02/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Do You Think Michelle Obama Needs to Lose Weight?

She is our new first lady. She is black. She is smart, accomplished, articulate and extremely likeable. She is stylish without being snooty. She is like us in so many ways. She is a regular gal, and a working mom, who married an extraordinary guy. So, with all that, do you think she needs to lose weight?

As a culture, as far as our view of women go, we are very image conscious. If Michelle were obese, if Obama were obese, I think it would hurt their image. Currently they embody health, fitness, strength and a readiness to lead. A readiness to take on the mess that was left by the Bush Administration. Part of that readiness is physical health and strength. It is quite a mess and quite a task to even attempt to make things right again. I applaud them for taking it on.

Personally, I think Michelle is a perfect role model for all women. She is not an anorexic twig who looks like she is going to break at the slightest push. Michelle looks like a strong, fit, self-assured woman who can take on anyone she needs to. She is what our culture barely has words for, "normal-weighted". We don't even know what to call a woman like Michelle. We know how to refer to women who are overweight. There are plenty of words for that. What comes to mind is: fat, chubby, voluptuous, obese, morbidly obese, round, rotund, large, big, heavy, chunky, tubby... There are plenty of words to describe a skinny woman. Some that come to mind are: skinny, thin, anorexic, boney, olive oil-like, gangly, lean, skeletal, rail thin, skin and bones... but what do we call a woman who is at a healthy weight?

At the UCLA obesity clinic, where I run the support group, we refer to people at a healthy weight as "normal-weighted". When it comes to the average woman in the U.S. this doesn't really apply. When I checked the stats, the average woman in the U.S. is 5'4" and 142 lbs. This is technically overweight. So normal, or average, for women in the U.S. is actually overweight. Michelle, based on her height and weight, is thinner than the average woman in our country. She is almost 6' tall and a size 12.

So, back to my original question, do you think Michelle Obama needs to lose weight? If she were an actress or model, she might not get work looking as she does now. I think she looks fabulous and shouldn't change a thing. What do you think?

If you'd like to participate in the research for Irene's new book about the process of weight loss, please visit and take the survey.