New "thigh gap" trend putting teens in danger - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

New "thigh gap" trend putting teens in danger

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TYLER (KYTX) - An Internet-fueled weight loss trend may be landing a lot of young girls with eating disorders.

This new goal, called a "thigh gap", is an increasingly popular way for women to judge how thin they are. If you stand with your feet touching and have space between your thighs, you have a thigh gap.

The images are everywhere: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. Girls all over the world are posting, commenting, obsessing over thigh gaps.

"There are just different pictures where girls are trying to make it to where their thighs don't touch," says Tyler middle school student Hannah Smitherman.

She says the trend has even hit East Texas.

"I think it's very scary, I think it's very dangerous," says Hannah's mom Karen Smitherman. She's thankful her daughter isn't falling victim to the thigh gap trend, but worries about the power of social media.

"It's what all the kids are on and it spreads like wildfire. The kids do band together, and they encourage each other," Karen says.

East Texas personal trainer Melanie Edwards knows first hand. 

"I developed an eating disorder between Jr. High and High school," she says.

Edwards spent a large portion of her life battling an eating disorder.  She knows how hard it is to overcome, and how young it can start.

"When I met with a group, there were 5 and 6 year olds," she says. 

Edwards admits the Internet is a huge part of the problem.

"You can post someone who has 6 pack abs and the thigh gap and all that, but 9 times out of 10 that's been photo shopped," she says. "That's not how people look in real life, and if they actually do, that's so unhealthy."

The key now is talking to these children before thigh gap obsessions turn into eating disorders.

"Catching it before it gets too late," Edwards says. "That's really hard to do but the only way to do that is by spreading the word and talking about it."

Hannah wants her friends and classmates to know: "It's okay if your thighs do touch!" 

Edwards and the Smithermans hope discussions about healthy body image between families, friends, and entire communities will put the destructive trend to rest.

These discussions are never easy to have but experts say creating an open and honest environment at home or at school makes it easier to educate kids about dangerous trends like this. 

Since the trend has surfaced, medical professionals have voiced concerns, calling the thigh gap goal "impossible" or "unrealistic." Experts say spacing between a person's legs is based mostly on genetics. So even for many *extremely thin people, a thigh gap is unattainable.

East Texas now finally has a resource for those struggling with eating disorders. There is a local support group through a company called My Signature Nutrition. For more information or for a screening, click here: http://www.mysignaturenutrition.com/
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