WATCH ABOVE: Some say new ‘fitness challenges’ online are cause for concern. Su-Ling Goh explains.
TORONTO — Eating disorder experts are worried about the message being sent by a disturbing new trend on social media. There are roughly 60,000 posts and counting on Instagram dedicated to the bikini bridge, thigh gap, bellybutton challenge and now the collarbone challenge.
The idea behind the hashtags is to basically show off how thin you are. A bikini bridge photo essentially glorifies protruding hips, while a thigh gap is seen to signify slim legs. With the collarbone challenge, the goal is to hold a stack of coins with your collarbone. With the bellybutton challenge, it’s to wrap your arm around your back to your navel.
In order to accomplish any of these, you usually have to be quite skinny. Sometimes, though, you just need to be flexible.
Still, some of the posts claim to be inspirational, encouraging dieters to stay on track with their weight loss journey. But the executive director of the Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta warns these so-called challenges can push women down a potentially deadly path.
“It’s really troubling, it’s a little frightening that people are encouraging young women to pursue a really dangerous body type,” said Sue Huff.
She added that while images don’t cause eating disorders, they can contribute to people feeling dissatisfied with their body and that it doesn’t measure up. That could lead to them taking drastic steps to change it, like through extreme dieting.
“Then what happens, for some people who have a genetic predisposition for an eating disorder, that severe weight loss can actually turn on the switch in the brain and start a full-blown eating disorder where there is absolutely no control anymore.”
Parents should have an open dialogue with their kids on this topic, Huff said, and look out for potential warning signs of an eating disorder. Those can include isolation, compulsive exercise, suddenly cutting out all sweets or a certain food group, or disguising weight loss with layers of clothing.
WATCH: Eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia, are not only far more common than most of us realize, there is very little treatment.
Luckily, there are those who have rejected the social media trend and encourage others to do the same.
WATCH: Sue Huff from the Eating Disorder Support Network offers more insight about the trend.
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News