Most women believe that cellulite affects only those who are overweight or out of shape. But, according to Frederic Delavier, fitness expert and author of the forthcoming Delavier’s Sculpting Anatomy for Women: Core, Butt, and Legs(Human Kinetics, 2012), cellulite affects two out of three women, including those who are very thin. “Cellulite is a typically feminine phenomenon where subcutaneous fat accumulates in certain areas, primarily the lower part of the body,” Delavier explains. “It is made up of a mixture of water, waste, and toxins in the skin tissue and fatty tissue in certain cells.”
According to Delavier, there are two types of cellulite. The first kind is characterized by a lack of elasticity in the skin. “When you pinch your skin between two fingers, it is puffy and looks like the skin of an orange,” Delavier explains. “It’s rough and sometimes wrinkled, and the skin is dehydrated and a little warm.” The second kind of cellulite causes skin tissue to be spongy and flabby. The cellulite looks different depending on whether you are standing (it diminishes) or lying down (it spreads). “This kind of cellulite mostly occurs in women over 35 years of age,” says Delavier. “It can appear after losing a substantial amount of weight, from losing weight too quickly, and from taking too many diuretic supplements.”
1. Water retention. When water carrying waste and residue accumulates and stagnates in porous pockets under the skin, it is called water retention. It happens during periods of stress or before menstruation and then goes away after a few days without any special treatment, except when following a strict diet of no sugar and little salt. Cellulite occurs when this water becomes gelatinous, hardens, and creates pressure under the skin. “Only through an intense localized treatment of the fatty mass will you be able to dislodge this orange-peel texture, which will tend to become more difficult over time,” Delavier explains.
2. Hormonal changes. The appearance and development of cellulite are linked to important hormonal stages in women’s lives, such as puberty and pregnancy. Menopause is characterized by the ovaries’ ceasing to function and produce hormones. “At this stage of life, even though your body tends to activate fat cells less often, this does not mean you will not accumulate cellulite,” says Delavier.
3. Stress. Cellulite can occur during a period of intense prolonged stress and be linked to gynecological, circulatory, and digestive problems. These can seriously aggravate cellulite. “The liver plays an essential role in digesting food, and if digestion is not occurring properly, then liver function slows down,” says Delavier. “Fat and sugar will be stored, and your body will retain toxins that will considerably alter your skin tissue.”
4. Heredity. Heredity is an important factor in the development of cellulite, just as it is for obesity. Women who have varicose veins and circulation problems often pass them on to their daughters. “By eating a diet without sugar and by working your legs, you can break the hereditary chain,” Delavier says.
In Delavier’s Sculpting Anatomy for Women: Core, Butt, and Legs, Delavier explains the four reasons why women get cellulite.
The best way to combat cellulite is with intense exercise. “With targeted and in-depth regular exercise, you can confine cellulite and stop it from expanding,” Delavier says. “You will want to use long sets and short recovery time to burn fat.” Since cellulite is primarily located on the lower part of the body, exercises should be focused on that area. He suggests flexion movements including forward lunges that will help activate blood circulation and will work the thigh muscles and the knees. Running and stair machines are also ideal for working the buttocks and thighs.
Delavier adds that anti-cellulite creams, plastic surgery, and massage are also common methods of treating cellulite, but they aren’t sustainable solutions.
My note: I do not believe in spot-reducing exercise as Delavier suggests, as science has been unable to prove it (and there’s quite a bit of evidence to the contrary).