Not everyone can achieve a thigh gap or V-cut abs. Learn what’s possible with the right fitness and nutrition strategy and what’s all genetic before you drive yourself crazy trying to score your dream body
The thigh gap—it’s like the latest Hermes bag: Seemingly every woman wants it, yet not everyone can have it. But that doesn’t stop women from hitting the gym or, at times, taking more drastic measures to try to turn their bodies into their “ideal” figures.
And while working out and eating well can help you fine-tune your body, some goals can only be achieved if you’re genetically blessed or have a certain bone structure. So rather than pushing yourself to your breaking point (perhaps literally), find out what’s realistic for your body.
Seeing Victoria Secret models strut the length of a runway without a single thigh rub is enough to make you seethe with jealousy, but simmer down because for most women the only way to not have your inner thighs touch is to refashion your skeleton.
“No dieting or fitness regimen is going to change your bone structure,” say Polly de Mille, an exercise physiologist at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. And it’s urban legend that taking birth control pills for the extra estrogen will help widen your hips and create that gap. “That doesn't work. You can't control your hip size.”
Instead of fighting it, embrace the fact that you are fit and have muscle. “If you look at models, you'll notice they don't have defined quads or hamstrings like you see on CrossFit women,” says mobility doctor Vonda Wright, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In other words, active girls have powerful legs that help carry them through their favorite sports and adventures. “Unless you're genetically wide-hipped, you shouldn't have a gap. Skinny is not always fit or strong,” she adds.
Dress to love your shape: Rock what your mama gave you in a pencil skirt, suggests style expert Bridgette Raes, author of Style Rx. “Most women who have large thighs normally have a very defined waistline, so the best thing they can do is accentuate that area to create that natural hourglass figure.” Pair the snug bottom with a boat neck top to counterbalance the hip-to-shoulder ratio and emphasize that va-va-voom figure.
Guys aren't the only ones who can sculpt the lower part of their abs to form that cool v-shape. Singer Pink has wowed us with her stomach for years, before and after having a baby with husband Carey Hart in June 2011. What’s her secret?
“Pink was a gymnast for years, so she likely developed that fit body through training early in life,” de Mille says, adding that genetics is also probably at play since not everyone is designed to chisel their midsection. “People who are apple-shaped may never get lean enough that you can see this kind of definition. They can have abs, they just may be hidden under a little layer of fat.”
Pear-shaped ladies, on the other hand, have a better shot at this look since their fat generally is deposited around their hips—so your thighs may touch, but you've got a crazy core. However, you may need to drop your body fat to an unhealthy level to achieve this. If your body fat drops so low that you stop menstruating (the exact percentage at which this happens varies for every woman), your bone health will also suffer, Dr. Wright warns.
Dress to love your shape: A wrap dress with some ruching can work wonders. “People won't know whether it's your abs or the dress,” says Raes, who recommends looking for a v-shaped mitered stripe pattern to help pull off the illusion. Look for pieces that are going to help hold you in (a little Lycra goes a long way) instead of flimsy or bulky dresses that won't help define your midsection.
You can thank folks like First Lady Michelle Obama, Madonna, and Kelly Rippa for this one. While women genetically tend to accumulate fat on the back of their arms, it takes as little as six weeks of consistent strength training to tighten your triceps and biceps and wave goodbye to batwings, according to de Mille. And don’t worry about getting man arms, as it can be really hard to pack on even a little bit of muscle; it all depends on your muscle fibers.
“If you have predominately slow-twitch muscle fibers, you're going to be a good endurance athlete, but you can pump iron until you're blue in the face and not develop noticeably defined muscles,” de Mille says. On the other hand, if you have mostly fast-twitch fibers, you can pretty much sneeze and pop a muscle. Take a look at your family to figure out what kind of fibers you likely have more of.
But even if you have the DNA of a female Arnold Schwarzenegger, it'll still be a challenge. “Women just don't have enough testosterone on board to get that bodybuilder's frame,” de Mille says. Give it time, and even if you can’t sculpt flab-free arms, chances are you will see at least a little difference.
Dress to love your shape: A flattering cap sleeve shapes the top of your arms and can help optically broaden the shoulder line to create a narrowing effect on the bottom half of the body, Raes says, making your arms look slimmer. A wider or higher neckline will also aid in this cause.
This may be the worst goal to go after: Fit abs tend to bulge outward. The only way to have a stomach that collapses inward is to lose an unhealthy amount of weight through extreme dieting.
“Think about what's in your stomach: You've got your intestines, which often have food or air in them, and you may also be bloated if you're menstruating. While your belly can look flat, it's unlikely that it would look sunken in if you're eating normally,” de Mille says. Plus, eating too little will cause your nails to become brittle and your hair to fall out since you won’t be getting adequate levels of the nutrients your body needs for normal functioning, and your hormones will become imbalanced due to a lack of fat, Dr. Wright adds. Not worth it.
Dress to love your shape: Stripes, patterns, and seams that move on a diagonal as well as diagonals themselves are all super slimming, Raes says. Her other secret weapon: Spanx. “We see shapewear as this very uncomfortable, restrictive garment, but a light shapewear, like a tank or a bottom piece that rises up to the bra line, can make you feel contained and confident.”
Narrow Hips and Small Butt
While Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, and Christina Hendricks may have paved the way for real-life curvy women everywhere, some ladies still covet a small butt and hips a la Cameron Diaz—but not everyone is biologically programmed to be built this way. If you have curves thanks to your bone structure, you can’t do anything to shrink your hips; as for your rear, how “small” it appears is up to genetics, but you can improve how bootylicious it looks.
“Strengthening your glutes and reducing the layer of fat over them will change the outline of your body, whether you’re an apple or a pear, because muscle shapes you,” de Mille says. Resistance training is key to build that muscle, and “you need to work your arms and core as well as your butt,” says Dr. Wright, who recommends biking or climbing stairs (real stairs, not a machine) while swinging your arms to help propel you.
Dress to love your shape: For an instant butt lift, wear denim with back pockets that sit rather high up at the top of your derriere, Raes recommends, but watch their angle. “When pockets are angled too far down at the bottom, they can create the impression of a lower, wider butt,” she warns. And opt for a high rise. “When the waist hits higher, it emphasizes your natural hip curve, and then your butt won't look short and saggy,” she explains.