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A Crash Course in Cellulite

Article by Maia Appleby Contributor

You don’t have to be overweight to find cellulite on your body.  Just about any woman can squeeze the front of her thigh with her finger and thumb and see it, while men are more likely to find it on their bellies.  We all have it, but some of us don’t have to pinch anything to make it appear.  Here’s a crash course for these people:

What is cellulite, exactly?  Well, it’s actually fat deposits that are trapped within connective (adipose) tissue beneath the skin.  The area becomes somewhat hardened by waste products that haven’t been removed from the body (like fats, retained fluids and toxins).  Since the fibers surrounding it are very weak, it bulges out and shows itself to the world.  As you age and your skin becomes thinner, the cellulite becomes more pronounced.

Cellulite is different from smooth body fat.  Cellulite is lumpy.  Body fat is like an organ, protecting your cells, cushioning your organs and storing energy.  Cellulite is just lumpy.  Body fat is distributed all over your body.  Cellulite only shows up in the thighs, belly, buttocks, breasts and neck, and there’s nothing even about it.  It does nothing… and it’s lumpy.

It’s unbelievable what people will do to get rid of cellulite.  There are products that claim to help you shake it off, burn it off, brush it off, rub it off, treat it with drugs, shock therapy, herbs and surgery, but like weight loss products, nothing really seems to do the trick.

Contrary to popular belief, even liposuction, which is both risky and expensive, removes deeper fat deposits, but hasn’t been found to erase cellulite directly beneath the skin.  Daniel Berg, M.D., Director of the University of Washington Dermatologic Surgery Center, tells us, “Liposuction of the thighs, while improving the silhouette, does not usually eliminate the subtle puckering of the skin often called ‘cellulite’."

The best approach to take is, of course, common sense.  What’s causing your connective tissue to harden? It may be a combination of things.  Look at the healthiest people you know – the people who practice good nutrition and exercise regularly.  They probably have little or no visible cellulite.

The key to decreasing the appearance of cellulite pockets is to improve the way your body eliminates things it doesn’t need.  It’s that simple.  The methods you can use are practically infinite, but here are a few great places to start:
  1. Drink two liters of water every day – more if you exercise vigorously and even more if you exercise outdoors in a hot climate.

  2. Don’t eat anything fried. The less grease you consume, the better. This includes butter. If you tend to put butter on everything, change your ways. After a few months of shunning butter, margarine and fried foods, you won’t even like greasy stuff anymore – honestly!

  3. Get moving. It’s been found that poor circulation can cause cellulite to stay put. Suggestion: indoor bicycling is an excellent way to get the blood in your legs circulating efficiently.

  4. Researchers have found that Vitamin C, which helps the body rid itself of toxins, plays a role in reducing cellulite, so make sure you have plenty of it in your diet. Get at least three servings a day of fresh fruits.

  5. Avoid sodium, which is another diuretic. Be cautious about Chinese food!

  6. Stay real. Chemical additives in your food may seem like a fact of life, but the more you can stay away from them, the healthier (and less lumpy) you’ll be. Read labels. If a product has more ingredients than you could read in fifteen seconds, it’s far from pure.

  7. Yoga is a terrific way to improve your circulation and increase your strength. An added bonus of getting into Yoga is that you’ll be surrounded by “all-natural” people who will be a good influence on you. Another added bonus is that it may give you patience, which you will need, as you won’t see results for a while.

  8. Take up weight training. Although it won’t, in itself, remove the cottage cheese look, you’ll speed up your metabolism, which decreases body fat all over your body, proportionately lowering your cellulite level in the process.

  9. Do what you can with your genes. Enough said about that.
A word about creams:

They’re not a solution to the problem, but there are some creams and lotions out there that “plump up” the skin – in a good way! If you think your cellulite is an eyesore (on your thighs, for example), a good cream might mask it somewhat.

Beware of creams that claim to eliminate cellulite, though.  Remember that using a cream is simply a cosmetic approach and it would be impossible for a topical product to seep into your skin, zap the cellulite and make it disappear.  All you’re doing is hydrating your skin and creating a temporary mask to hide the lumpiness.

Dr. Bonita Marks, assistant professor of physical education, exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina, participated in a six-week study on "thigh-reducing" creams.  After finding that neither these creams nor regular moisturizers reduced the thigh circumference of any of the volunteers, Marks concluded, "Manufacturers of these creams rake in the bucks for a product that doesn’t work."

Don’t let the media tell you that having cellulite means that you’re fat.  It’s normal and healthy.  In fact, even supermodel Kylie Minogue bravely admitted, "Cellulite is there already. It's only faint, but if I squeeze my thighs I can see it. I just make sure my lights are in the right place."

Cellulite, as you probably know, is stubborn.  It takes a long time to smooth things out, and we Americans are impatient people.  The first thing you need to do is to accept the fact that, as of yet, there is no quick fix for cellulite.

Remember the irony, though: getting rid of it the hard way is much quicker (and more economical) than trying a dozen "speedy" methods!

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