Cellulite is an aesthetic condition with several causes and several symptoms/manifestations, some of which are very difficult to improve (such as localised fat accumulation) or impossible to completely reverse (such as the permanent collagen fibre distortion/damage found in the cellulite tissues).
It is gender- and hormonal-specific in that it occurs almost exclusively in women. As many as 80% of women experience some degree of cellulite depending on genetics, hormones, diet and lifestyle. That lucky 20%!
This article is my approach to getting rid of cellulite. When I diligently follow this, it works! And I have cellulite all the way down to my calves!
What causes Cellulite?
Cellulite has a combination of causes:
- Superficial fat accumulation
- Deep fat accumulation (although it is not part of cellulite which is superficial fat, deep fat makes cellulite look worse)
- Collagen fibre deformation (something like an internal scar tissue or internal stretch marks)
- Toxin accumulation
- Water retention
By looking at the above list it is clear that to reduce cellulite we must:
- Reduce body fat, superficial and deep fat
- Minimise the deformities of the superficial connective tissue (collagen fibres) that holds the fat globules together, thereby ensuring a smooth skin surface (if cellulite is progressed they cannot be normalised completely)
- Eliminate inflammation, which is a cause of fluid retention, easy bruising and skin looseness
- Remove toxins that disrupt metabolic processes and lead to tissue deterioration
- Prevent water retention in the superficial tissues and making sure that this water is drained efficiently
All these processes take weeks - not hours - to take effect, some possibly months. But do not despair, read on.
Ludicrous claims and hype vs. responsible approaches with results
After looking at the complexity of the above list, you can appreciate how frivolous most anti-cellulite beauty treatments are.
You simply cannot expect to get rid of your loss of firmness and excess fat accumulation and inflammation and fluid retention and scar tissue and toxins with some electrical pads placed on your bum, with lymphatic drainage massage or with an anti-cellulite moisturiser.
Not to mention detox foot pads that are ”known to expel toxins through your feet“, ludicrous “cellulite-busting” trainers, “fat dissolving” anti-cellulite patches, anti-cellulite jeans(!), “detox patches”, or gossip magazine "lose a stone in one week" diets.
It just doesn't work that way. Cellulite can only be reduced or eliminated with an integrated approach.
Now we know what cellulite is and how it develops, is there anything we can do to get rid of cellulite? Absolutely!
For cellulite, what is needed is not “one thing”, not "one miraculous treatment", but a well-designed comprehensive plan that works on all the causes and symptoms of cellulite. A combination of diet and exercise, can directly and indirectly affect fat cell size and number (and therefore fat lobule size), diminish water retention, improve circulation, eliminate inflammation and to some extent repair the architecture of the cellulite tissues.
However, it is impossible to completely repair and "even out" the millions of connective tissue fibres after they get deformed, and this is the reason why it is impossible to get rid of cellulite 100%, unless it is very recent and mild and not much permanent deformity has already occurred.
Still, a 60% or 80% improvement is not bad and much better than doing nothing and allowing the thighs, hips and bum to become more bumpy. As we already know prevention is better than cure and the time to prevent is now - if we leave it too long it may be too late...simply become proactive and do something about it.
Suggested approach in the order I think is most beneficial:
- Quit smoking
As if you couldn’t guess this one, cigarette smoke has been shown to weaken the formation of collagen, which can lead to cellulite production. I have this first as it will take time to reverse the damage to the skin.
Clinical research into the causes of cellulite has pointed towards hormonal factors that result in the poor circulation of body fluids in between fat cells. Oestrogen causes the fat cells around the thighs, buttocks and waist to swell. This results in restricted fluid pathways between the fat cells. The lymphatic system is unable to adequately drain existing fluid, which causes the swelling that results in the appearance of dimpled skin.
This leads us to hormonal contraception (pill, patches, coil etc.). You could talk with your doctor about low oestrogen pill alternatives. Or if you feel it is appropriate for you and your partner, opt for other contraception methods, such as the diaphragm, condoms or the Daysy device. This too will take some time to show an improvement.
- Drink lots of water.
