Teen obsession with 'thigh gap' raises concerns - WNCT

Teen obsession with 'thigh gap' raises concerns

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. -

The teen obsession with the so-called "thigh gap" is the latest craze raising eyebrows on social media, and causing concern for parents and medical professionals.

The nearly impossibly body image trend is all over Twitter and Tumblr, and the attention is causing experts to try to get the word out to parents so that they can open a dialogue with their teens. There is even a Twitter account with almost 3,000 followers that glorifies super models' thigh gaps.

The CEO of Castlewood Treatment Centers in St. Louis, Mo., says the pursuit of the thigh gap could turn into an eating disorder. She says it's not a new issue, but social media makes it difficult to shield any teen from the pressure of this nearly impossible body trend.

"Thin girls are taking photographs and posting them on different social media sites," Nancy Albus said. "It was shocking and very upsetting because I think for most of us, as parents, we have no idea of the sites that our children are going on."

Albus explained, "It's if you were to stand up, it's the gap between your thighs. The goal and the pursuit of thigh gap is to ensure that your thighs do not touch."

While some are born with the bone structure that gives them a natural "thigh gap," adolescent medicine specialist Dr. Sharonda Taylor worries teens will go too far to try to achieve the look.

"When someone's lost too much weight, they can affect their overall growth and development," Taylor said. "From brain functioning to how their heart functions; they may end up with low blood pressure, low heart rates, low body temperatures.

"They may lose their periods all together because nutritionally their bodies cannot support basic functioning."

Taylor urges parents to talk to their teens about body obsession and normal development.

"A lot of times we prepare our girls for puberty -- talking about bras and periods and not talking about body composition changes in overall body changes as well," Taylor said.

Experts say to watch for changes in your children, such as if they have a sudden interest in diet and exercise, or they are doing extreme or fad dieting.

"Whether the young person is involved in the pursuit of this or not, having a conversation to talk about the pressures of being thin and achieving a certain ideal would be really important," Albus said.

HERE'S SOME OF THE CONCERNS:

  • Adolescent girls and young adult woman are going to extremes with diet and exercise to achieve the "thigh gap" look.
  • Psychologists worry it can lead to an eating disorder.
  • Photos of thigh gaps can be found on all sorts of social media sites including Tumblr, a site that many parents might not be on.
  • There are also pictures on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
  • Health officials say parents should talk to their daughters about it.
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