Unhealthy Beauty Trends to Avoid
1. The thigh gap. While not a new trend in the modeling world, the idea of a thigh gap (visible space between a woman’s upper thighs when she is standing straight) has recently slunk its way into our social media news feeds. There is even a Tumblr page dedicated to it and this awful website and book, Thigh Gap Hack, which instructs women on how to achieve the look with suggestions like “manipulating your metabolism,” “retraining your hunger” and “losing bulky overdeveloped muscle."
And we wonder why our young girls are so self-conscious.
I’m not saying that everyone who has a thigh gap has an eating disorder or unhealthy body image. Some women simply have a frame that naturally supports a thigh gap—but it’s not most women. Simply scroll through that Tumblr page and it’s very clear that many of those women’s bodies are seriously underweight. We need to stop suggesting to the female population that having rail-thin legs that don’t touch is some kind of holy grail of beauty achievement. I will happily take my ability to squat heavily and lift stuff up my stairs over a silly, potentially harmful trend any day, thank you very much.
Robyn Lawley, a model who was criticized recently for her lack of a thigh gap, said in response to the pressure for thigh gap achievement: "I've been trying to do just the opposite: I want my thighs to be bigger and stronger. I want to run faster and swim longer. I suppose we all just want different things, but women have enough pressure as it is without the added burden of achieving a 'thigh gap'. The last thing I would want for my future daughter would be to starve herself because she thought a 'thigh gap' was necessary to be deemed attractive.”
2. Tanning. I’ll admit, I’ve never understood the obsession with being tan so I can’t empathize with any of you who feel the need to constantly be tan. I just don’t get it. Regardless, I understand that there is a huge market for indoor tanning, particularly among women. Unfortunately, this beauty trend comes with a pretty serious price tag. Indoor tanning has been found to cause skin cancer and even eye issues like cataracts and eye cancer. Studies also show that the earlier a person is exposed to indoor tanning, the higher their risk of melanoma becomes.
Contrary to the beliefs of some, indoor tanning is not equal to or safer than outdoor tanning. Indoor tanning exposes your body to high levels of UV radiation in a short time frame, which is how the tan is achieved so quickly.
Tanning doesn’t just slightly increase your risk for skin cancer, either. According to Skincancer.org, “Indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.” Are those really odds you want to bet on?
3. Fitspo, thinspo, or any other goofy “spo” word that makes you feel bad about your body. If you have a social media account of any kind, you’ve likely been exposed to “fitspiration,” or “fitspo.” Basically it’s imagery of impossibly amazing bodies, oftentimes turned into some kind of meme or advertisement with a cutesy saying like, “Suck it up now so you won’t have to suck it in later.”
Oh, stop it already.
Look, I’m all for getting yourself motivated to be healthy. I know from personal experience how hard it is sometimes to dedicate yourself to a healthy lifestyle and to resist the temptation to eat badly and not exercise. Unfortunately, fitspo often goes over the top in its attempts to motivate by focusing the message on shaming women for the way they look and, perhaps worse, objectifying the women who are the “fitspiration” by reducing them to being defined solely by their physical appeal, usually to the opposite sex. For instance: “Do it for that feeling when people start to notice” or “I’m in training to be the hottest girlfriend you’ve ever had.” What about feeling good about yourself and making positive changes because it’s good for you? That’s what should be inspirational for us—not the idea that it will make other people will like us better.
Thinspo takes the idea to a new level of unhealthy, often encouraging women to suppress their appetites and just “suck it up” in order to achieve a super-thin look. Examples I’ve actually seen on the Internet include “Waking up thinner is worth going to bed hungry” and “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” These messages aren’t inspiring. To someone with a negative body image, seeing these messages offers nothing constructive and serves only to shame the person and encourage her to achieve thinness through unhealthy means.
There are always going to be crazy beauty trends. We live in a world where what we have is never good enough and of course someone is always going to try to exploit our insecurities about ourselves. Whether it’s pushing the idea that we need to be rail-thin, tan year-round or have abs of steel, there will always be something we need to achieve to be better and more desirable. Instead of listening to the constant racket, try to remember what really matters—your health, physical and mental, and the way you feel about yourself. And then just hope the stupid fads die out sooner than later, because really, if you have to see one more ridiculous #thighgap...