Signs of a healthy body are now being compared to body image fads like the thigh-gap and fight club torso, according to new research.

Do you desire to have a thigh gap?

Do you desire to have a thigh gap?

Popularised through celebrity "selfie" culture on social networking sites, body image trends like the 'bikini bridge', 'triple zero', 'eight pack" and 'thigh gap' are now seen as indicators of good health, fuelling the UK's increasingly weight-driven culture.

Despite the fact that these latest fads are often achieved through unhealthy lifestyles and offer nothing but unrealistic definitions of beauty, the new study reveals that men and women are willing to go to extreme lengths to achieve the look.

The research was conducted by health app, Noom, to understand the state of the UK's thinking on health and fitness. 'Pelvage' - the term for protruding hip and pelvis bones and 'bikini bridges' - when your bikini creates a 'bridge' over your hip bones when lying down - are some of the more worrying badges now seen by many as an indication of good health.

Sarah Moriarty, Noom UK Lead, explains: "The fact that British people think these body badges are physical signs of good health shows how powerful an impact often unachievable definitions of beauty are having.

"Historically a problem associated with young women, our research shows that men are also affected by these fads, with 75% admitting they'd like to achieve an 'eight pack' - a more extreme version of the 'washboard' stomach - or 'Fight Club torso' - the lean, muscular body shape popularised by Brad Pitt in the movie Fight Club."

Other ways men would like to change their bodies include achieving 'He-vage" - exaggerated pectoral muscles - being taller and having more muscle, subscribing to a 'super-hero', 'alpha-male' ideal.

Jane DeVille-Almond, Chair of the British Obesity Society and researcher in men's health says: "There is often a misconception that men are not as interested in their weight and body image as women, but this is simply not true. More and more men who I work with, not just the young but the middle aged too, are trying to emulate male body images that are almost impossible to achieve. This can have a devastating effect on their confidence"

So big is the trend that 56% of men and women have already tried, or know someone who's tried, to achieve a 'body badge' look, with a third of people saying they think about achieving these looks 'often', and a worrying 11% saying they think about it 'all the time'.

Methods used by those who took part in the research include: ' starved and hit the gym', ' workouts and starving', ' crash diet' and ' extreme diets'.

Sarah Moriarty continues: "Celebrities who post images of their body parts, partaking in the perpetuation of these fads have a lot to answer to, especially since in reality, in many cases these fads indicate ill-health."

Several celebrities who take to social media sites like Instagram and Twitter have become a big part of the 'selfie' and 'body badge' craze. Kelly Brook's on-off-on again partner David McIntosh is known for posting workout pictures flaunting his 'eight-pack' - unachievable for the vast majority of the population - while Jack Cockings, ex-husband of Melanie Sykes, is known for near-naked selfies showing off his torso.

Female celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and Beyonce have even been suspected of photoshopping in their 'thigh gaps', so keen are they to be part of the trend, with Millie Macintosh guilty of posting regular 'thinspiration' images.

Sarah Moriarty continues: "The fact is that each body is completely different and there is no universal sign of good health that presents itself physically on everyone. It's how everything is working on the inside that counts!"

Lorna Garner, COO of Beat, eating disorder charity, says: "We know beyond any doubt that media images have a massive impact, although they don't in themselves cause eating disorders. We live in a time where the immediate and prolific nature of social media bombards people with constant visual messages.

"The reality is that "body badge" images do trigger behaviours in those with eating disorders. We are seeing a rise in the number of people being treated for eating disorders, with a particular increase in the number of men.

"It's not just the physical health of people that is damaged by this kind of trigger, but the mental health too. Variety is interesting, it is healthy, it adds to the enjoyment of life and we should celebrate the variety of body shapes that we all have if we want to have a healthy society."

Sarah Moriarty continues: "The dangers of using fads such as these are beginning to be taken seriously by some, with recent research showing 10 million women 'feel depressed' over their looks thanks to these narrow measures of beauty.

"Starving yourself and 'crash diets' are not the way to go about healthy weight loss which, if it's done right, is a long-term process. Ultimately, the health of your body - not what size it is - should be what's motivating men and women. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case."

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