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The Great Weight Debate: Why Being Fit and Healthy Is More Important Than Your Jeans Size

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American women are hyper-focused on extremes. Have we lost sight of the fact that being fit and healthy is what's important? FITNESS reports.

The Connection Between "Fat" and "Healthy"

We're a pretty sharp group of women in this country. But our ranks are suffering, it seems, from a lack of focus, particularly when it comes to our own health and happiness. Regardless of our size, we all seem to be staring into the mirror feeling too "this" or too "that." This extremism is zapping our ability to see ourselves for who we really are: strong, free to make choices, intelligent, creative, and beautiful. Sure, sometimes we idolize fit women -- Serena Williams and Gabrielle Reece and Hilary Swank -- but more often, we let red-carpet celebs and runway models set standards of beauty without really thinking about how they got the bodies they have. "We hear of beauty inside and out, but I tell you, beauty takes work. Having to work for my new body has made me a stronger person on all fronts. I have worked tirelessly to change my entire state of being -- spiritually," Kirstie Alley told FITNESS recently. "If we are not beautiful to ourselves it would be very difficult for others to view us that way."

This month, wipe your mind clean of your preconceived notions of skinny, fat, or obese -- and start thinking about calorie burning or slimming or toning (whatever your goal!) as crucial to your health. We need to help support the idea of healthy, fit women. There should be a stipulation that if you're healthy and fit, you're a role model. "Regular exercise can reduce stress, stabilize your mood, improve immune function, lower blood pressure, improve cardiac function, boost energy, and improve sleep. And did I mention it can make you feel sexy, strong, and powerful?" says Sarah Harding, Ms. Fitness USA (2004 and 2006) and spokesperson for the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress. "The aesthetic benefit is the icing on the cake."

While loving the way you look is a fine goal, we need to aim for our own personal best (not someone else's image), and recognize that beauty can come in all shapes and sizes. When FITNESS launched its real-women campaign last year, vowing not to put celebrities on the cover but to showcase, instead, real women and athletic models on our pages, we got overwhelmingly positive feedback. Feeling enlightened but in need of more information, FITNESS began further testing of images and headlines: We showed women "get healthy" messages alongside promises of quick weight loss and body toning. Guess what happened? Women overwhelmingly chose the quick fix. It's human nature. It's very American. But, it's a problem.

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