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Is it possible to get rid of unsightly cellulite?

By Doris Penner

It is estimated that 90 percent of women develop cellulite which accumulates along hips, thighs and buttocks. Located just below the skin among connective tissues, it separates into pockets with the appearance—as some have described it—of honeycomb or a dimpled orange. While the fact that it’s a problem females have to contend with strikes one as rather unfair, the question that immediately comes to mind is, are there ways to prevent the formation of this type of fat, or at least to mitigate the effect? Perhaps a more important area of concern is the danger that accumulation of cellulite might pose to health.

It should be noted at the outset that fat in general is an essential component of a healthy human body. Genes play a large role in determining how many fat cells one has, what types they are and where they are located. Fat exists in two basic types—subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is found in a layer just below the skin, acting as insulation for the body to help maintain internal temperature and serve as a cushion for falls and the like. In addition the layer contains blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles and clusters of fat cells. This is also where cellulite is located.

Surrounding vital organs

Visceral fat, on the other hand, is located in the abdominal cavity, surrounding many vital organs. It is important in that it produces hormones such as leptin (released after a meal to mitigate appetite) and adiponectin (which activates cells to respond to insulin). Visceral fat also acts as a storage depot which means the stomach pushes out when there is an excess of fat that accumulates and causes weight gain. While subcutaneous fat including cellulite may be unsightly in excess, it will not cause serious health problems. Too much visceral fat, on the other hand, carries with it serious dangers to health, particularly for the cardiovascular system. This occurs when hormones in visceral fat are disrupted which leads to arteriosclerosis (hardening of arteries), rising blood pressure, increase in levels of “bad” cholesterol and impairing the body's ability to use insulin.

The interesting thing is that while positive lifestyle changes will have a definite effect on shedding visceral fat, getting rid of cellulite is more difficult. And although losing cellulite is more for the aesthetic reasons than for health, it is still important.

Looking at what causes cellulite to develop will help to identify how to get rid of it. As with a number of other conditions, several factors are out of our control. One of these as has been noted is gender. Other factors contributing to formation of cellulite are genetics—it seems to run in families—and age—as one gets older, skin loses its natural elasticity which makes it easier for fat to bulge out and create those “dimples” which denote cellulite.

Now to factors we are able to control. There are three things women—and indeed men—can do that will improve health and help with reducing the amount of cellulite that develops. It is important to focus on sensible eating, daily aerobic exercise and strength training which are related to losing weight if necessary, or maintaining it at a healthy level. Although even thin women will develop cellulite, excess weight contributes to development and makes it more noticeable.

Sensible eating

Sensible eating means following a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains which contribute fibre and complex carbohydrates and low-fat dairy products, and one that is moderate in meat consumption. Losing excess weight too rapidly or so-called “yo-yo” dieting (losing and gaining weight by turns) will only aggravate cellulite.

Aerobic exercise such as walking briskly, swimming or cycling greatly benefits the cardiovascular system by improving circulation of blood and lowering the risk of plaque formation which leads to heart attack and stroke. Moreover, exercise raises metabolism which has the effect of burning away visceral fat as well as subcutaneous fat although the latter is harder to budge. At the least it will keep the “dimpled look” from becoming more pronounced. If you want to target cellulite around thighs and hips, engage in exercise that particularly tones these areas such as squats and leg presses which fall into the category of strength training. This type of training helps to keep the body lean and fit which detracts from cellulite build-up.

There are several other ways to help reduce cellulite. One is regular massages which support circulation; stroking with a firm hand in the right direction will increase fat dispersion. While slathering on creams and oils will not make cellulite magically disappear, there are certain products on the market such as birch cellulite oil that will nourish the skin and improve texture and smoothness. Applying it in circular motion also helps with blood flow.