The good news: There's a growing trend these days for companies and magazines to embrace the authenticity of real women as the standard for beauty and sexiness, and even to hire nonmodels as models.

Here in New York City, a mecca for uber-skinny women, Donna Sonkin, a recognized holistic health expert, has created a new specialty of coaching. She's now helping women to embrace what she calls a pursuit of "healthful thinness" versus "brittle thinness," which she is seeing far too often on the streets of New York and in her practice.

"Interestingly enough," Sonkin says, "the real beauty of healthful thinness comes from eating real foods like real organic butter, real whole milk and meat which comes from naturally raised grass-fed animals. If you try to diet with lots of diet soda, non-fat foods—or foods with lots of chemicals—you will ironically create extra beauty problems. You'll get digestion and skin problems and look bloated, less youthful, less glowing instead of looking vibrant, sexy and radiant, which is what real beauty is all about."

Alexis Wolfer, founder and editor-in-chief of The Beauty Bean, is also doing her part to encourage real beauty. Her Beauty Bean website features Makeup Free Mondays where she prompts women to proudly post photos of themselves cosmetic-free.

"Real beauty is what we real women look like without professional fashion and hair stylists—and certainly without the use of Photoshop," says Wolfer. "I want my beauty site to shed light on what defines this real beauty and promote self-confidence rather than unattainable standards of beauty that lead to low self-confidence, as well as eating disorders both of the restrictive and binge-eating kind."

Stephanie Dolgoff, author/blogger of Formerly Hot, is also doing her part to promote self- love for one's real beauty—specifically to women in the post-40 set. "I noticed when I entered my 40s, men would ask me if I 'had the time'—and really just want to know the time," Dolgoff says. "So I started to explore how I felt about my changing appearance in my site and book. Basically, Formerly Hot is about looking at the unvarnished truth about getting older—the good, the bad and those unexpected bitch-slaps that still seem to come out of nowhere—even if you're relatively well adjusted to the fact that you're not forever 21. Personally I've found there are distinct upsides to being a formerly. For example, I used to feel like a composite of other people's opinions. Now, I'm comfortable with who I am, and that other people's opinions are, well, just their opinions. Here in my 40s, I'm happier than my younger self ever could have imagined."

How to know what's sexy 
The opinions expressed by contributors are strictly their own.


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