The viral “Legging legs” hashtag has been banned on TikTok, and experts say it’s a dangerous trend that could increase the risk of eating disorders.
TikTok trends often take off as quickly as wildfire, and #legginglegs — an alarming, viral trend glamorizing extreme thinness — is no different.
The hashtag went viral after girls and young women began sharing videos of themselves wearing leggings and analyzing the appearance of their legs, all while expressing the view that only those with large thigh gaps have the “right” bodies to wear leggings.
It wasn’t long before TikTok deleted the hashtag and replaced it with eating disorder resources, but not before it could reach hoards of users — including many who swiftly expressed outrage at its damaging and potentially triggering messaging.
Samantha DeCaro, PsyD., the director of clinical outreach and education at The Renfrew Center, a network of eating disorder treatment facilities, says this trend and others like it are “destructive” and lead to body dissatisfaction, which is a major risk factor in the development and maintenance of eating disorders.
“The most recent social media trend ‘Legging Legs’ is yet another inappropriate way to body shame individuals,” she tells Healthnews. “While we applaud TikTok for removing the hashtag and replacing it with links to eating disorder resources, space needs to be given for continued conversations and education on the fact that self-worth is not determined by one’s body.”
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 9% of the United States population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. And between 2000 and 2018, global eating disorder prevalence increased from 3.5% to 7.8%.
Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, second to opiate addiction, and one person dies as a direct consequence of an eating disorder every 52 minutes in the U.S.
Research has found that the widespread use of social media in teenagers and young adults could increase body dissatisfaction as well as their drive for thinness, causing them to be more vulnerable to eating disorders.
“While there is no guaranteed way to prevent eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or other mental health diagnoses,” DeCaro says, “making impactful changes now, such as taking a neutral approach to weight, connecting with your body, engaging in meaningful activities, redefining the purpose of exercise, and fostering an authentic identity are all steps in the right direction for having a healthy relationship with your body.”
- National Eating Disorders Association. General eating disorder statistics.
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Social media use and body image disorders: Association between frequency of comparing one’s own physical appearance to that of people being followed on social media and body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness.