#thighgap – we have a problem

Holly Willis 26 April 2014

Upon hearing the term ‘eating disorder’, the average image that springs to mind is of someone emaciated.

This image is partially accurate, of course, but it is also a huge misconception. The truth is, you don’t have to be painfully thing to have one at all.

Many people can have issues without the effects manifesting themselves physically and in a world where there is such a focus on food, it actually takes enormous willpower not to succumb. Especially if you are female, if you can reach your twenties without ever having had any form of eating disorder then sadly you may be in the minority.

Speaking from experience, it is phenomenally easy to maintain an eating disorder undisturbed. And the older you get, and the more freedom you have, the easier it becomes. Furthermore, the media coverage that dieting attracts only serves to normalise it. Instagram in particular documents many supposed ‘clean eating and exercise’ pages, on a few of which I have seen posts as worrying as ‘#thighgap’. A lot of these belong to celebrities with fitness businesses who make money from young girls’ insecurities. They use advertising slogans such as: ‘how do you want to feel on the beach, fit or jealous?’ and ‘the more you work out, the weaker his knees get’.

The emphasis is on appearance, not on health, and implies that men will only find you attractive if your body is perfectly thin and toned. I personally don’t think that this gives men enough credit.

Another post I saw recently was a picture of a fried egg, a small handful of chorizo and some mashed avocado, accompanied by the caption ‘a naughty Sunday breakfast’. Seriously, my idea of a ‘naughty’ breakfast would at least include pancakes. It is easier than ever for food issues to adopt the guise of ‘clean eating’, making them that much harder to detect and address.

The extent of the problem is shocking, and it needs to be raised and tackled sensitively. Eating disorders should not, and cannot, become normal.