Contributed by Amy M. Klimek, MA, LCPC, Director of Program Development, Eating Disorder Program Coordinator, Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center
Body checking has long been an obsession of those with an eating disorder. In fact, it is such a common behavior for those who are weight-obsessed that they often do not even know they are doing it.
The truth is, everyone checks their body on occasion; perhaps it is noting how clothes fit on any given day or taking a quick glance at the reflection in a store window. However, those with eating disorders repeatedly check their bodies in ways that are unusual.
The Obsession with Certain Body Parts
Typically, they check to feel for fatness, bones and any physical change in their body. This even extends to their wrists as they habitually wrap the fingers of one hand around the opposite wrist to ensure that it has not gotten any larger.
The truth is, any physical body changes, “good or bad,” in a person who struggles with an eating disorder will perpetuate the eating disorder behaviors.
The Rise of the Thigh Gap Check
The thigh gap is the latest trend being embraced by far too many impressionable teen girls and young women. The idea behind this new irrational body focus is that if a female stands up straight with her feet together, her thighs will not touch one another. Obviously, the greater the gap, the “better” she feels about herself.
This measurement is yet another way for an eating disordered woman or girl to not only obsess about her body, but self-sabotage any opportunity towards feelings of acceptance.
To say that this gap is unrealistic is beyond an understatement. In fact, body specialists say not only does it necessitate absurd levels of dieting, but even then, it is rarely achievable.
A female would have to be extremely skinny and also have wide hips to even get close. Painfully thin models actually have a thigh gap; but for those models who do not, advertisers and retailers are all too willing to photo shop one into a photo.
Thigh Gaps Are Perpetuated by Popular Culture
According to eonline.com on March 18, 2014, Old Navy is the latest company being accused of photo shopping images on their website to give their pants and the models the allusion of a thigh gap.
Additionally, USA Today recently reported that Target is getting called out for a poorly altered image of a swimsuit model, making her ‘thigh gap’ larger and her arms smaller. The retailer has removed the image from their website.
The Internet is enthusiastically fueling this latest updated version of the body check. Thigh-gap sites legitimize and normalize this ideal, showing pictures of those who have accomplished it and tips on how to make it happen. Nothing positive can result from such sites.