What is Cellulite and How Do I Deal With it?

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cellulite1Perhaps the most important thing that any woman can (and should) know about cellulite is that, despite many messages disseminated by low-quality media and popular culture, cellulite is a completely natural and normal phenomenon. It’s part of a natural process that happens in most women’s bodies and not neither “disgusting” nor a reason to hate the way you look.

We at Women’s Life Today realized that a lot women have questions about cellulite: what exactly it is, why it happens, and how to deal with it. These women deserve to have honest, unbiased information about their bodies and to then be able to use that information for whatever purpose they choose, including reducing the visibility of cellulite. We totally encourage giving women the tools to make their own educated decisions about their bodies, free of shame or judgment.

Similarly, we hope that women will always treat their bodies with wisdom and respect, avoiding dangerous gimmicks and behavior – it’s the only one we will ever get, and it is perfect. The best advice we can give you is to learn to love your body the way nature intended it to be and treat it with the respect every creation in nature deserves.

Cellulite is a skin condition that affects around of 90% of women worldwide, no matter their shape, size, weight, genetics, etc.

As a result of today’s popular culture bombarding us with images of “beautiful” women that seem to never include the appearance of cellulite, some women have become so conscious and ashamed of their cellulite that they have stopped wearing shorts or a bathing suit.

What Is Cellulite?
Cellulite is a skin condition which results from several changes in your skin’s normal makeup, combined with problematic blood circulation and fat cells that have undergone a transformation.

While there is no easy cure for cellulite, there are ways to reduce its appearance.

There are many misconceptions out there about cellulite. Lots of people believe that it’s a byproduct of getting older, when actually, even babies have cellulite! In addition, cellulite is not necessarily the result of “bad” diet or lifestyle; women, because of hormones, genetics and body structure often have cellulite starting at a young age or even birth.

The Sciencey bit
The normal development of healthy fat tissue begins when a fetus is in the womb and continues until a child’s 18th month, commencing anew at puberty. People who consume high-fat foods, however, could potentially be in a constant state of additional (already existing) fat cell growth and (new fat cell) creation.

The fat tissue below the outer surface of the skin actually comprises two separate layers: the external or “areolar” layer, which is made up of round, large fat (adipocytes). In this layer lie many fragile blood vessels that feed the fat cells. The second, deeper layer of fat is the “lamellar” layer, where cells are arranged in a different layout.

When a person gains weight, the lamellar layer increases in thickness, as its fat cells increase in size and pass, simultaneously pressing on the outer areolar layer – making it more physically and visually pronounced. With time, the  areolar layer also grows and gives the skin a “lumpy” appearance (1).

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It’s All About Hormones
Puberty marks the real beginning of the battle with leg cellulite. The appearance of the femoral region of the leg (upper thigh) is deeply affected by a woman’s particular hormonal profile.

The hormone estrogen often causes fat cells in the thigh region to convert into “anti-lipolytic alpha receptors,” and stimulates the release of  the enzyme “lipoprotein lipase” into the bloodstream, which causes fat growth. The physical signs of all these complex biological processes, in the form of cellulite, become apparent on the buttocks and abdomen but mostly on the back of the legs.

The hormone prolactin, responsible for regulating breast milk, can also increase the occurrence of cellulite since it causes water retention on fatty tissues, making individual fat cells look larger and lumpier.

Insulin, the well-known hormone that regulates sugar levels in our blood, is also a key player in the appearance of cellulite. Insulin is released into your bloodstream when you eat anything rich in carbohydrates, and ushers the carbs (as glucose) towards muscle tissue to be burned as energy or stored for later use. However, if a woman eats an excess of carb-rich foods or does not live an active lifestyle, insulin often directs carbohydrates to fat cells (instead of muscle cells) to be turned into fatty acids and stored as triglycerides. This process (lipogenesis) is what makes fat cells in the lamellar layer bigger, and instigates a domino effect that makes areolar layer fat look more pronounced.

So, one of the first steps to combating cellulite is to adopt a diet that allows for a lowering of insulin levels. Specific cellulite busting exercises also have an insulin-lowering effect.

Cellulite creams
Lots of creams, advertised on television and in department stores, make big promises about diminishing the appearance of cellulite. These products often prey on women’s sensitivity to the issue and willingness to pay any price for the elimination of cellulite. The bad news is that there are most likely no products in the market today that will make any significant difference – especially in comparison with the effectiveness of an improved diet and exercise.

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Tips for an anti-cellulite lifestyle
Cellulite is the result of both genetics and the environment. While we cannot change our genetics, or make cellulite totally disappear, one can fight it by harnessing the two factors that are within our control: diet and exercise.

