Thigh Gap Facts – They Are Nothing To Do With Body Fat



There’s been a lot of concern about this image used by Urban Outfitters recently to advertise some underwear. Urban Outfitters have now taken the image down, but it’s brought to mind the first article I wrote for Mookychick. Back then, I was wondering why people wanted the bodies of celebrities, when they had different body types.

Now, this feels similar. But it’s much bigger than just that.

Someone complained about this picture on the basis that they felt the model was unhealthily thin. You can’t see the rest of the girl’s body, just her stomach to her knees, and you certainly can’t see her eating habits, exercise regime or bone structure. So, without having a clue about the person in the picture, someone decided it had to go.

There’s a lot of ongoing debate about how much (if at all) people are influenced into developing unhealthy eating habits by images in the media. One thing is certain – not all people look at pictures of certain body types and feel the need to change their bodies. Whilst an image like this might be detrimental to the recovery of someone already struggling with an eating disorder or the perception of their bodies, there are perfectly healthy people out there who have slender legs.

What I’m currently thinking about, however, is the attitude of people seeking change. They look at a body that is not like theirs and they report it. Because it is offensive to them. Because they believe it will influence their children. Because they, somehow, think that the world will be a better place if they have the ability to police women’s bodies to their own standards.

I like people who want to change the world. They’re amongst the best kind of people. But surely what we’re all looking for is productive changes. Reporting, censoring and banning images of thin women (or whichever body type is on the hit list this month) is destructive change. Are we going to have to do without seeing clothes on real people, and just guess what something looks like from a flat picture of it lying on a background?

Why aren’t people learning more about their bodies, and other peoples’? Instead of just assuming that a thin person is unhealthy and a fat person is unhealthy and everyone is wrong except you, why not look into it, and be amazed by what the human body can do?

Thigh gap facts

  • Thigh gaps have nothing to do with body fat percentage. It’s actually to do with the size and shape of the pelvis. A thigh gap isn’t an automatic indicator of an unhealthy person.
  • Because lots of things other than body fat contribute to outward appearance, someone who looks like a ‘normal’ weight might not be eating well. Muscles, bone structure and many other factors other than fat percentage make up the human body.
  • People lose weight by going into caloric deficit (they burn more than they eat, and so use up reserves in the body stored in fat and muscle mass). You maintain your weight by using and eating the same amount of calories. What the body doesn’t care about (in terms of weight loss) is where those calories come from. If you burn 2,000 calories a day and eat 1,800 calories worth of nothing but fish and chips, that’s caloric deficit and so you will probably lose weight.
  • The body does care about where your calories come from in terms of health. Inadequate protein means you don’t get the essential building blocks. You can appear to lose weight because you can’t build up muscle (that’s why bodybuilders guzzle their protein shakes, they need as much as they can get to bulk up their muscles). Not eating enough fruit and veg will severely deprive you of nutrients.
  • When women’s fashion guides talk about body type, they’re often referring to a ‘shape’ (most often hourglass, apple, column and pear) that clothes look best on. The science behind this is that certain body types naturally lay on fat stores, build more muscle and have bones in certain places. If you put on weight, it will go to these places first. If you lose it, it will come off these areas last. Your body is a machine, trying to keep going with whatever fuel you give it. No diet can change where your body keeps the emergency fuel.
  • The most usual body type chosen when people look for clothing models is a narrow ‘column’. These people don’t tend to bulk up at any place in particular. They lose and gain weight equally, as opposed to ‘pears’ who put it on their bottoms, thighs and hips, ‘hourglasses’ who put it above and below their waists whilst leaving those proportionally small and ‘apples’ who keep it on their tummies first. Because of this, it is column shaped bodies that get the most flack for being ‘too thin’. When an hourglass lady weighs the same, she will still have noticeable hips and breasts.

All this adds up to mean that, more often than not, models can’t help it. Those predisposed to thigh gaps will have them. Whilst I’m not saying that this model, or every model, is perfectly healthy, people forget that the average waistline of UK women is not automatically the waistline that is healthiest for all women. I personally do not want to see models that have been picked because they have the right number on a tape measure when they have to eat more than they, personally, need to maintain that body.