Life & Style

TikTok bans #legginglegs after backlash

TikTok bans #legginglegs after backlash

Experts discuss the implications of online trends that promote body image issues and behaviors associated with eating disorders.

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Julia Carden

Content Warning: The following content discusses topics related to eating disorders, including disordered eating behaviors, body image issues and mental health challenges.

TikTok recently banned the term and hashtag “legging legs” on the platform which shows pictures and videos of the body type people “should” have if they want to wear leggings. 

Legging legs started circulating and gaining popularity on social media toward the end of January. From Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, there was a large spike in the number of online searches for the term, according to Google Trends

The trend was later banned on TikTok after people raised concerns that it encouraged negative body image and could promote behaviors associated with eating disorders. Now when users search for the term, they are given resources and a number to call the National Alliance for Eating Disorders

Taylor Bush, a nutritionist for the WIC office of Oswego County said that trends like legging legs can be especially dangerous for young people on social media. Children and teens are quick to compare themselves to others and Bush believes that social media can affect their self-esteem. 

“It’s like the legging legs trend is backed by the idea of having a thigh gap, which is often associated with thinness,” Bush said. “But we don’t measure health by wrapping a tape measure around someone’s thigh.”

Bush suggests that people use logic when interacting with trends like legging legs to avoid the development of toxic habits. As a nutritionist, she encourages people to eat a well-balanced diet of foods they enjoy and focus on taking care of themselves both physically and mentally. 

“We know that BMI alone is not a good indicator of health status,” Bush said. “You can have somebody with a higher BMI that is jam-packed with muscle and it’s not necessarily putting them at increased risk of chronic disease. So my ultimate advice is to fuel your body well.”

To combat the dialogue around legging legs, some TikTok influencers created videos disapproving of the trend. Tiktoker and binge eating disorder advocate, Sophie Silva, made a short video comparing the trend to the 2014 Tumblr thigh gap trend and said, “If you want to wear leggings, wear leggings. Your legs look beautiful in them no matter what.” 

Alison Kimmey, a body-positive influencer, also took to social media to speak out against the trend. In an Instagram post, she wore leggings and spoke about the importance of accepting her body and wearing anything she wants.

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In the caption, she addressed the dangers of the trend. “I think the hardest part is knowing that I have a tween daughter at the ripest age for consuming these made-up body standards messages,” she shared

While legging legs is the latest social media trend to promote poor body image and behaviors associated with eating disorders, TikTok has been criticized in the past for pushing potentially harmful content to users. People who created new TikTok accounts were recommended self-harm and eating disorder content within minutes of scrolling the app’s For You feed, according to a study done by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Trends like legging legs can also be more damaging for susceptible groups. According to Carolyn Hodges Chaffee, the owner and founder of the Upstate New York Eating Disorder Service, social media is a problem that the majority of their patient population struggles with. Chaffee said that it’s common for patients to consume harmful content without even realizing it because their thought process works to “protect” eating disorder behaviors. 

“We provide a weekly virtual support group focusing on body positivity to counter the messages they are flooded with throughout the day,” Chaffee said. “We also encourage patients to delete any apps that can encourage eating disorder behaviors.”

TikTok has previously taken steps to address the problematic content on its platform. During Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) in 2021, TikTok added new features to help raise awareness around eating disorders and “promote body inclusivity.”

When users search for #edrecovery #proana or other phrases related to eating disorders, TikTok now provides access to the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline where they can find support and information about treatment options.

“We will keep working to refine our policy against content promoting or glorifying eating disorders, improve our ability to identify harmful content so that it can be quickly removed and develop creative ways to advocate for our community,” TikTok stated in a blog post in 2021. 

Despite TikTok’s policy to ban harmful trends, people can still find pro-eating disorder content and self-harm videos when they search related terms on the platform.

This year’s EDAW is taking place from Feb. 26 to March 3. TikTok has not announced if they will partner with nonprofit organizations or hold a campaign for the week like they have in the past

Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Get in the Know. SAVE THE DATE: February 26 - March 6

The theme of this year’s EDAW is “healing in community” which intends to build an inclusive environment for people to fight eating disorders. Hosted by NEDA, the week is an annual campaign that focuses on educating the public about eating disorders and provides information, hope and visibility to those affected by eating disorders. 

Those struggling with an eating disorder are encouraged to reach out for support. Others can use the week to learn more about eating disorders, spread awareness and share resources. 

If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or If you are at risk, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or