Up to 90 percent of all women have some amount of cellulite on their body. And while cellulite can affect women of any age, it is especially prevalent in women over 35 and typically gets more noticeable as we get older. For most, it is a major source of embarrassment and it is notoriously difficult to get rid of. Because of this, there is a large and growing cellulite treatment industry taking aim at solving this globally widespread problem. Unfortunately, nearly all of the “quick fix” products out there short of surgery tend to leave buyers disappointed with the results. But why is this? For starters, let’s discuss the inner workings of cellulite and some of its common root causes.
While it doesn’t look like what we commonly refer to as ‘fat’, the truth is that cellulite is just the same as any other fat on your body. The difference in appearance is simply due to that fat bulging through your skin. Despite what you may have heard about “trapped toxins” or poor circulation, cellulite is nothing more than ordinary body fat. Several scientific studies have confirmed this, and anyone telling you otherwise is likely trying to sell you something. The ‘toxin’ theory was fabricated by marketers in the cellulite industry long ago and is unfortunately still around today.
The truth is, everyone has strands of fibrous tissue that separate fat cells into compartments and connect fat to the skin. In women, these fibers form a honeycomb-shaped pattern, so any increase in fat can cause it to bulge out like stuffing in a mattress. Because fat is very soft, it doesn’t keep our skin taut like muscle does. It also takes up more space, which makes it bulge out even further.
You see less cellulite in men because they genetically have a lower body fat percentage and store fat differently than women. Men tend to deposit fat in the stomach region where the skin is thicker and more padded, thus you don’t normally see the cottage cheese appearance there. Women tend to store fat in the lower body where the skin is thinner, making the orange peel look much more visible.
Though cellulite affects women of all ages, it does get worse with age. That’s because those strands of fibrous tissue thicken with age, and our skin also gets thinner and looser, allowing the cellulite fat to bulge through making it more noticeable. More importantly, the average woman loses 5lb of muscle and replaces it with about 15lb of fat every decade of her adult life. This combination makes cellulite much more abundant, and much more visible.
Now the good news. It is possible for ANY woman to reduce or eliminate the appearance of cellulite. However, you should know by now that there are no pills, creams, massages, or any other gimmicks that can magically get rid of your cellulite overnight. What you can do is adjust your diet, tone the muscles in specific areas, and use smart supplementation to regulate hormones and improve skin elasticity. You may not want to hear it, but getting rid of cellulite is hard work and requires some permanent lifestyle changes. I
Causes of Cellulite
There are several factors that contribute to your cellulite problem, some you can help and some you can’t. No single thing can be blamed 100% and there is no silver bullet that can get rid of cellulite for everyone. Lets start out by taking a closer look at each of these contributing factors so we can learn how to combat them and eliminate the root causes of our cellulite.
Heredity: This is the only contributing factor that we cannot fight. Many women are genetically sensitive to getting cellulite. This is mainly due to your body type and its preferred placement of body fat. Some women just tend to store more fat in the thighs and butt than other women do. There’s nothing you can do about it. Does this mean it’s a lost cause and there’s nothing you can do? Absolutely not. Just because you’re genetically more prone to cellulite, doesn’t mean you can’t get rid of it. It just may take a little more work to get the results you want.
Lack of the Appropriate Type of Exercise: This is one of the most common contributing factors when it comes to cellulite. The amount and visibility of cellulite you have is correlated with your overall body composition. If your body fat percentage is higher, you have a much higher chance of having cellulite.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to lose weight to get rid of cellulite. Women with more muscle mass in the thighs and buttocks have significantly less cellulite than women who don’t. But not to worry. You don’t need to hire a personal trainer and spend hours in the gym every day. A few simple resistance training exercises and an adjustment in your diet can quickly build muscle and tighten your skin without a need to kill yourself in the gym and lose a lot of weight. It’s a lot easier than you’d think, and we’ll go over this in detail later in the book. While fat loss is helpful in reducing cellulite, we’re going to take the path of least resistance and target only the most problematic areas.
Hormonal Changes: The food we eat in today’s modern times is loaded with chemicals, hormones, refined sugars, and bad fats. Cellulite was much less of a problem even 30 years ago when foods were more natural and less processed. Poor dietary choices along with the high-stress environment we live in can cause hormonal problems for many women. Fortunately, you can combat these hormonal changes by making some simple changes in your diet and lifestyle. Our main focus will be to combat the overproduction of estrogen and cortisol. We will go into more detail on this in a later chapter.
Improper Diet: A bad diet not only increases your overall body fat, but it also can lead to hormonal changes, as we just discussed. Consuming the wrong fats and refined carbohydrates can lead to estrogen imbalance and cause and excess fat storage in the thighs, hips, and butt. But not to worry. You don’t need to cut out all the foods you love or starve yourself on some crazy fad diet. Rather than reducing our calorie intake and trying to lose weight, we’re going to focus on some simple replacements for common problems foods you’re probably eating.
The two key factors here are to replace bad fats with good ones, and to replace refined carbohydrates with whole grains and protein. A few small changes can greatly improve your body composition without the need for weight loss and with no exercise required. These simple replacements can also help regulate problem hormones and improve your overall health.
Common Cellulite Treatment Myths
Here are some commonly marketed products that claim to eliminate cellulite. In each case I will show you what the marketer claims, and then my response to those claims as a trainer and nutritionist.
Massage Treatments (Endermologie)
In 1998, the FDA approved a high-powered, handheld massage tool that consists of a treatment head and two motorized rollers with a suction device that compresses the affected tissue between the two rollers. The manufacturer is permitted to promote it for “temporarily improving the appearance of cellulite.” The procedure usually takes 10 to 20 treatments to get started, and one or two maintenance treatments per month are required to maintain effects.
