Bob Greene and take on the weight debate.
Photo: Polka Dot/Thinkstock
Flip through any fashion magazine, and you'll see dozens of women flaunting whittled waistlines and men sporting six-pack abs. Toss in some designer clothes, high heels, a professional makeup artist and, of course, a little photo-editing, and the message is complete: Tall plus skinny equals beautiful. But, Bob Greene and, ask is it healthy?
We've grown up with body image cues telling us thinner is better, but the fact is, skeleton skinny is not healthy—nor realistic. If the Barbie you had as a little girl were a real person, she'd be so underweight that she probably wouldn't be able to menstruate. Young boys are given similarly disturbing standards: Take G.I. Joe figurines as an example. If he were life-size, he would have a 55-inch chest and a 27-inch bicep—almost as big as his waist and bigger than most competitive body builders.

The next time you find yourself comparing yourself to a super-slim supermodel or chiseled celeb, keep this in mind: The bony female dimensions and beefed-up male figures that the media champions as fashionable are about as far from average as Bill Gates' bank account balance. Many of the female models and actresses who capture the media spotlight with their rail-thin figures are on the brink of being dangerously thin.

So what is average? According to the Centers for Disease Control National Center for Health Statistics, the average man weighs 190 pounds and is 5 feet, 9 and a half inches tall, up about 24 pounds and an inch and a half from 1960. The average woman is 163 pounds and 5 foot 4 inches, also up from about 140 pounds and 5 foot 3 inches in 1960.

Does that mean "average American" should be your fitness goal? Uh, no
The average American may be closer to a realistic healthy weight than Barbie dolls and fashion models, but he or she shouldn't be your role model either—the average American man and woman are about 20 pounds overweight. On the other hand, the average male model towers over the rest of us at 6'2" and weighs 140 to 165 pounds and, according to model recruiting websites like, the average starlet soars to an average height of 5'8", while weighing just 108 to 125 pounds. Not normal!

Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to avoid being bombarded by these unhealthy images. You'll find them everywhere you look—on TV shows, commercials, billboards, in movies, magazines and newspapers. Although you may be tempted to compare yourself, don't! Remember that being healthy and feeling great doesn't come with a "must wear size 2" disclaimer. Stay happy and healthy with these five reality-check tips.

Be a Skeptic
Become a critical viewer of social and media messages, says Dr. Dana Rofey, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh and a psychologist at the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Be aware of images, slogans and attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body, and try to limit your exposure to them, if possible.

4 more reality-check tips
Gather Your Posse
Surround yourself with positive, upbeat people who bring you joy. "It's easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you're around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself as you naturally are," Dr. Rofey says.

Accentuate the Positive
Celebrate the positive aspects of your body, Dr. Rofey suggests. Focus on your favorite parts???your strong legs, your sexy neck???and accentuate them. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body.

Give Thanks
Let your body know you appreciate it, Dr. Rofey recommends. Meet your buddy for coffee, take a bubble bath, spend an afternoon watching football, make time for a nap or get a pedicure.

Look Beyond the Mirror
Keep a top 10 list of things you like about yourself, Dr. Rofey suggests. Write down qualities that aren't related to how much you weigh or what you look like, such as your silly streak, your way with animals or your memory for friends' birthdays. Read your list often, Dr. Rofey says. "When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a supermodel," she says. "Beauty is a state of mind???not a state of body."

For more on reaching a healthy weight, check out

What do you love about your body? Share your thoughts on a healthy body image below.

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