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    Elaine Magee's tips for shaping a healthy body image

    WebMD Feature

    Fit, Fabulous, and 14 (Size 14, That Is)

    Ever wonder what it would have been like to sport a full figure and live during the Rubenesque/Baroque period -- when cleavage was common and cellulite was celebrated?

    I know I do. I wear the same size as the average American woman -- size 14. Funny, though, how it seems we are meant to feel anything but average.

    How do I know size 14 is average? Because you'd be hard-pressed to find a size 14 anywhere near the clearance racks in the finer department stores, although size 3s and 5s are in abundance. Even though size 14 is "average," I've found very few women who are willing to admit to it. Maybe it's difficult because many of these size 14s have been size 8s or 10s in years past.

    I am a testament to the fact that you can be a size 14 and be fit and feel fabulous and -- dare I say it -- sexy. I've battled an extra 10 pounds ever since I can remember, even when I was a vegetarian. Of course, as I've gotten older and had a couple of children, those relentless 10 pounds have been joined by a few more.

    What I find rather curious is that people are always so surprised to hear I eat really healthy and exercise an hour every day. As if only thin people exercise? Some of the most kick-butt women in my power cycling class (including the instructor) are members of the size-14 contingency.

    Never in my entire life has there ever been a time when I didn't exercise (even during both pregnancies). Because I liked it? In a way. Because it makes me feel good and reduces stress? Sure. Because if I didn't I would probably collect more extra body fat? Bingo! Admittedly, this was my greatest motivation many years ago. Now I'm just plain addicted to exercise as a stress-reducer. I start getting irritable if I go two or more days without it.

    The same goes for eating less fat. I starting eating less fat because it helped curb those extra fat deposits and it was better for my irritable bowel syndrome, but now I actually prefer to eat this way. Anything really high in fat (unless it's chocolate) isn't that appealing to me. If there is a certain food or recipe I like, I have found there is usually a way to make it with less fat and more fiber (and just as much taste) -- even things like onion rings or Fettuccine Alfredo.

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