'The pressure to have "legging legs" destroyed my self-confidence for decades.'

This post deals with the topic of disordered eating. 

Over the past few weeks, the curious term 'legging legs' has been all over TikTok.

It began with women sharing videos of themselves wearing yoga pants that highlighted the space between their thighs. These videos were posted with the hashtag #legginglegs, which has since been deleted from the platform. 

In its place, users will find information about eating disorders or disordered eating.

"Basically, it's a trend saying that if you have leggings and you wear leggings [then] your legs have to look a certain way in them," therapist Holly Essler said in a TikTok video.

"This is disgusting. Do not let social media tell your body that it is a trend. If you have a body and you have leggings, you have legging legs."


♬ original sound - Holly Essler, LCSW

The concept of 'legging legs' could confuse some but I'd hazard a guess that most women will know exactly what this harmful descriptor is all about.

Because we've done this before. 

Every generation likely has a term for it. For me and many millennials, it was the 'thigh gap' that we were told to strive for. 

The term was so socially accepted that I specifically recall Chris Lilley mocking the concept in teen girl parody series Ja'mie: Private School Girl. In one scene, Ja'mie tells her friendship group of girls that "one of the main measures" of being attractive is a girl's "box gap", a crude interpretation of the term. 


"You want at least a three-finger gap" between your thighs, Ja'mie instructs the other girls. 

It's funny how one pop culture moment can burrow so deep into your brain. For me, this is a big one. Lilley was obviously just reflecting the mood of the moment, but the scene stayed with me and fueled my self-loathing.

I do not have a thigh gap which means by TikTok's definition, I don't possess 'legging legs'.   

To be transparent, I am a conventionally thin woman. I cannot begin to comprehend the experience of growing up with a body that was externally stigmatised and shamed — my self-hate was purely internal. 

The call was coming from inside the house. 

WATCH: Billie Eilish discusses her 'toxic' relationship with her body. Post continues after video.

Video via CBS.

But the shape of my body is also not what women have been conditioned to replicate either. 


I store most of my fat above my hip bone and around my inner thighs. My thighs are besties with each other, they hold each other close and they're always touching. 

This is a biological disposition I wish I had accepted decades ago. I would eventually learn I had a common and 'normal' body shape — if only I saw it reflected back to me more growing up in the noughties. 

Instead, I spent most of my teens and 20s attempting to achieve the seemingly impossible: alter the natural shape of my body. 

I worked out incessantly, I dieted and fasted, I got fat-freezing on my thighs, and I even purchased an exercise machine off TV because it specifically guaranteed to remove the fat from the inner thighs (which I discovered later is something no legitimate exercise equipment should ever promise). 

At the beach or poolside, I would never have been without a sarong or board shorts covering my bottom half. 

Perhaps most regrettably, I didn't wear pants. This means for most of my formative years, I completely avoided ever wearing jeans or pants because I decided I didn't possess the 'correct' body shape. 

And don't even get me started on leggings. I absolutely love the feel of leggings. As someone who is not used to wearing pants (because of years of banishment), the only pant-adjacent clothing I could handle was leggings.

They're stretchy, comfy and non-confining — but there was no way in hell I would wear them out of the house without a long t-shirt or dress over the top to cover my thighs. This meant activewear was out of the question. 


And I know I'm not special. This is a limiting approach to what women can and should wear that most women still hold. Whether they don't wear strapless dresses because of their shoulders or refuse to wear low-cut tops because they think their boobs are too large — it's all part of a culture that makes women restrict their choices. 

From years of growing up through the 'heroine chic' '90s and into the noughties, thin women like Paris Hilton and Alexa Chung were the blueprint for aspirational body shapes. 

Then came the perfectly curvy hourglass women of the 2010s such as Kim Kardashian and Sofía Vergara. 

Kim Kardashian in 2017. Image: Getty.


No matter what the desired body shape was: these women all had a defined thigh gap and streamlined silhouettes. 

But the pressure was also in the schoolyard, something that doesn't get the same attention as the effects of celebrity role models on teens. For me, I was comparing my body to the bodies deemed the most attractive at school. 

Of course, this meant the girls who got the most attention from the other boys. 

In my teen mind, I couldn't comprehend why I was shaped differently. 

And it's not getting any better. 

Despite the body-positivity movement making small strides thanks to role models like Tess Holliday and Jessamyn Stanley, this doesn't mean that the halls of high school have gotten any easier for teens.

And TikTok isn't helping. Aside from harmful terms around body image being rife on the app, there are weight-loss techniques being shared, along with eating disorder inspiration disguised as 'what I eat in a day' food vlogs.


A 2022 study found that after signing up for a TikTok account, it took just eight minutes to find a community promoting eating disorder content.

The pressure to meet these unreachable expectations has had huge consequences. A 2023 study by The Butterfly Foundation found that 90 per cent of Australian teenagers have some level of body image concern. 

Luckily for me, I grew out of my period of body loathing. Partly because diverse body shapes started being celebrated, but also because I passed the age of 30 and became much more confident. 

I now proudly wear pants and I even wear swimwear without shorts or a skirt at the beach. 

But it shouldn't have taken me almost 20 years to embrace my natural form. It shouldn't have taken decades of unlearning and dismantling the way I view and impose restrictions on my body. 

TikTok has made a tiny gesture in the right direction but for generations of women — the damage is already done. 

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation’s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email You can also visit their website here.

Feature image: Getty.