Now that summer is (almost) here it’s time to break out the short shorts and sundresses. For some, this is a joyous occasion, but for others, this evokes anxiety as it means exposing your lumps and bumps. If you are a “sufferer” of cellulite, keep reading so that you can understand more about this supposed flaw.
Over the past years I have grown exponentially more body confident and this something I am extremely proud of. However, the one aspect of my body that I still have qualms with is the cellulite on my buttocks and thighs. As a woman in my 20s, I have had ridiculous feelings regarding this “flaw”. I have felt guilty for having cellulite at a young age. Then I have felt guilty for feeling guilty since I feel as though I should be embracing my body in its prime. I have also felt extremely frustrated. Even though I am at a healthy weight, exercise about 4 times a week and eat clean 80% of the time, the doughy dimples remain on my derriere.
These emotions are not only toxic for my mental health and self-image but are also extremely exhausting. Seeing as cellulite affects up to 90% of women at some point in their lives, this may resonate with you. If you are battling to come to terms with your cellulite, then perhaps the best place to start is to understand what it is.
WHAT EXACTLY IS CELLULITE?
Cellulite is fat that has pushed through the connective tissue, or collagen bonds, which lie beneath the skin. This causes a dimpled effect, which has given cellulite the not-so-affectionate nicknames orange-peel or cottage-cheese skin. The most common place that cellulite occurs includes the buttocks and thighs since this is where most women carry their fat. However, cellulite can also occur on the stomach and arms.
It should be noted that professional female athletes have between 14-20% body fat and the average fit female has up to 24% body fat. In other words, you are meant to have fat, and if some happens to slip through the cracks of your connective tissue then congratulations – you are exactly like the majority of women.
IF I HAVE CELLULITE AM I UNHEALTHY?
Media has made cellulite to be synonymous with being unhealthy. This is not true. You could be extremely fit and at your ideal weight and still have cellulite. If, however, you do not exercise regularly and are overweight, you are more likely to suffer from cellulite because of the excess fat.
As mentioned above, cellulite is fat which pushes through the connective tissue. In women, this connective tissue arranges itself vertically and can be quite thin. In men, the connective tissue is thicker and arranges itself in a criss-cross manner. Therefore, fat generally pushes through a woman’s connective tissue more easily than a man’s. The structure of men’s skin is thought to be the primary reason as to why only 10% of men have cellulite.
YOU GOT IT FROM YOUR MAMA
Cellulite has also been linked to genetics and hormones. Like other aspects of our bodies, cellulite is hereditary. This further justifies why it should not indicative of an unhealthy lifestyle. Because women have been blessed with the gift of giving life, we have higher oestrogen levels than men. This means that we tend to store more fat than men. Remember how the average body fat for a fit woman can be up to 24%? For a fit man, average body fat ranges from 14-17%.
TREATMENTS FOR CELLULITE
There are numerous products and therapies that are said to remove cellulite, yet nothing has proven to be 100% scientifically effective.
Methods such as foam rolling and dry brushing have a temporary effect. Lotions with caffeine and collagen that claim to reduce cellulite only tighten the top layer of the skin. They do not penetrate deep enough to tighten or strengthen the connective tissue and therefore also have temporary effects. Even most surgical procedures such as cellulaze require frequent follow-ups to ensure a lasting effect.
If you are overweight and have cellulite, then exercise may help. Despite popular beliefs, the best exercise to reduce cellulite is believed to be strength as opposed to cardio. This is because the increased muscle will push the fat closer to the wall of the skin, flattening it out.
ACCEPTANCE – THE ONLY LASTING TREATMENT
A few days ago, I saw an Instagram post which read “It’s not cellulite, it’s brail for ‘I’m sexy’.” For decades, society has represented the ideal woman as having smooth skin, devoid of lumps. Body-positive fitness models have been fighting to reconceptualise this ideal and normalise “imperfections” like cellulite.
Through personally trying to reconceptualise the idea of a fit body, I have realised that fit looks different on everyone and that there is not one single body type that is representative of fitness. I have also discovered that many iconic women have cellulite, which has made me accept mine a little more. Kim Kardashian’s famous booty is layered with cellulite and even drop-dead gorgeous Victoria’s Secret model, Raica Oliveira, has cellulite (albeit minimal). If you are still in doubt, then consider Serena Williams. With three more grand slams than Roger Federer, she arguably one of the world’s best athletes ever and guess what? She has cellulite too.
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