WOMEN

25 Women Bare Their Gloriously Unretouched Thighs -- And Describe Them In One Word

06/30/2015 02:51 pm ET | Updated Jul 13, 2015

When you think of your thighs, what descriptors comes to mind? Are they "thick"? "Honest"? "Magical"?

One word many women associate with their thighs is "complicated." It can be hard to be 100 percent into your thighs when the only ones we seem to see are attached to airbrushed models in magazines and advertisements. Quite often, those "perfect" thighs don't even exist without the help of crafty retouchers. (Spoiler alert: 90 percent of women have cellulite.) But knowing that intellectually doesn't always assuage the visceral shame women can feel when they feel like they don't measure up to an ideal.

As an antidote, HuffPost Women photographed 25 pairs of thighs belonging to a diverse group of inspiring women between the ages of 20 and 70. We asked each woman to pick a word to describe her thighs, and talk a little bit about her relationship with the body part that can make her feel "strong," "feminine," "resilient" and at times "dimply." The resulting photos are stunning -- and entirely unretouched.

Ladies and gentlemen, these are what real thighs -- thick, thin and in between -- look like. They may not be "perfect," but they are damn beautiful.

Photos by Damon Dahlen

  • "Gams"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "Unfortunately, most of the time I don’t like my thighs much because of the dimples, otherwise known as cellulite, otherwise known as fat. When you get older, you begin to bare less and less, cover up more and more. Well, I like to be bare, especially of course in the summer. Not feeling comfortable in a shortish skirt or shorts -- never mind a bathing suit -- is not fun. Then I think about the fact that I am healthy and strong, and to hell with my dimply thighs. I'm just glad I have them."
  • "Resilient"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "I selected the word 'resilient' because my thighs and I have been together through thick and thin. Literally. They've never let me down. Their size and shape may have evolved from svelte to chubbier, but they serve their purpose and keep me rooted to the earth -- moving, walking, running and dancing, forward."
  • "Splendid"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "I used to be a little self-conscious of my thighs -- I thought they were too big. I no longer feel that way, and I'm not totally sure why. I think as I've gotten older, I've gotten more comfortable in my body, which is a really gratifying feeling."
  • "Sturdy"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "I go through periods of feeling pretty self-conscious about them, because I have a lot of stretch marks. But when I mentioned that to my boyfriend a few weeks ago he was like, 'What are you talking about?' which reminded me that no one is as critical of my body as I am."
  • "Pies"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "My chosen profession necessitates standing in a kitchen all day where thoughts of thighs gravitate towards buttermilk and flour and deep-fat frying. I rarely think about my thighs, other than to wish they spent more time in the sun."
  • "Complicated"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "On the whole, I like my thighs. They are muscular and strong. I have moments where I wish they were smaller, or that they didn't touch quite so much when I wear dresses -- bike shorts are my best friend in the summer -- but for the most part I am OK with them."
  • "Advantageous"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "My thighs have always been outwardly (and inwardly) indicative of my passion for sports. I bridled at this heightened attention throughout my teens because adolescents don't really know how to deal with muscly girls besides destroying their self-confidence or fetishizing them. But then I went to college and joined a rugby team, and suddenly my thighs were the smallest in the room. The pride I feel about my thighs and legs wanes every now and then whenever I'm shopping for a cocktail dress or pale jeans. But I'm dating a very long-legged woman whose shape couldn't be more opposite to mine, and living with her has taught me that ladies on the other side of the fence have their qualms, too."
  • "Thick"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "I'm OK with them. They're probably the one body part of mine that I don't ever really despise, but my affinity for them definitely wavers daily. I don't particularly like the cellulite when I'm wearing a revealing outfit, but I've adopted a very 'that's life' mentality with them. I think my thighs are an accurate representation of what my life is about: I like to run and I like to spin. I also love chocolate and cheese and bread soaked in olive oil. I know giving up those things means the dimples will go away, but hey, a few dimples never hurt nobody, and I'm happy with my life the way it is."
  • "Powerful"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "I really love my thighs. I love the strength of them and how I can run for miles with them. There have been times (notably when the 'thigh gap' was trending) that I didn't like my thighs, but thanks to Nicki Minaj, Bey and Rihanna, I love my thick thighs. I would never want anyone else's."
  • "Strong"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "My thighs have been the focal point for the majority of my body image issues. I can still remember how they went from being twig-like and girlish to 100-percent soccer player muscle between my sophomore and junior years of high school. While I've since learned to embrace them for their strength and tone, I still have my days where I feel self-conscious about how they look spilling out of my summer shorts, or how my thighs rub together when I walk on the beach in my swim suit. The thigh gap will never happen for me, but I can win any squat challenge. It's just that, some days, I struggle to maintain perspective on which of those feats is more important to me."
  • "Happy"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "In my younger years, I got caught up with the premise that I needed to be improved upon and I passed that feeling right on to my thick upper thighs. I spent 20 years running to keep my thighs lean and toned, but there was a price to pay in the form of exhausted, tired legs and tight quads and hamstrings. Two years ago while I was out running, I realized how tired my legs were, so I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around and walked home. I haven't missed running one day since. Now I tone, strengthen, stretch, revitalize and appreciate my healthy thighs through the practice of yoga, walking and hiking. I can honestly say that I feel better about my thighs at 58 then I ever did at 28, 38 or 48!"
  • "Honest"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "My thighs deal with a lot. They show signs of both long runs and my penchant for 'breakfast chocolate' equally. And they have literally and metaphorically been a foundation for my growth. I have gone through all the #angst in terms of body confidence issues throughout my life, and I've seen my thighs change and reflect both internal and external struggles. Every bruise and nick has a story, and I've learned how to wear those with honesty, despite my occasional flare-ups of insecurity. I am proud of my thighs, just like I'm proud of the rest of this body that I've worked to keep healthy and real and happy."