As you can see, they are only allowed to market it as a temporary fix, and even then, it’s not very noticeable. Any results you see from massage treatment comes from swelling in the area. When you massage a muscle intensely, it increases blood flow and swelling, which temporarily tightens the skin. This makes cellulite slightly less noticeable for a short time. This is just not a practical long term solution for cellulite.
Ginkgo Biloba Extract
Claim: It assists in blood circulation and stimulates the metabolism of fats.
Although ginkgo can increase circulation, it does not stimulate fat metabolism. Even if it did, there is no reason why it would exert a localized effect.
Sweet Clover Extract
Claim: It can increase blood circulation and assist in removing fluid build-up.
This supplement may have mild diuretic action, but “fluid build-up” is not a significant factor in the appearance or composition cellulite.
Grape Seed Bioflavonoids
Claim: Powerful antioxidants that protect cells and blood vessels from damage.
Whether antioxidant supplements help protect tissues is not scientifically settled. Regardless, any such mechanism has nothing to do with the quantity or appearance of fatty tissues.
Fucus Vesiculosus Extract
Claim: It stimulates metabolism and can help reduce localized fats.
This herb contains significant amounts of iodine and could adversely effect the thyroid gland. The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) for iodine is 150 micrograms. The average American woman ingests 170 micrograms per day from food (not including iodized salt).
Claim: It helps to break down fats.
The body makes all the lecithin it needs. Lecithin supplements do not cause the body to shed additional fat.
Many salons and spas exist where clients supposedly can trim inches off the waist, hips, thighs, and other areas of the body. These facilities use wraps or garments, with or without special lotions or creams applied to the skin. The garments may be applied to parts of the body or to the entire body. Clients are typically assured that fat will “melt away” and they can lose “up to 2 inches from those problem areas in just one hour.
If you use common sense, you should know that you can’t just melt away fat and lose 2 inches in an hour. If you could, nobody would ever exercise. This is just another gimmick that alters blood flow temporarily, which may make you look leaner in certain areas for a short period. This is not a lasting or practical answer to your problem.
There are hundreds of cellulite creams available to you, many claiming they can eliminate the appearance of cellulite in just minutes. The key word here is “appearance”. They don’t do much, if anything, to actually fix the problem, and the FTC is constantly shutting these companies down and forcing them to refund millions of dollars to unsatisfied customers. Here’s why these creams don’t work:
You are not legally allowed to sell a topical product over the counter that penetrates deeper than the outer layers of the skin (epidermis). So if this cream can’t even reach your cellulite, how can it get rid of it? Again, all it can do is cause swelling. Experts unanimously agree that any temporary effects you get from a cellulite cream is due to increased blood flow in the skin. This can reduce the appearing for a short time, but does nothing to actually get rid of cellulite.
Cellulite Causing Hormones
Hormones are a key contributor to the appearance of cellulite. There are two in particular that are major offenders; estrogen and cortisol. If not controlled, these hormones can increase fat storage in the problem areas and also break down collagen fibers in the skin. This is an important piece of the puzzle that is often ignored by other cellulite treatments, which is unfortunate because it’s quite simple to fix.
Let’s discuss these hormones in more detail show you some simple ways to keep them in check:
Estrogen is the primary female hormone. It’s what gives females their female characteristics. Unfortunately, in today’s modern world there are many things that can cause an overproduction of estrogen which leads to an increase in cellulite. Estrogen imbalance causes the body to store more fat in the thighs and butt, and can also contribute to breaking up collagen fibers in the skin which can cause stretch marks, loose skin, and more visible cellulite.
Estrogen overproduction can come from several causes. The primary ones are consumption of the wrong types of fat, lack of physical activity (especially resistance training), certain birth control methods, and pregnancy. The first two causes are easy to fix and can do wonders for controlling estrogen. First of all, a diet high in fat, particularly bad fats, is directly related to an overproduction of estrogen. And to compound the problem, a higher body fat percentage often leads to even higher estrogen levels.
The easiest way to combat this is to make some simple modifications to your diet and to add resistance training to your weekly routine. Research shows that physical activity curtails overproduction of estrogen in addition to increasing lean muscle mass and reducing body fat. In a later article, we will discuss the difference between bad fats and good fats and cover some laser targeted resistance training exercises that can help keep your estrogen levels in check while toning your thighs and butt.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. It’s sort of like a low-grade adrenaline that gets released under times of stress. Unfortunately, it also increases fat storage, breaks down muscle, and breaks apart collagen in the skin. This is a deadly combination for cellulite sufferers. Not only does it increase fat storage (which increases estrogen), it also weakens your skin, making cellulite even more noticeable. It’s absolutely crucial that you regulate this harmful hormone.
To combat cortisol, there are a few simple things you can do:
Eat small meals at regular intervals throughout the day. Skipping a meal may sound like a good way to lose weight, but it actually increases cortisol and slows down your metabolism.
Reduce stress. This can be difficult for some, but it’s important. Try deep breathing exercises, meditation, and supplements like L-theanine and Valerian root.
Get plenty of sleep. Not getting a full nights sleep is one of the biggest contributors to cortisol production.
Avoid stimulants. Studies show caffeine and other stimulants can increase both cortisol and stress levels. If you need an energy boost try taking B vitamins or drinking green tea in place of coffee.
Follow these simple steps to control estrogen and cortisol and you will not only see a reduction in cellulite over time, but you will be much healthier. Elevated levels of these hormones over the long term can cause serious health problems that are much worse than having cellulite.