These days, what it means to have a beautiful body focuses on two themes, in roughly equal measure. The first is the importance of being healthy—or, at least, as healthy as you can be if you’re living with a disease or chronic condition. The second theme is the importance of accepting your unique body shape and size.
Most of us have a tough time, though, accepting what we perceive to be our flaws. Those who believe they’re too short look for miraculous growth formulas. But with the exception of human growth hormone administered to children of short stature under strict medical supervision, which can add 1.5 to 4 inches to a child’s adult height, the only way to increase height is to improve your posture or to wear platform shoes or high heels. People who think they’re too tall are less likely to look for a way to change their height, but they may unconsciously slouch or otherwise try to make themselves less conspicuous.
The truth of the matter is that there is no “right” height—or even a “healthy” height for that matter. And because you can’t really control your height, it’s best to do what you can to not worry about it. Sure, wear high heels if you want a couple of inches, and stick to vertical stripes to make you look longer, but don’t go crazy over it, because it’s out of your control.
On the other hand, if you’re unhappy with your weight, you can do something about it. It may take some willpower, hard work, commitment, and maybe some outside help, but losing weight is something we all can do. If you’re ready to lose weight, make sure you don’t get suckered in by any lose-weight-quick schemes; most of them are unhealthy and ineffective in the long run. Used tried-and-true methods like healthy dieting and exercise programs to shed pounds.
Weight loss has an extra benefit that goes above and beyond feeling good about fitting into a smaller size dress or shirt: even mild weight loss can prevent the onset of disease, ease symptoms for those already suffering, and even reverse the course of some chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, some types of cancer, osteoporosis, erectile dysfunction, back pain, and sleep apnea.
Weight is a touchy subject: not everyone is going to agree on an ideal body size. There are, however, some useful measures to determine your own personal “healthy weight.” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests using the Body Mass Index (which estimates body fat) to determine whether you are in a healthy weight range for your height. Calculate your BMI by following these steps:
Multiply your weight in pounds by 703.
Divide by your height in inches.
Divide by your height in inches a second time.
30.0 and Above
BMI isn’t always accurate; it may overestimate body fat for athletes and bodybuilders, and it may underestimate body fat in the elderly or others who have lost muscle. Also, children should be assessed on a different scale.
Cellulite is high on many women’s lists of unwelcome physical attributes. Women tend to have more cellulite than men because their bodies naturally have a higher percentage of fat relative to lean body mass. Cellulite is simply fat that appears near the surface of the skin. Exercise is the best way to minimize the appearance of cellulite because it bulks up lean muscle and decreases body fat, both near the surface of the skin and in the deeper layers of tissue. Don’t waste your money on “firming creams,” thigh-rolling procedures or devices, or any other means of attacking cellulite. They don’t work. Put the cash toward a pair of walking shoes instead.
Repeatedly gaining and losing weight will make cellulite appear worse, because this cycle weakens collagen fibers in connective tissue beneath the skin that acts as a girdle, of sorts, to keep fat from bulging. It’s also a good idea to stay hydrated. Just as an athlete looks more ripped when he’s dehydrated, cellulite becomes more visible on us normal folks when we don’t drink enough water.
Fine, weblike spider veins or twisted, ropelike varicose veins often appear with age, usually in the legs. Veins have one-way valves that keep blood flowing in the right direction. As these valves weaken, blood collects in the veins, causing them to balloon out to accommodate the backflow of blood. Formation of varicose and spider veins may also be related to heredity, hormonal changes, pregnancy, obesity, or lack of physical activity. Spider veins can be treated by sclerotherapy, the injection of a substance that irritates the veins and causes them to form scars that are less visible than the threadlike red or blue veins. Superficial varicose veins (those close to the skin’s surface) that pose a cosmetic problem can be surgically stripped out of the leg.
Though rare, varicose veins may be painful and can be associated with serious health problems, such as deep vein thrombosis. Seek medical attention immediately if you develop a rash near your ankle, if the skin of your calf or ankle changes color or thickens, or if you have bleeding, swelling, throbbing, pain, warmth, or tenderness near a varicose vein.