Thigh gap: fad or cause for concern?

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- The pressure on women to be thin is highly debated and often controversial, but it hasn't stopped many from trying to achieve the "perfect body."

There are two words some people may have heard that are popping up all over the Internet and social media: thigh gap.

With warmer temperatures, sun worshippers don their swimsuits and there are thousands of footprints all through the beach sand; these are signs that summer is near.

And people are hitting the gyms and working hard to get that perfect summer body, including some young girls who are on a mission to get what's called thigh gap, or that space between a woman's legs when she stands with her knees together.

Social media is leading the way with images everywhere, from Instagram to Tumblr. There are hashtags on Twitter calling attention to thigh gap. And there are even websites that tell women how to get it.

But the first step on WikiHow is to understand that thigh gap is physically impossible for most people. So why try for something that's probably impossible?

"They're wanting to achieve something that they see in models and people they want to emulate," said Jenn Simpson, a Barreinstructorr at East Shore Athletic Club. "So they're seeking out diets and exercise methods to achieve it."

Many are trying out Barre classes, a popular thigh-toning workout that involves lifting, dipping, and pulsing to a point many attendees' legs are shaking.

But thigh gap has less to do with a workout regimen and more to do with genes.

"Thigh gap has everything to do with your bone structure, and you're either born with wider hips or narrow hips," said Simpson. "If the latter, it's going to nearly become impossible to achieve a thigh gap."

You might think in the pageant world, achieving that perfect body image would be high on the list.

But Jill Perry, former Miss South Carolina, United States, says that while she has witnessed young 20-somethings crash dieting and putting their health at risk to achieve that perfect body, she wants young girls who look up to them to know one thing.

"You want to make sure that they understand every person is built differently. Every single body shape is unique to their own person," she said.

She also says it's OK to indulge from time to time.

"I'm not going to get on myself too much if I do have a fast food meal here or there, but moderation is obviously key. And I think that as long as you're working out and you're drinking the right amount of water, and you're trying to east as healthy as you can, just making that little bit of an extra healthy option, I think it's the best way to do it," Perry said.

While the thigh gap chase may soon fade and be replaced with a new fad, some fitness experts caution young girls in search of changing their bodies to fit a trend.

"Adolescents need to understand that their bodies are still growing and so to adopt a healthy lifestyle is the most important thing," said Simpson. "Strong is the new skinny."