Notice the play on words of the title?? Cellulite has to be one of the nastiest words in the English language. It is the bane of the young and older, skinny and obese, it touches over 90% of women and a few men. Superstars who have personal chefs and trainers and plastic surgeons and dermatologists on speed dial cannot escape it. As I was planning my posts the other day I thought it might be fun if we talk about cellulite. Cottage cheese thighs, orange peel abs, waffle weave arms; no matter what you call it, it all means the same thing; bumpy, lumpy, saggy, baggy, curse worthy cellulite.
Today we are going to go into the definition of cellulite. Tomorrow we’ll talk about eating for cellulite, then we will talk about how to treat it.
A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend of mine who happens to be a dermatologist with a burgeoning practice which includes several plastic surgeons. Several of us were in his office having a chat talking about the latest treatments for cellulite. As a nutritionist with clients who ask a lot about “curing” cellulite, I have formulated really rather effective plans for at least diminishing the appearance of that orange peel look. The doctors remain emphatic that nothing short of surgery, or at the very least, expensive lasers can get rid of cellulite. When I asked them their definition of cellulite they all described it in one word. FAT. When I probed deeper to find out what causes these fatty deposits, inquiring about the factors in the formation of cellulite; asking them if they believe there are ways to treat it, for example, with a weight loss diet, or if the fat is different than the deep fat present in an obese person I was met with a resounding “Fat is fat. There is no difference.”
With all due respect to doctors, sometimes I think they believe women are all stupid little muppets that will take the word of any man in a white coat that says he can turn back time and make our butts as smooth as a baby’s…..well, you get the picture. All but one of these doctors believed that fat is stored from eating too much fat. Every one of them but the one (and he happened to be a bio-identical hormone expert) refused to acknowledge that toxins and hormonal imbalances could be at least part of the culprit. Not one of them admitted that insulin resistance and carb overload could have anything to do with this kind of fat storage. Oh are we ever going to burst their precious little white coat wearing bubbles.
What is cellulite??
Cellulite is the bumpy, dimpled, cottage cheese-y skin that shows up around the butt, abs, and thighs. Yum.
Cellulite results from enlarged packets of body fat–deposited deep underneath the skin–that push up against the underlying connective tissue. It is triggered by hormones (insulin and estrogen are two huge culprits)and is the accumulation of water, fats and toxins just under the skin’s surface. If the rate at which fat is stored, increases, or if the breaking down process slows, the adipocytes accumulate fat, and hypertrophy (increase in tissue volume by a factor of up to a hundred) occurs. The fat cells then compress the blood and lymphatic vessels, congesting them and reducing their efficiency. Cellulite can extend over the whole of the lower half of the body, or may just affect certain areas (especially knees and inner side,back thighs and is even known for showing up on arms). When the underlying fat cells balloon up it limits the space under the skin, which places a TON of upward pressure on the connective tissue.
That pressure forces the fat right up against the top layers of skin, pushes EVERYTHING upwards, and creates a visibly dimpled look on the surface. When multiple fat compartments expand, multiple hills pop up, and cellulite spreads across a wider surface area.
Imagine a room with an elastic, trampoline-like ceiling that’s PACKED out with as many standard-sized balloons as possible–they’d all fit, albeit snugly within the walls of the room.
Now imagine that those same balloons–still within the same room–all doubled in size. You’d have MASSIVE amounts of pressure pushing on all 4 walls due to the lack of space. Like the connective tissue between each compartment of fat cells, walls are sturdy and won’t budge, which gives the balloons only one option–to push upwards into the elastic ceiling, stretching it out and creating a “bumpy” roof.
What causes cellulite??
Blame your mother: If your mom had it, there are chances you will too, because genetic factors play a significant role in the onset of cellulite. They aren’t the only factor nor do they mean you absolutely will develop it to the extent your mother or her mother may have had it.
Lack of circulation: Poor blood circulation leads to accumulation of fluid in the superficial layer of fat beneath the skin and to the accumulation of toxins in the fat cells. Note: Tight underwear and tight clothing that cuts off the circulation to your lower body and crossing your legs when you sit are notorious circulation killers.
Hormonal factors: Estrogen dominance is a huge factor in the formation of cellulite. Oral contraceptives, exposure to environmental toxins, even hormonal disruptors in beauty and personal care items all have an effect on how well we metabolize and excrete excess estrogen. If we don’t excrete excess estrogen it goes straight to the fat cells.
Standard American Diet: too much sugar, refined flours, alcohol and tobacco means spikes in insulin, the inability to process hormones properly, the breakdown in the assimilation of minerals and vitamins and all this leads to cellulite. When you can’t absorb the nutrients from what you eat, or what you eat is devoid of those nutrients, even the collagen in your skin breaks down. Cellulite is even more apparent on saggy, baggy skin!
Hypothyroidism: If your thyroid is out of whack, chances are your adrenals and hormones are too. Gluten and wheat intolerances all lead to chronic inflammation which leads to hypothyroidism, adrenal insufficiency, and hormonal disruptions. A Standard American Diet contains a LOT of gluten, modern wheat, and commercially raised meat which also throws your hormones out of balance which means more insulin spikes and more fat storage!
Are you getting the picture? Sometimes cellulite is triggered by cascading hormone reactions from pregnancy (we will be addressing that in another post in the next few days) and you can’t really do much about that except have a very nutrient dense eating plan. Most cellulite is controllable if not completely curable! You can minimize cellulite.
The stages of cellulite:
1. The beginning stage is where healthy skin tone slightly decreases and subcutaneous tissue becomes less compact. Skin surface is apparently smooth. But if the skin is pinch on the thighs, is seen the aspect of an orange.
2. The orange peel affect is obvious without pinching the skin, especially while lying down. On the skin appear dimples, skin tone continues to decrease, and fat cells increase in volume. Blood flow to the skin becomes more difficult. There is a slight edema.
3. This is the stage where many women hate their bodies. Skin is visibly affected by cellulite in a standing up position – with a variety of subcutaneous nodules, bumps and hollows. Each fat cell can be increased in volume up to 50 times its original size, worsening blood and lymph circulation. At this stage cellulite also causes problems with skin sensitivity. If no action is taken, it can develop irreversible damages.
4. Finally, the skin aspect of “cottage cheese “disfigures the body. Cellulite in this stage is a disease with severe circulation disorders, with massive swelling, and dilated veins. The skin becomes painful to touch. This is the most extreme form of cellulite that, thankfully, does not happen to most women. In this stage cellulite is difficult to treat.
Tomorrow we will discuss the myriad of treatments for cellulite. What works. What doesn’t. See you tomorrow!