  • "Magical"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "These are the thighs that allowed me to dance in a professional ballet company at the tender age of 10 years old. They are the thighs that helped me secure a Division I track and field scholarship to college. Most recently, they are the thighs that I tightly gripped as I birthed my beautiful son. They have changed shape and form over the years, but I can't allow my appreciation to waver -- a task that is easier said then done. However, at the end of the day, they are amazing. My ample, dimpled thighs might not meet society's standard of beauty, but they are stunning and everything to me. And really, that's all that matters."
  • "Solid"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "With a good tan, a few days on the Stairmaster and my favorite pair of jorts, I feel like they're one of my greatest assets. But most of the time, I get distracted by their imperfections -- a bruise here, some cellulite there, a funny vein over here. It's only after a weekend of dancing when I really appreciate them for their strength, because if the music is good, I'm not stopping no matter what the time is (and neither are they)."
  • "Thick"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "In my culture, having a curvier shape is the beauty standard. Having thick thighs conforms to that, and I definitely embrace it. My feelings toward my thighs depend on how fit I am. When I stop exercising for a period of time, cellulite and flabbiness can definitely make me not like my thighs. But when I start exercising and my legs firm up, I truly love my thighs. Right now i'm in between the two."
  • "Feminine"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "I vacillate between resenting them and appreciating the feminine curves they add to my body. I feel the best about them when I’m not focusing on how they make me look, but what they can do -- they can pedal my bike up a steep hill; they can keep my body stable in a difficult yoga pose; and they can power me through a long hike. I’m fickle about how attractive they are, but it’s hard to hate them when they’re such a source of strength."
  • "Soft"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "There are some days where the last thing I want to do is put on shorts, because I know I'll spend the whole day prodding at my pasty thighs or trying to sit as strategically as possible so they don't flatten out on the bottoms of chairs and look bigger than I feel they already are. I've wasted an inexplicable amount of time and energy in my life worrying about the fact that my legs don't necessarily fit into what society says they're 'supposed' to look like. As much as I think I've shaken that the older and more confident in myself I've grown, it's still something I find myself worrying about. Luckily, those days seem to grow farther apart with every year. In the end, these thighs are uniquely mine. They've taken me around the world and they take me to bed each night. I love the way my thighs ache after a good run, how smooth they are even in the dead of winter when a razor is more a distant memory than a daily reality. When I look at them today, I don't worry about how they'll fill out my shorts, but I see all the places they've gone or will go, and I'm proud."
  • "Delicate"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "As a kid I felt like my thighs were too thin. After watching 'Sailor Moon,' I noticed that the Sailor Scouts didn't have a gap between their thighs. I had really thin legs with a thigh gap and it made me hate them. I would even try to stand differently to hide my thigh gap and how skinny my legs were. I really think the lack of a thigh gap is so beautiful, sexy and womanly. So as I've gotten older I've only grown to love my thighs more and more!"
  • "Leg?"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "I feel pretty good about them, but to be honest I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my thighs one way or the other. When I do, it's usually, 'Should I try to conceal this ill-conceived tattoo?'"
  • "Lengthy"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "I've always had a love/hate relationship with my thighs. Growing up, I think they were my least favorite part of my body, especially since I have a birthmark that goes up my entire right thigh. And as I've gotten older, sometimes I'll celebrate my thighs and then one day I'll feel really insecure. Lately, though, I've been really trying to be confident in the beauty of my body exactly the way it is, so I'm feeling really good about them! They are a beautiful part of me!"
  • "Dimply"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "Overall, I tend to be pretty self-conscious about them. They are always a larger part on my body; they never tan or get any color like the rest of my body even when I try; and as I've gotten older, they've gotten dimply and riddled with cellulite. I often worry that if someone just saw my thighs, they would think I'm about 20 years older than my actual age. I wish they didn't jiggle so much when I walk. I also hate how they rub together when I walk and that any time I wear a dress or a skirt I have to liberally rub a gold bond anti-chaffing/anti-friction glide stick all over them. Despite all of these issues and insecurities, these thighs have taken me a long way in life. They have taken me to foreign countries, gotten me through grad school and helped me move to four different states in four years. They've supported me as I ran my first half-marathon, despite their stubbornness and constant stiffness in the hours and days that immediately followed. These thighs have seen and experienced life with me and carried me through it, and for that I'm proud of these thunder thighs."
  • "Under-appreciated"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "They're not an especially beautiful part of my body or something I'd ever try to highlight. But I appreciate them for being the powerhouse of my workouts and physical activities."
  • "Grateful"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "I appreciate all that my thighs can do, and I love them for it. I can run, dance and squat over public toilet seats. But sometimes I feel like a hypocrite, because I'm also grateful for my genes. I don't have to work very hard to have the body society says I should have. I haven't figured out if I love my legs and their abilities unconditionally, or if I just love that they satisfy our cultural demands."
  • "Strong"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "I generally feel pretty good about my thighs. I get weird or judgmental comments about them once in a while, which can throw me off. But for the most part, staying active and healthy helps me focus on what my body can do rather than what it looks like to other people."
  • "Supportive"
    Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post
    "They're not my favorite part of my body, but they're OK. They're much stronger than they used to be, thanks to lots of spinning."
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