The best and most effective thing you can do to reduce cellulite is get up out of your chair and start sweating! Exercise lowers insulin levels in the body and starts muscle tissue burning carbs and fats, aside from its general and wide-ranging benefits to one’s health. While even the activities of daily life (walking, gardening, cleaning) that burn energy will help reduce insulin levels, a daily or weekly regimen of exercise will only multiply the results.

A sedentary lifestyle, without regular physical activity, hampers the blood flow to your thighs , thus contributing to the development of cellulite. Increasing blood flow to the thigh area is as simple as being more active for more time, every day. Start combating cellulite today by simply finding more opportunities in your daily life to be more active. For example, if your job has you sitting at a desk all day, make it a goal to start taking short breaks during the workday to walk around.

Exercise regimen
cellulitersThere is no match for serious, goal-oriented exercise. Increasing the body’s muscle mass increases one’s metabolism and creates a situation where more fat and carbs are being burned for energy around the clock. Increased muscle tissue will simply steal space from fatty tissue.

The best type of workouts you can start using for cellulite reduction are full-body training sessions, targeting both the upper and lower body in one workout. This will increase blood flow throughout the whole body, and increase the ratio of fat it burns for energy. You would be wise to favor this type of workout over a traditional cardio-only approach (treadmill/stairs/elliptical).

Strength training that activates all muscle tissues should incorporate a range of repetitions, sets and weights (amount of weight used). The more you vary the regions of your body that you train, the more results you’ll see because of an increased metabolic effect.

There is an anti-cellulite program by Joey Atlas that shows exactly which exercises are most effective at combating cellulite. We have received generally positive feedback for this from our readers and can therefore recommend it. Click here to find out more, or watch the video below to get an idea what this is about:

Give Your Diet a Makeover
The second tool in your fight against cellulite is your nutrition. Quite simply, anyone interested in reducing cellulite must reduce the amounts of simple carbs, sodium, alcohol, and manufactured fats they consume.

While carbs actually activate insulin (bad for cellulite) – not all carbs are created equal. “Simple” carbs from refined sugar, those in desserts and candy, as well as fruit-based carbs are burned during exercise, but at rest become problematic. If you consume some simple carbs after a workout session, they will be well-used by muscle tissue re-building. However, at other times, these kinds of carbs can be easily stored as fat. So, one must control the levels of simple carbs consumed.

On the other hand, high-fiber carbs from green and colorful vegetables, or “complex” carbohydrates produce minimal insulin in the bloodstream and keep your body’s waste elimination system regular, improving blood flow. Some starchy vegetables (sweet potato, squash and peas) produce a bit more insulin, but remain valuable because of their fiber content.

Your new anti-cellulite diet should also exclude high-sodium foods. Sodium, usually eaten as salt, causes the body to retain water and worsens the appearance of cellulite. Start being conscious of the amount of salt and sodium in the canned, packaged and prepared foods you buy at the supermarket.

Alcohol is equally damaging to an anti-cellulite regimen. Alcohol in the body acts like insulin, causing the storage and creation of fat, instead of burning it for energy. Eliminate alcohol from your diet as much as possible in order to combat cellulite.

Perhaps the most obvious enemy of cellulite-free thighs are fatty foods. More specifically, foods with manufactured fats, including most commercial products. The body mainly stores processed fats instead of utilizing them. They do no good for the body, causing inflammation, water-retention and added fatty tissue.

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Here is your checklist for a cellulite-fighting diet plan:
– Lots of protein, animal or vegetable sources (not containing high amounts of sodium or sugar)
– Green and colorful vegetables, beans and whole grains – a source of healthy “complex” carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants, and B-vitamins
– Natural fats, as found in avocados, nuts, egg yolks, fish, fish oil and olive oil

(There is a good diet program called the Venus Factor that fights cellulite and is especially geared towards women. Click here to find out more about this.)

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Avoid gimmicks
Instead of wasting your time, money and hopes on commercial products that claim to cosmetically deal with cellulite, you’d be wiser to focus on natural methods that will also improve your overall health. Any honest, trustworthy source will admit that there is simply no magical solution to make cellulite disappear.

What each one of us can do to try and mitigate the situation is eat better and move our bodies more! More importantly, learn to accept your body for all of its amazing individuality – the way nature, not Hollywood, created it.

References

1. Rossi, Ana Beatris R; Vergnanini, Andre Luiz (2000). “Cellulite: A review”. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 14 (4): 251–62.

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