Closing the Thigh Gap

Just to be clear, I absolutely hate the term “thigh gap.”

If you’ve never heard of this term, consider yourself lucky. But essentially, it’s exactly what it sounds like: the elusive distance between your thighs.

From what I’ve gathered, the gist of the thigh gap “ideal” is this: the more light that can shine through the space between your legs, the better. Makes sense, right? I mean, if skin-and-bones is the goal for our waists, arms, and faces…why not throw in the most naturally muscular part of a woman’s body? Who cares about strength and fitness when you can have light shine through your crotch!

The thigh gap is the latest love child of the fitness industry, and while it may be a term of aspiration for some, it kind of makes my blood boil. That term, along with the vast majority of the “ideals” put out by the industry, represents so many of the falsities currently being spoon fed to women, in my humble opinion.

Nonetheless, as a woman who is inevitably barraged by all the latest and greatest body “must-haves,” I’ve been somewhat forced to question my own thigh gap.

My initial reaction?

I’ve never had a thigh gap.

And while this whole notion is absurd to me now, when I look back on all my tumultuous years of puberty, I realize I didn’t always feel this way. There were definitely periods of time where I wondered why my legs weren’t straight and thin like some of my friends’ were. And this was back when I was young; as in, my body hadn’t even begun to morph into that of a lady. Eventually, through years of basketball, softball, track, and all the weight-lifting that came with high school sports, I began to accept that my body was going to look a certain way if I was intent on being an athlete.

When I transitioned from a recreational to a {relatively} competitive runner in my early 20s, that cordial acceptance of my bulky legs started to turn into appreciation. The fact that I could motor myself through 10 miles before most people were out of bed became a source of pride, and I realized that I would much rather be a strong athlete than a lithe twig. Not everyone would make the same choice, and I understand that, but for me—running fast would and will always trump looking a certain way.

Which brings me to present day.

As you may or may not have heard me mention, back in December in the midst of my terrible Crohn’s Disease flare up, I lost a decent amount of weight. I don’t ordinarily weigh myself, so I don’t know exactly where I started off, but I know that at my sickest point I was probably hovering around my early high-school weight. Needless to say, it wasn’t natural nor healthy for my 25-year-old body.

Once I started getting better, I stopped weighing in (I was only doing so beforehand per doctor’s instructions), but I figured eventually things would level out and I’d get back to normal.

What I didn’t realize, however, was just how much of that lost weight had been muscle. Sure, my pants fell in a way that I knew was due to decreased glute and quad size, but I suppose I didn’t calculate just how much of a physical impact it would make.

Case in point: when I started to exercise again, nothing felt the same. I was sore in spots I’d never been before, certain muscles had to work harder to compensate for the loss, and my speed was slower than it’s been in years. Part of this was due to loss of fitness, certainly, but I’ve been out of shape before…and this was nothing like previous experiences. I knew my muscle loss was the culprit.

I may have had a thigh gap for the first time in my life, but I was also without all the things that make me, me.

I’m not going to pretend like I don’t have narcissistic, body-conscious thoughts. Of course I do, probably on a daily basis. And yes, I’ve pondered about how “nice” it would be to be smaller in certain places. I’m human, and unfortunately there’s not many ways around these types of thoughts.

But when my body did whittle down to what, at some point, may have been my “ideal” size, I never felt less like the person I wanted to be. Of course, part of that may have been because it was an effect of a very bad period of time (the flare up). But I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t have had the same adverse reaction should the circumstances have been different.

What I’m trying to say is this: the literal thigh gap that came from this weight loss created a bigger figurative gap between the person I saw in the mirror and the person I wanted to be. Despite achieving a look that, by society’s standards, is optimal and coveted— I never felt more disappointed in my body.

It was a telling experience, to say the least.

Today, my clothes are nearly all fitting the way they were pre-flare up, and consequentially my health has been steadily increasing every day. These two things aren’t unrelated, and it’s given me a whole new appreciation for what my health really means.

Something else that isn’t unrelated: as my short-lived thigh gap has been closing, the pace of my runs has been dropping. And while society may define success as keeping that gap wide, I define it as the ability to feel fast, strong, and capable. It’s ironic, in the best kind of way, and it’s helped remind me that success is determined by my own guidelines and never someone else’s.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve upon your physical appearance. As I said, it’s an internal conversation I have with myself all the time. But I suppose the takeaway I’ve had from this whole experience is that it should matter so much more to us, as women, to focus on what our bodies can do and not what we are lacking. Because in the latter mindset, there’s inevitably always going to be something that we feel we’re missing. This mentality ensures a life constantly in the negative. 

Changing our “I wish I had…” language into “I’m proud of my…” language has transformative effects, and not only can it help us to love ourselves a little more, but it can be the catalyst for society’s ideals to change.

Because…fuck society’s ideals.

My thighs are reclaiming their territory, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

8 thoughts on “Closing the Thigh Gap

  1. FitnessFatale

    Love this post!! I’ve come a long way in accepting my body but I definitely still struggle. One thing I’m sure of is that running has completely changed my view from being 100% about how I look to primarily how my body can help me achieve my goals.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. cisforcourtney

    i recently unfollowed a fitness blogger because she is always ranting and raving about “healthy” and having a “positive body image” … but she tilts her hips forward to create a thigh gap she doesn’t normally have?!?!

    great post! glad you are happy with your body!

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