I started noticing it a few months ago. Every time I logged onto Facebook or Twitter, there it was staring me in the face: #mindthegap. It was sporadic at first, popping up every few days under some ridiculous fitness quote or photo of a near-naked Miranda Kerr. Then it picked up.
“I’d kill myself if my thighs ever touched. #mindthegap”
“I lost fifteen pounds in two weeks! #mindthegap”
“He’ll love you more if you lose the weight. #mindthegap”
And so it continued. Day after day, it seemed. One ridiculous quote, one ridiculous photo, one ridiculous workout routine, one right after the other; #mindthegap followed each of them. I ignored it as best I could, this trend that seemed to be plaguing the minds of women. But it continued. It didn’t stop. And it hasn’t stopped.
“If your thighs touch, you’re fat. #mindthegap”
“Cellulite is for ugly people. #mindthegap”
“If I eat anything, I’ll eat everything, so I eat nothing.” #mindthegap
Magazines are encouraging it, celebrities are encouraging it, men are encouraging it, clothing lines are encouraging it, Facebook is encouraging it, Pinterest is encouraging it, Twitter is encouraging it…It doesn’t cease. It’s everywhere. And it has got to stop.
About 24 million Americans currently suffer from an eating disorder. Amongst adolescents, anorexia is reported as the third most prevalent chronic illness. One out of every two hundred American women suffers from anorexia. Two out of every one hundred American women struggles with bulimia. 50% of little girls aged eleven to thirteen currently view themselves as overweight. And roughly a fourth of all college aged women have resorted to binging and purging in order to maintain a certain size.
Yet despite all of this, despite the facts and the statistics, and the deaths, we continue to push young girls (and boys) into self-hatred and self-loathing with these different societal expectations of what is and what is not beautiful. We teach little girls to idolize Barbie and emulate frail looking super models and then we wonder why they don’t have a healthy body image. We wonder why they’re sick. We wonder why thirteen-year-olds are stealing diet pills and 9th graders are getting sick every day after lunch.
“Why are they doing this? Why are they hurting themselves?” we ask one another. Universities spend millions on research and The White House enlists programs. We’re confused and baffled by the bullying and the hatred and the sickness and the depression and the hospital stays and the God awful body image these girls have, but we shouldn’t be. We did this to them. You did this to them. Society did this to them.
Supermodels prance around in near nothingness and teach us that beauty is, in fact, a size zero. Actresses remind us of how they didn’t land their big break until they shed their baby fat and highlighted their hair. Kate Moss tells us that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels and Lindsey Lohan and Nicole Richie don’t make the covers until people think they’re going to die.
We’re not teaching bad behavior, we’re teaching sickness, encouraging self-loathing, and guaranteeing a life of struggle. We are the problem. Society is the problem. And it’s never going to stop until we do. We’ve created a culture of expecting the impossible, of wanting perfection from imperfect people, of thinking that Photoshop is real and that centerfolds aren’t airbrushed. We did this to ourselves. And now we have to pay the consequences.
The #mindthegap epidemic is our fault and now it is our problem. We’ve created a trend that is anywhere and everywhere; it’s a topic in middle school cafeterias, sorority chapter meetings, and workplace bathrooms. WikiHow has outlined how to achieve the thigh gap in six “easy” steps and Facebook has a fan page dedicated to the phenomenon. We’re pushing perfection and setting unattainable standards. And that is exactly what the thigh gap is for many women: unattainable.
I think for me, the last time my thighs didn’t touch was probably when I was in elementary school. I played two sports in middle school and high school and maintained a fairly healthy gym habit in college. Admittedly, I’ve dabbled in diet pills and fad diets. Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, Cabbage Soup, Lemonade, the list goes on. If it promised to make me lose twenty pounds in twenty days, I did it. I’ve fallen victim to the belief that beautiful is a size zero and nothing else. I’ve cried when my jeans stopped fitting. I’ve worked out in layers in an effort to burn that many more calories. I’ve skipped meals and I’ve gone to bed hungry. I’ve done all of these things because I, too, grew up in a culture of idolizing Barbie. I, too, have seen the wafer thin models and wanted to be one. I, too, have self-loathed and self-hated. I, too, have hated my body.
But not anymore.
I’ve now accepted that some days I’m a size four and some days I’m a size six. Some days I’m going to run three miles at the gym and eat a salad for lunch and some days I’m going to sit in my Lululemon yoga pants and eat a cupcake. I’m going to enjoy life and the food that goes with it. I’m going to work out to stay healthy and not to meet some unrealistic expectation that society has set for me. I’m going to love myself. And you should too.
You say #mindthegap? I say #screwthegap.