herself in a viciously competitive world, where there are no real winners at all. We shouldn’t be marketing these forms of body hatred and dangerous obsessions to vulnerable girls, who are already struggling with their bodies and self-esteem and do not need any encouragement from social media. Once the idea of the “thigh gap” has lodged itself in the mind, it is extremely difficult to get rid of, resulting in young women everywhere starving and torturing themselves in an attempt to achieve something completely unrealistic.

We should know better than this. We should be uniting against ‘thinspiration’ and extreme body hatred, such as the thigh gap, not witnessing it as a worldwide Twitter trend. Extreme and unhealthy obsessions on social media, like that of the thigh gap, need to stop, if we have any chance of moving on from this culture of eating disorders and emaciation.

tumblr_msm64oK9yK1sgcxi8o1_500

Fit Not Thin

Fitness

IMG_1712

 

This summer, The Sunday Times gave a hashtag to what many women out there already knew. Being thin is no longer sexy, being fit is. The campaign ‘#fitnotthin’ for which Daisy Lowe is an ambassador, encouraged women to tweet photographs of themselves in their workout clothes, in order to show their support. Although I, personally, can’t see how sending in Instagram photos of your Nike’s is helpful in any way, to a fitness regime, it is great to see that the message is finally being acknowledged. Society is finally beginning to glamourise something other than starvation and size zero, the women we aspire to be a strong, healthy and confident. What is even better is that we aren’t suddenly grabbing our running shoes because Vogue told us to, we’re doing it because it makes us feel good.

Although plenty of people will believe that this is just another body image pandemic, and  ‘#fitnotthin’ has even been labelled ‘as bad as thinspiration’ but as far as I’m concerned, there is one major difference. Food restriction isn’t healthy, exercise is.

Exercise doesn’t just improve physical health, it is also a key factor for having a healthy mind. Running, in particular has been proven to help combat symptoms of depression, releasing endorphins and making you feel happier in other aspects of life. Running can be a focus, a release and a personal challenge and once you overcome the initial hurdles it is – actually – really good fun.

As well as all of the obvious positives, exercise helps to curb a healthier attitude towards food, and some women who have recovered from eating disorders even find that running is a good way to become fit again, and means they can eat a healthy balanced diet, without feeling guilty.

While the physical changes will be come, the most important change will be to your confidence. Feeling fit feels a lot better than feeling thin, so what are you waiting for? Get running!

Taste the Difference

Food

As a bowl of transparent liquid was placed in front of me, a curious island floating in the middle of it, which I would later discover to be a crouton, I felt my stomach drop. It was my third night in the town of Bad Hofgastein in Austria, where I was staying with my parents. A family holiday was not exactly what I had in mind when I had envisaged myself at the age of 22, but this is where I was.

Not much of this holiday was to my taste (excuse the pun), in particular, the set dinner menu at the hotel. One reason being that I personally prefer to dine in a variety of places, when experiencing another culture but mostly, because the idea of the food I must eat being chosen for me fills me with dread. Combine this with a country in which the staple foods are meat and dumplings and you have yourself a recipe for disaster, in my eyes.

Eating in a foreign country, where not much English is spoken can be a struggle for even the healthiest, most open-minded, tourist but battling this and the voices of an eating disorder is almost too overwhelming. However, instead of retreating into my Ana-riddled comfort zone, I vowed to see this experience as a challenge and an opportunity rather than the nightmare it promised to be. When recovering from an eating disorder, trying new foods that you would never dreamed of eating before, can be a daunting step, but it is a step which has extremely positive outcomes. Once you combat the unhelpful thoughts and initial fear, you are left with an incredible range of tastes and experiences that were cut off from you previously, but everyone else has been enjoying. You are left with choice.

That is not to say that you will enjoy every new thing that you try, I tried many meals that week which I am glad I won’t have to eat again, dumplings and pumpkin seed dessert being examples, but the importance is just that, I tried. Choosing the vegetarian option most nights – to play it a little bit safer – I ate foods, such as cottage cheese parcels, French onion soup, gnocci with spinach and I even dabbled with dessert, a complete stranger to me. I ate and surprisingly enjoyed the cherry strudel with custard and some form of sponge with apricot filling – to this day I could not tell you what it is.

Eating food which you are not familiar with, and in some cases not even sure what it is, can be one of the hardest parts of recovery, but the fear of the unknown is definitely worth overcoming.

Apologies for my photography skills on this one!

Image

Potato with cheese and spinach filling

Image

Gnocci with spinach

Image

French onion soup with cheese crouton

Image

Pumpkin seed mousse and raspberry coulis