Cellulite: whether or not you regularly stalk through the Mail Online or peruse the celebrity gossip magazines in the newsagents’, chances are you’ll agree that it sucks. There’s Kim Kardashian et al just haplessly lerping around on a beach somewhere and next day the tiny dimples on their skin become front page news. But here’s the deal: 90% of women will have cellulite at some point in their lives. Be it right around puberty, or later on in life, cellulite is a reality for essentially all women – including many of the most seemingly ‘flawless’ of celebrities.
And while we could spend all day contemplating the pros and cons of embracing the C-word versus annihilating it, but I’ll cut to the chase: I’m here to introduce you to cellulite and then politely ask it to jog on.
So, what is cellulite?
In a nutshell, cellulite is a condition in which the skin appears dimpled and lumpy due to areas with underlying fat deposits, giving it a dimpled, lumpy appearance. Cellulite does not always show on the surface layer of skin and, at this stage, only a microscopic examination of cells from the affected area would point to the anatomical changes that aren’t visible on the surface. This is grade one and two cellulite; grade three cellulite has visible roughness of the skin (hence the term ‘orange peel effect’). It is much more common in females, mainly because women are more likely to have particular types of fat and connective tissue.
There are considered to be four main causes of cellulite – hormonal factors, genetic factors, dietary factors, and lifestyle factors.
- Hormones play an important role in cellulite development. Many medical professionals believe estrogen, insulin, noradrenaline, thyroid hormones, and prolactin are part of the cellulite production process. As estrogen levels in women are much higher, the chances of being predisposed to cellulite are increased in women.
- Certain genes are also required for cellulite development. Genes may predispose an individual to particular characteristics associated with cellulite, such as gender, race, slow metabolism, distribution of fat just underneath the skin, and circulatory insufficiency.
- Diet is key; people who eat too much fat, carbohydrates, or salt – and too few foods containing fibre – are likely to have greater amounts of cellulite.
- There are also lifestyle choices we make that can alter the development of cellulite. For example, existing cellulite may be increasingly visible if a person smokes, lacks exercise, or remains in the same position for long periods of time every day (office workers, I’m looking at you!) Also, wearing clothing with tight elastic across the buttocks limits blood flow, and therefore may contribute to the formation of cellulite. Ladies, put down those disco pants…
How can training help?
Experts recommend daily cardio exercise combined with two to three strength-training sessions a week and a healthy diet. This minimises the lifestyle and dietary factors that may promote cellulite, such as a largely sedentary lifestyle and the consumption of excessively fatty or sodium-rich foods. Strength training is an important element in lessening the appearance of cellulite since it increases muscle tone and decreases total body fat when complemented with a well-balanced diet. Training which targets areas most prone to cellulite – such as the glutes and thigh muscles – will be beneficial to the overall tone of the body and, therefore, reduce cellulite. Strength training and cardio, when combined, will encourage blood flow and fat loss, which in turn will almost certainly stimulate a decrease in cellulite overall.
Can my diet help?
Absolutely yes – your diet is your secret weapon to seeing results in all areas of your body.
- Sugar and salt are your worst enemies: avoid consuming too much sugar, which gets stored in fat cells and causes them to expand, and limit salt intake, since sodium causes fluid retention, making cellulite appear even worse.
- Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water – and remember, sportspeople need even more than the recommended two litres. Cellulite looks worse on dehydrated skin – water helps flush out toxins that hide in the fat layers beneath the skin, thus reducing the visibility of cellulite.
- Include flax seed in your diet. Flax seed contains hormone modulators called lignans, which lower excess oestrogen levels (along with a whole host of other health benefits). Oestrogen is involved in cellulite production as it triggers the production of fat cells and encourages fluid retention; by balancing it, the likelihood of developing visibly cellulite is significantly reduced.
- Fight fat with fat. Healthy fats hydrate the skin because they encourage fluid to remain inside the skin cells rather than in the fat cells. So nuts, seeds, olives and oily fish are all important additions to a cellulite-reducing diet plan – don’t be scared of these fats!
How can supplements help?
Different sources recommend different supplementation for the treatment of cellulite, but remember: there is no miracle cure. Although experts agree that the visibility of cellulite can be reduced, no-one has developed a magic pill to banish it completely. That said, there has been a lot of research into supplementation that can, in the very least, complement the efforts of a good diet and training program where cellulite reduction is a goal.
- Gotu kola extract has been specifically researched for its benefits in reducing cellulite, and it is one of the few herbs that has been successful in garnering good results. Gotu kola extract improves elasticity and thickens the skin, helping minimize the appearance of bumpy cellulite. Find it at health food stores like Holland & Barratt, or online.
- Supplements that balance oestrogen levels are also beneficial:
- Zinc plays an important role in hormone production and balance, helping to increase progesterone levels and lower estrogen. And yet, more than 70% of women do not get the minimum daily requirement of zinc from their diets! Make sure there are high levels of zinc in your daily multivitamin.
- Diindolylmethane (DIM) appears to support the activity of specific enzymes that improve estrogen metabolism in both men and women. It is one of the most widely-recognised and effect supplements for estrogen balance and can be purchased widely online.
Bisson, Lionel. The Cellulite Cure. Meso Press, 2006. Print.
Romano, Joy and Aquino, Jimmy. Cellulite Solution: the Complete Guide to Being Cellulite Free. 2010. Print.