Have you heard of the “thigh gap test”?
Its a social media challenge that involves standing in front of the mirror and seeing if your thighs touch. If they do, you’re considered “fat” and if there’s a satisfying space of 5cm or more, you’re “fit”.
It's just one of three or more "skinny trends" sweeping the social media-verse of young Singaporeans.
These strange and disturbing tests are becoming very popular here; concerned educators are reporting that the tests are starting to take place in their classrooms, right under their noses.
“Yes, I’ve heard my female students talking about it and it's distressing for me,” said girls-school teacher N Farhanah, 34, who caught her students trying the clavicle test while in their PE uniforms and gave them a good talking to.
This involves stacking a row of coins along the clavicle -- the collarbone -- and the more you are able to stack, the skinnier you deemed to be.
“It's sad that they use these trends with no real scientific basis to compare and decide if they are beautiful or not. The girls who had fewer coins – they looked so ashamed and embarrassed. Those who had more wore it like a badge of honour. It's unhealthy,” she said.
“To them, there is a set standard and body size for beauty. And if you don’t fall into it, you’re unattractive. It’s destroying their self worth.”
Secondary school teacher Jessica Liew, 29, read her 15-year-old student’s blog post about how she felt she was "obese" and "disgusting" and how she would cry herself to sleep because she had no thigh gap despite eating only four apples a day and running for an hour after school.
“She was looking tired and listless in class because of the lack of nutrition. In the end, I counseled her privately and found out that she had gone on a crash diet after her group of friends compared the lengths of their ‘thigh gaps’ and she did not have one,” said Liew.
“These demeaning trends spread like wildfire through social media platforms like Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat as the girls share photos of themselves passing the tests and how they managed to achieve it,” she said.
Teachers are worried as more and more of these tests seem to be surfacing on social media. The most recent trend – reaching around behind your back to see if you can touch your belly button – is touted on social media networks as the “ultimate” measure of how perfect your body is.
For the more self-assured, these 'skinny' challenges may seem like a passing fad, but for many of those who see the tests as a true standard for beauty, it is a dangerous thing.
“I feel great when I can do all these tests. I see bloggers I follow and idols who try out the test and can do it too, it makes me feel like I’m on the same level,” said 16-year-old Amanda Quek, who is 1.67 cm and weighs 46 kg.
“I post it on Instagram, I get so many compliments and it makes me feel great about myself.”
She is currently recovering from an eating disorder.
Dangerous and inaccurate measures for fitness
Counselors and fitness instructors say that these tests are dangerous because they are poor, if not completely inaccurate, meters to measure body health, fitness and how "in shape" you are.
“They have no proper concept as to what health and fitness are. The popularity of these so-called tests show how gullible people are. These tests are about as reliable as taking prescriptions from quack doctors,” said professional fitness trainer Clarence Dorai, 32.
“These recent theories and practices may be tangible proof that one is indeed skinny but in reality it doesn't show how healthy one may be.”
“I’ve counseled many girls who tell me about these challenges and tests, and I think the spread of these tests needs to be stopped,” said counselor Vaani R, 45, who regularly helps young women suffering from eating disorders.
“It encourages them to compare with friends, leading to insecurity and if they already have poor body image, may lead to eating disorders because that’s the fastest way to achieve their goal.”
She said that there is responsibility on social media influencers and public figures to push for change and to promote health over being skinny.
She said, “I tell them that they need to be strong and not skinny. Healthy girls are the most beautiful girls, and healthy girls are not always skinny."