STARS struggle with their weight just like, well, just like normal folk. The difference is, celebrities take a real beating in the press for their highly publicized ups and downs.

When I think about Kirstie Alley, Christina Aguilera, Janet Jackson, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Hudson, Valerie Bertinelli, and perhaps the most famous of all, Oprah, I think of the many lessons these courageous women have taught me about the highs and lows of weight loss.

I suppose that when stress piles up, celebrities - just like the rest of us - use food for comfort. The difference is, they live in a fishbowl with all of us watching.

I have the utmost compassion for these courageous stars whose lives are cautionary tales about how truly challenging it is to keep it together at all times.

Much like the general population, some celebrities surely suffer from depression. Severe depression can drive a person, even one with a so-called iron will, to throw in the towel and go on an eating orgy that culminates in a 50- to 60-pound weight gain. Surely, though often envied, the life of a celebrity is no bed of roses.

Aging gracefully is also not permitted in our youth-obsessed culture. How do the fear of aging, the loss of youthful beauty and industry pressures play into this volatile mix? How much personal fortitude does it take to balance all this and land on top, healthy and whole?

Lesson No. 1: Surgery Won't Save Us

A mere peek at old photos reveals many celebs' numerous plastic surgeries and cosmetic procedures, but these medical changes are no panacea. Many celebrities have discovered that surgery offers temporary results at best and is not the answer to a healthy and fit body.

Lesson No. 2: Stop Yo-Yo Dieting

The dangers of yo-yo dieting are well-documented. If you find yourself on the yo-yo merry-go-round, then get off. Yo-yo dieting may be dangerous to your health for two reasons: It lowers levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind, unlike LDL) and may increase risk for sudden cardiac death.

Lesson No. 3: Excessive Exercise

For years we've seen top athletes and A-list celebrities flaunting their washboard abs. But maintaining washboard abs is difficult, to say the least. More important, for most women getting washboard abs is generally achieved by maintaining an extremely strict and unbalanced diet regimen plus an excessive time-consuming exercise commitment.

Besides that, women who keep their weight and body fat extremely low are at increased risk for other health problems such as exercise amenorrhea, a potentially serious condition, which occurs when a woman's period stops due to extreme thinness and exercise intensity. It is a condition mostly associated with female athletes. However athletes often influence celebrities who typically influence the rest of us. Therefore, more ordinary women are participating in dangerously extreme exercise habits to achieve the elusive goal of ultra leanness.

Additionally, except for maybe some female athletes, it is not normal or healthy for most women to attempt to maintain a body fat level lower than 12 percent, or 10 percent throughout life. For women, a body fat level of 12 percent is considered essential. Men on the other hand can go as low as 3 percent to 5 percent. While studies vary, it is believed that the minimum healthy body fat for women is between 13 percent and 18 percent.

For physically active women (ages 20-60) most experts agree that a range between 20-to-35 percent is considered healthy.

Also, the entertainment industry's influence and emphasis on "thinness" has driven many talented and beautiful artists, (many of whom are not naturally svelte) to take a deadly ride of self-destruction. In our culture, we often mistaken the glitter for the gold.