The Legging Legs Trend On TikTok Proves Body Discourse Has Jumped The Shark

Just when we all thought we had reached the golden age of body confidence on social media, TikTok decided it was time to test us. The latest viral trend, called 'leggings legs,' involves people sharing videos where they lament not having legs they believe are good (thin) enough for wearing leggings. Although it's unclear who exactly began the trend, it's believed that it all started after one woman was told in a TikTok comment that she had perfect legs for leggings, prompting thousands of viewers to then compare their own legs to hers, fueling thousands of self-critical rants. Similar to when social media users were encouraged to believe having a thigh gap was the ideal in 2014, it's oh-so-disturbing.

So disturbing, in fact, that TikTok actually went as far as to ban the trend. And not just in the U.S. either, as the trend has gone viral globally in a short amount of time. A spokesperson for TikTok Australia confirmed the ban to News.com.au, sharing, "When people search for #legginglegs or content related to eating disorders, they are shown a pop-up with a link to the Butterfly Foundation. TikTok is an inclusive and body-positive environment and we do not allow content that depicts, promotes, normalizes or glorifies eating disorders." But is this sad trend proof that we've regressed when it comes to inclusive body confidence promotion on social media?

The legging legs trend is a troubling sign we may be moving backwards

Though leggings leg might seem like a one-off trend, it's arguably part of a greater, and more insidious regression in body discourse that's been happening over the past few years. Even though body positivity and body neutrality had become omnipresent, body-shaming trends gradually started creeping up again on social media after 2020. Body checking, which seemed harmless on the surface, soon evolved into people bragging about thinness, prompting a surge in people sharing videos of their "dream body." 

In 2022, some TikTokers suggested these changes in attitude were related to Gen-Z's sudden interest in Y2k fashion trends and aesthetics, prompting a heralding of the thin body trend of the past. Even more seemingly innocent videos like "Is the outfit cute? Or is she just skinny" series, which attempt to discourage people from making bad fashion choices, contain the implied message that certain clothes should only be worn by thin people. Leggings leg is arguably no different, as it's telling people that they need to have certain legs in order to wear them. 

Because TikTok videos have the ability to reach so many people so quickly, harmful messages — such as the notion that there is such a thing as an ideal leg for leggings –  can spread globally before there's even chance to remove them. This is problematic, considering that per one National Eating Disorder Association poll, young adult users who were active for more than two hours on social media on a regular basis are more likely to have body image issues than those who did not. Couple that with the recent rise in Ozempic, aka the drug many celebrities are using for rapid weight loss, and it makes sense that people feel pressured to look a certain way.

All legs are 'leggings legs'

Although the rise of body-shaming trends like leggings legs is concerning, the silver lining with platforms like TikTok is that content which calls it out is equally capable of going as viral as the original videos.  Following the surge of "leggings leg" videos, numerous TikTokers have spoken out against the trend — and in no uncertain terms. This includes influencers who lived through the danger of the thigh gap phenomenon. "Let's not do that again. Let's not go back there," TikToker @notsophiesilva said in a now-viral video, with more than 1.9 million views. "If you want to wear leggings, wear leggings. Your legs look beautiful in them."

Some experts have hit back, too. "[It's] yet another inappropriate way to body-shame individuals," Dr. Samantha DeCaro, The Renfrew Center's director of clinical outreach and education, told CBS News. "These types of trends are destructive. Body dissatisfaction is a major risk factor in the development and maintenance of an eating disorder." 

But while it may sometimes feel like a losing battle to spread the word of body positivity in a world so obsessed with appearances, the most important thing we can do is keep going. And when destructive trends like this one pop up, it falls on us to push the negative videos out by replacing them with the truth. That all bodies are beautiful. As therapist Holly Essler put it on TikTok, "Do not let social media tell your body that it is a trend. If you have a body, and you have leggings, you have leggings legs."

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).