Scan the breathless headlines at any magazine rack — Fight Flab in Minutes! Get Beach Ready! Add the skinny yet buxom model, and it should be no surprise that the average woman feels insecure if not downright unhappy with her real-world figure.
Hang on: Are we worried just about appearance, or about whether our size signals a health problem?
There is a big disconnect between body image and true physical condition, an Associated Press-iVillage poll suggests. A lot of women say they are dieting despite somehow avoiding healthy fruits and vegtables. Many others think they are fat when they are not.
"The priorities are flipped," says Dr. Molly Poag, chief of psychiatry at New York's Lennox Hill Hospital.
She points to women athletes as much better role models than supermodels: "There's an undervaluing of physical fitness and an overvaluing of absolute weight and appearance for women in our culture."
About 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. The AP-iVillage poll of 1,000 adult women mirrors the government's count on that. More surprising, perhaps, are women's attitudes and actions.
Half do not like their weight, even 26 percent of those whose body mass index or BMI — a measure of weight for height — is in the normal range. But just a third do not like their physical condition, even though being overweight and sedentary are big risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other ailments.
The poll found women putting in a median of 80 minutes of exercise a week, meaning half do even less. The average adult is supposed to get 2 1/2 hours of exercise a week for good health.
And just 8 percent of women ate the minimum recommended servings of fruits and vegetables — five a day. A staggering 28 percent admit they get that recommended serving once a week or less.
Time is a big barrier.
"I was a fanatic about exercise when I was younger, and I quit focusing on that when I had kids," says Laura Comer, 45, a mother of two.
But she just her lost her job as a hospital system vice president and is using the new free time to ease in more activity. First up: walking 10,000 steps a day.
Vesna Stemwell, 51, has a sedentary job — she's a computer programmer — with lots of overtime and a 45-minute commute.
Temporarily giving up meat and dairy products for a religious observance helped her drop five 5 pounds (2.25 kilograms), so she's considering becoming vegetarian to drop more. But her husband is not keen about a menu change.
"Changing the diet," Stemwell said, "affects everybody in the house and it's hard to have something different."
About a quarter of the women surveyed said they would consider plastic surgery to feel more beautiful. Their overwhelming choice: a tummy tuck.
"There isn't any quick fix," says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, who directs the women's heart program at the New York University Langone Medical Center.
A tummy tuck is cosmetic, removing just some surface fat, and a far cry from more radical surgeries like stomach stapling that are reserved to help the health of the very obese.
"People can't see the damage that's being done inside their body," says Goldberg. "If you increase your fitness but don't lose as much weight, you still have a lower heart disease risk than someone who is obese and sedentary."
At the other end of the spectrum, the poll found 16 percent of normal-weight women who nonetheless are dieting to drop pounds (kilograms).
The AP-iVillage poll was conducted April 20-30 by Knowledge Networks, which contacted survey participants using traditional telephone and mail polling methods but then intensively questioned them online, providing Internet access for those who needed it. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
On the Net:
iVillage sites: http://healthvideo.com/ap—poll and http://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com/healthier-habits-tummy-tuck.html
AP survey results: http://surveys.ap.org