BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Women wanting to be thin is not a new concept. Add on social media, a new body image trend, and teenage girls, and health experts say there's the potential for very risky behavior.
"Trying to strive for something that unrealistic can start a child down a very dangerous path," explains Dr. Retta Evans with UAB's School Of Education.
Evan is talking about the "thigh gap." It refers to the space between the thighs when feet are together. Examples can easily be found all over popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
"It's kind of the newest craze for teens today," added Dr. Evans.
She says the danger lies in teens that see the thigh gap as a standard for being thin and then do what they think it takes to get slender thighs.
"That's going to lead down a path of exercising too much, extreme dieting," said Dr. Evans.
What follows, can come with severe consequences. "It can lead to depression, it can lead to eating disorders."
It's especially concerning because the thigh gap can be impossible for some.
"You have to be skinny. You have to have wide hips in order to have a thigh gap."
Constance Kelly, personal trainer and owner of Body of Work gym in Pelham, agrees. "Those are things you cannot change, are your bone structure."
She's says there are several factors that could also impact a person's ability to have a thigh gap.
"Your body type, your genetics, your DNA," adds Kelly.
While there are no statistics to show the "thigh gap" trends lead to eating disorders, Dr. Evans says research does show there's the potential for a dangerous link.
"The more social media they had, the more likelihood they had developing an eating disorder or negative body image."
The trend is Internet-fueled, so Dr. Evans says parents of should keep tabs on their teens daughter's social media activity. She also recommends having open conversations about positive body image and normal development.
It seems some may be responding to concerns over the thigh gap trend. For example, those who run a search for thigh gap on Pinterest may notice the website has a post at the top of the page about the dangers of eating disorders. The website also gives contact information for the National Eating Disorders Association.