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Forget Thigh Gaps: Healthy Is The New Beautiful!

Strong Is The New Skinny

Greetings from sunny California!

My husband and I take two trips out here per year to the Los Angeles area to be with friends and there is always something new to see. Today I spotted a billboard that I really liked. It showed athlete Marsha Tieken-Christen working out with the message “Strong is the new skinny.”

I’d like to go even further and say “Healthy Is The New Beautiful.”

I was horrified to discover that the concept of a “thigh gap” has somehow become a fitness goal that is furiously circulating in social media, particularly in the athletic community. I’m not sure where that idea came from, but from a doctor’s perspective, the idea of trying to achieve “thigh gap” is absurd. The distance between your upper legs is determined by the shape of your pelvis. The inner part of you leg is composed of muscles. In order to create space – those muscles would need to atrophe, which would also mean reducing your lean muscle mass.

A thigh gap or reduction in size of any body part is not a health or fitness goal.

Please direct your attention to the photo I have posted above. I love this portrait shown in the HuffPost this week because it displays an incredible diversity of female body and bone structure. It is crucial that both women AND men realize their full potential within their OWN bodies instead of trying to achieve the shape and size of others. It seems that most people inherently understand the concept “Every BODY is Different” but are continually blinded by the efforts of advertisers and media tycoons to paint us “the perfect body of society”. For those of us struggling to see through the difference, take a long hard look at that photo again. It is true that all those Olympic women are in the best shape of their lives – but their size, shape and structure are unique and cannot be copied.

Even before Scarlett O’Hara squeezed into a whalebone corset in “Gone with the Wind”, women ( and men too) have felt pressure to achieve certain specific body ideals. It’s well known that if Barbie was a real woman, she’d have measurements of 39-18-33. It’s important to jettison the arbitrary body ideals. As far as the “thigh gap,” for example, most young women need to strengthen their inner thighs to better protect their knees from ligament and cartilage damage. Older women with knee arthritis, every pound of extra weight puts 4 pounds of pressure on the knee joint, so staying at a healthy weight is crucial.  More importantly, strengthening, NOT WEAKENING the inner thigh muscles adds more protection for our bodies.

Evolve your personal fitness goals to be realistic and support your health as well as the activities you enjoy.

These portraits above show us a range of what is healthy and beautiful. These women are fit and powerful and at the peak of their sports. Try to imagine yourself at the peak of your health and fitness for your body type, your age, and your goals. Be realistic about ways you can work towards health and fitness goals for your body and your life. No matter what, a big part of this is maintaining lean muscle mass.

Never mind the gap or anyone else’s arbitrary rules.

Dr. Nolfo


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Neha Soni #

    Great read!

    November 23, 2013
  2. Thanks so much!

    November 24, 2013
  3. alyssa #

    what you sadly don’t understand is that thigh gaps are more about hip positioning than thigh fat. and that you can be perfectly healthy and still be slim.

    September 2, 2019

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