Cellulite is a formidable opponent that won’t be defeated that easily—and the fact that the condition plagues approximately 80 percent of women probably doesn’t help at a time like this. Summiting the mountain of information about cellulite is no small feat, but learning to discern between what’s fact and what’s fiction regarding this pesky condition will give you a, er, leg up as you evaluate the efficacy of the various treatments and preventive measures available to you.
A Women’s Woe
Scientifically, the term cellulite refers to deposits of fat that squeeze their way between the fibrous web of connective tissues just beneath the surface of our skin. Aesthetically, cellulite presents as dimpled or puckered flesh that is sometimes described as resembling cottage cheese or an orange peel. Most commonly, it appears on our thighs and buttocks, though it can also show up on our stomachs, upper arms, and even breasts. Because women naturally store more fat in these areas, they’re significantly more likely to develop cellulite than men are, especially women ages thirty-five and up.
People who are quick to equate excessive cellulite with being overweight are only scratching the surface of the problem. Certainly, an individual’s food choices and activity levels can impact the relative severity of her cellulite, but often it’s a family affair—in other words, as the Mayo Clinic explains, “genetics may play the biggest role in whether you develop it.” (Thanks a lot, Great-Grandma.) Aside from our DNA’s part in cellulite formation, hormones are often to blame as well: women with higher-than-normal estrogen levels (usually produced by hormonal contraceptives) are particularly susceptible. Finally—brace yourselves—emotional stress is yet another trigger for cellulite; it’s been shown to weaken connective tissue, thereby increasing the opportunity for fat cells to proliferate between the fibers.
If I had a dollar for every cellulite “miracle cure” that’s available online, I’d be … well, I probably wouldn’t be sitting in an office right now. A quick scan of the offerings reveals that for $99.95, you can pick up a bottle of Revitol, which bills itself as a “sure thing” and promises “to get rid of even the most stubborn cellulite” as it “gently melts the cellulite away from your skin.” Or you might like Dermology, an “all-natural formula” that retails for $49.95 and “penetrates the skin for easy absorption into those stubborn cellulite areas. The cellulite-fighting ingredients then help create a tighter and firmer look.” If you’d prefer a more spalike experience, check out the Web site WrapYourselfSlim.com, from which you can order an entire Anti-Cellulite Body Wrap Kit for $129, containing such mystical elements as “seaweed mud” and “slenderizing anti-cellulite gel,” that will not only reduce your cellulite but also “help you lose inches.” With treatments as effective as these, it’s a wonder there’s even one surviving butt dimple in the world today.
The truth is, it’s far wiser to save your money and splurge on a gym membership or a new pair of high-performance running shoes instead; the Mayo Clinic declares, “Many cellulite treatments, including massages or cellulite creams, advertise remarkable results. But unfortunately, most of these treatments don’t live up to their claims.” Persistent physical conditions like cellulite simply won’t respond readily to shortcut remedies; the tried-and-true way to reduce the appearance of cellu-lumps is through good old-fashioned dieting and exercise.
For starters, stick to a menu featuring foods high in protein, antioxidants, and healthy fats (such as omega-3s), and low in saturated fats. Smart selections include bright-colored fruits and vegetables; lean meats; fish; beans, peas, and other legumes; and fresh juices. Adopt a cardio and free-weight exercise regimen that burns fat and strengthens your buttocks and legs (especially your thighs), and this one-two punch will help you make great strides toward evening out your lower-body skin texture—while also boosting your endorphins, endurance, and nutrient levels.
The Miracle of Modern Medicine
If you’re doing everything right in the food and fitness departments and still aren’t achieving the results you want, don’t despair—you could be a perfect candidate to undergo one of the promising new cellulite-reduction procedures that doctors are willing to get behind these days. The most successful therapies available currently are laser and radiofrequency treatments. The latter, called Thermage, is a ninety-minute process in which a doctor heats the patient’s skin with radio-wave energy that tightens subcutaneous connective tissue, thus inhibiting fat cells’ ability to sneak through the webbing and push toward the skin’s surface. This method does not achieve permanent results—nor, at approximately $2,000 a pop, is it for the financially faint of heart—but it can keep visible cellulite at bay for up to five months. Carolyn Jacob, MD, a dermatologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, told WebMD that Thermage is best suited for twenty- to forty-five-year-old women of normal size with mild to moderate cellulite.
Fight the ’Lite
If you’re one of the countless women who suffer from cellulite, you know that self-loathing and “cottage cheese thighs” make good bedfellows. That’s why it’s crucial to eat healthfully and stay active—that way, when you do spot a dimple in your derriere, you’ll have a clear conscience and realize that it’s not a punishment for your bad habits, but purely a cosmetic fact of life. And if you’re truly at a genetic disadvantage, don’t be shy about investigating corrective measures like Thermage (and please send me the before-and-after pictures). In an ideal world, every woman would have perfectly even skin, but isn’t that what Photoshop is for?