Drink 2-3 litres of water per day to flush out any excess sodium and thoroughly hydrate your tissues, in order to reduce fluid retention. If you get bored of water, try herbal teas. I love white tea and chamomile tea. You will possibly see an improvement in just a week, it will also assist in fat reduction and elimination.
I firmly believe that you nourish your skin from the inside out. To improve cellulite and also your health, the number one item to eliminate is sugar. Sugar consumption is the number one cause of cellulite today, causing fat accumulation, skin ageing and inflammation. Avoid all types of sugary foods, including those containing extra fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose etc. There is simply no such thing as “good sugar”.
Forget all sweeteners such as sucralose and especially aspartame. Your body is not fooled by sweeteners and using non-calorific sweeteners perpetuates your cravings for sweet food. Instead, it is preferable to detoxify yourself from the sweet taste altogether.
Reduce your salt intake. This will have an effect on fluid retention. Sugar and salt are hidden in many processed foods. You have to check labels.
Next to consider is carbohydrates. Following the Glycaemic Index opt for carbs which digest relatively slowly. Swap out refined carbs such as pasta for their whole grain alternatives. (Ensure it states "wholegrain" on the packaging.) Cut out white bread. Avoid fruit juices. Opt for whole fruits instead. Opt for home-made thick smoothies that retain the fibre. Veggie smoothies are best. Find my Green Super Smoothie recipe here. Berries contain an abundance of flavonoids that support your connective tissue. Eat about five or more portions of vegetables to one to two portions of fruit every day.
Eat plenty of oily fish, such as salmon. Highly unsaturated omega-3 fat found in oily fish has been proven by multiple studies to help reduce body fat and inflammation. If you hate fish, take a quality supplement.
Opt for organic meat, dairy and eggs to reduce your intake of hormones, pesticides and antibiotics from the animal.
I have a blog post on a diet for increasing collagen in the body here.
I am often asked if exercise get rid of cellulite? I think so. Vigorous exercise will improve your circulation which will reduce water retention and deliver nutrients to your skin and firm your muscles.
Try to walk to and from work, at least partially, especially if your work requires you to sit in front of the computer all day. Try your best to move as much as you can throughout the day. Walking the dog, taking the stairs, gardening, spring cleaning, Pilates, playing with your children and throwing on the radio and dancing around your living room, these are all inexpensive ways to increase physical exercise throughout the day.
- Body Brushing and Massage
A body brush could be your best purchase this year! Dry skin brushing helps remove dead skin cells, stimulates circulation and boosts your lymphatic flow. While it has been proven ineffective in cellulite reduction, it is amazing in exfoliating the skin and preventing ingrown hairs. It increases blood flow to the skin which I believe will help with nourishing the deformed connective tissue to bring it back to a healthy state and the increased circulation of the blood and lymph fluid helps carry away any excess fluid.
My routine is to brush my legs vigorously so that my skin would be quite pink afterwards. I start at my ankles and in small circles make my way up my legs to my bum, then I do my tummy and then my arms. Then after all that I massage my legs for about 10 minutes in circular and stroking motions towards my heart. A simple kneading action is all that is needed, as long as it is vigorous. Only use a small amount of cream or oil for better grip. You are aiming to stimulate the skin deep down all the way to your muscle. I notice a huge improvement in my cellulite with this routine. The massage should be prioritised over the body brushing.
After you get rid of your cellulite, you can maintain the smooth appearance of your legs, if you take care of your diet and exercise regularly, avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. However, if you start eating too many sugary/fatty/"carby" foods, drink excessively and stay sedentary, then cellulite is bound to reappear. You have to keep working on it.
"But I want to live my life - I love eating, drinking, smoking..."
Many of the clients I see at my studio tell me that they cannot live like saints forever, which I understand. I can't either.
My answer... you must live healthily for health reasons: inactivity, smoking, excess alcohol and excess greasy/sugary/carby food can cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis and a host of other diseases - not just cellulite.
In fact, cellulite is just another manifestation of the same underlying problems (low-grade chronic inflammation, toxin accumulation, blood vessel deterioration etc.) which occur all over the body and cause those diseases - and cellulite on the surface. So, as much as possible, live healthy to stay healthy. Reduced cellulite is a bonus that goes with it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post.