Cellulite: a healthy flaw
There are many endearing dimples and imperfections that make our bodies unique to us, but cellulite isn’t one we typically appreciate. Even the most fit among us still have those stubborn areas that bother us when we catch them in the mirror. But what if cellulite is more of a biological necessity than a flaw? What if this thing that makes you feel insecure is also keeping you healthy? It’s important to know where cellulite comes from and the role it plays in your body’s overall balance before you resort to extremes to get rid of it.
Cellulite appears depending on the structure of your skin. The outer layer of skin that we see is called the epidermis and the layer directly underneath it is called the dermis. Then there’s layers of subcutaneous fat below that. When fat deposits start to protrude into the dermis, it causes the bumps and dimples we know as cellulite, according to Medical News Today. A common misconception is that cellulite builds up through “toxins” in your body and many cellulite-ridding products claim to detox these toxins. But this theory isn’t backed by science or clinical trial studies so don’t let that fool you.
The reason you may hear women complain about cellulite more than men isn’t based on confidence or self-image. It’s actually more prevalent in women because of our body fat distribution and the way our connective tissue works. Our fat cells and connective tissue are arranged vertically which makes it easier for these little fat deposits to poke through. For men, the tissue is more of a criss-cross pattern, making cellulite far less likely.
There’s no definitive explanation for why some women have more cellulite than others, but there are five factors that may provide some insight: hormones, genetics, age, diet and lifestyle.
Estrogen helps regulate blood circulation to the skin, less circulation means less oxygen. With less oxygen, there’s less collagen being produced which keeps our skin looking full and smooth. Low estrogen also causes fat cells to enlarge.
As we age, our skin becomes thinner and less elastic as the epidermis, and dermis layers get weaker. The weaker the dermis, the easier it is for fat deposits to become more and more visible.
Genetics is like rolling a loaded die. With each outcome, there are endless combinations of traits and predispositions to certain conditions for every person. No two cases are the exact same and that makes it difficult to predict or even treat. Cellulite works the same way. There’s no way of knowing the exact genetic code that causes it. All we know is our genetics play a big role in our metabolism, ethnicity, blood circulation and fat distribution, all of which affect cellulite formation.
Diet and lifestyle factors are a huge part of your cellulite makeup for obvious reasons. Your body stores subcutaneous fat when you are eating more calories than your body needs to maintain itself. Your body burns up the energy it needs for the day and whatever is leftover is stored for later. Even when you are eating whole, nutrient-dense foods, this process can still occur. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Eating in a caloric surplus helps us build new muscle tissue, but we don’t have control over where all those extra calories go. As you build muscle, your body is likely to also put on extra fat. But the way that fat is distributed can improve with a consistent exercise routine. For many women, cellulite tends to collect in the thighs and buttocks, so finding movements that target those areas can really help. In contrast to popular opinion, cardio is not the best strategy to reduce cellulite. Though cardio gets your heart rate up and burns body fat, weight-training strengthens the connective tissues in your skin that keep cellulite under wraps.
Outside of exercise-related solutions, many women have found comfort and results in topical treatments. As long as you are aware it is indeed a treatment and not a cure, that’s a perfectly reasonable way to go about it. These creams, exfoliating brushes and ointments work as a camouflage, making the outer layer of skin thicker to diminish the visible appearance of cellulite.
Fat is an essential part of the human body, giving us energy and keeping our organs protected. It’s impossible to survive without it and as long as you have body fat, you’ll most likely have cellulite. Even the most active athletes, physique competitors and models have used their platforms to communicate a message of body positivity and acceptance of their own cellulite, so why not you? In the grand scheme of fitness and long-term health, cellulite doesn’t pose any risk to you and is an unavoidable accessory of the female body, so maybe the greatest treatment is a change in mindset.
One reason to go easy on yourself… 80 to 90 percent of women have cellulite and it’s considered medically normal. That means that if you don’t have any or very little, you’re closer to a genetic superhuman than the average female. Dr. Warren with Shape Magazine says, “When you understand that cellulite is just part of being a woman, you understand that eliminating it just isn’t possible.”
Take it from me
I’ve always had cellulite around my thighs and butt. Even when I was at my skinniest, those little dimples around my hips stuck around. After over a year of weight training and building more muscle tone than I’ve ever had, it’s still there. But I can’t say it’s ever been a big insecurity of mine. For me it falls into the same category as freckles or birthmarks, it’s just how my body looks.
It used to bother me that I naturally put on fat in my lower body, but now I’m grateful for it. It allows me to have feminine curves and helps me build muscle in those areas since all the calories want to go there anyways. I found a way to turn my weaknesses into strengths so I could love my body just the way that it is. If I can have full, shapely hips and toned legs with just a touch of cellulite, I’ll take it.