08/10/2010 02:46 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Mad (Wo)Men: Barbies Couldn't Menstruate

Last week we heard that "Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner wants January Jones to gain weight for her roll as a 1960s housewife and that the beautifully curvy Christina Hendricks felt invisible until she was considered in the context of the sixties.

But isn't Ms. Hendricks beautiful in any decade and Ms. Jones a tad on the thin side, period?

When you cross the two, you end up with the unattainable standard of beauty pushed from the real ad men to Hugh Hefner - Barbie. And only recently has technology caught up to make the impossible, possible (I'm looking at you Heidi Montag).

The truth is, Barbie dolls don't menstruate. Hopefully, you knew that. But seriously, a study conducted by a European hospital studied mannequins from different decades, and even mannequins are dangerously thin. So while female mannequins from the fifties had measurements that would allow for menstruation, modern day mannequins would not have enough body fat to menstruate. Oh and by the way, Barbie dolls are thinner than the mannequins. It's no wonder that 42 percent of third grade children report they want to be thinner and 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.

Fashion magazines are airbrushing already svelte actresses' thighs to make them even more unattainable, designers like Ann Taylor retouch their models to impossible proportions, and Taylor Lautner's physique has become the standard for teenage boys. We must be careful not to set a standard that is life-threatening, since eating disorders are the most lethal diagnosis in mental health. And remember: when it comes to body image, it's contagious. A study showed that daughters with disordered eating tend to have mothers who are critical and often have disordered eating themselves.

The rarity is the TV execs who are asking their leading ladies like January Jones and Edie Falco to ease off the extensive daily workouts and eat more so that the actors better represent women across the country.

The confusing thing is that while we are increasingly obsessed about being skinny, we're also increasingly overweight. Sixty-six percent of Americans are overweight and nearly one-third are obese. If it's something this country does well, it's the extremes. In fact it's become common to see celebrities like John Goodman or reality show contestants in the position of needing to lose extraordinary sums of weight.

We have to figure out a way for health be important enough so you're not obese and yet not so important that you're anorexic. Remember that when it comes to your body and weight, it's not a sprint; it's a marathon. We have to create balance in our bodies and lives to create happiness and self-worth that is sustainable.

Decrease emotional eating by finding relationships and activities in your life that bring you excitement so that you eat when you feel physical, below-the-neck hunger. Decrease mindless eating with simple strategies such as not eating in the car or in front of the TV so that you can savor the moments (and bites) that make life worth living.

And remember why you're making these changes. If you eat and exercise just because of what you look like, you're putting all your eggs in one basket. But when you treat yourself (and body) right because you want to have a meaningful life and to live long enough to see your grandchildren, you're creating motivation and balance that will last for life.