This post is probably a little more aimed at women, since this is a topic that affects so many, but men – feel free to read along. All the advice is more than applicable to everyone.
To greater or lesser degrees, probably 80% of all women have some cellulite and every women’s magazine out there has devoted miles of column space to combatting it in every way possible. Sadly, none of it seems to work very well – not the “miracle creams” or the pricey spa treatments. Even celebrities with access to all of these things are often photographed with dimpled thighs.
So why am I even attempting to write about it if it’s just an inevitable part of being a woman? Because I do not believe it needs to necessarily plague us in the way it so often does. Most sources agree that a large factor is genetic. The same can be said for stretch marks during pregnancy. But, as we have discovered, blaming our genes really isn’t a good enough excuse since we do have an incredible amount of control over the epigenetic manifestation of these genes, based on our chosen life-styles and behaviors.
So what is cellulite?
It is the dimpled appearance of the skin that occurs as a result of imbalances in the connective tissue and subcutaneous fat. In addition to genetics, diet and lifestyle play a huge part in its occurance. Women who are overweight are far more likely to get cellulite, but it can affect thin women as well, so it is not as simple as losing weight. Having said that, being an ideal weight and not carrying excess body fat is definitely a key component in beginning to diminish its appearance.
Is there a cure?
I’d love to say yes. But I will never throw out a magazine headline about how you can “banish cellulite in time for summer” or “get Giselle-like thighs in 3 weeks”. It is far more complicated than that.
Everyone’s body works differently and there are no cut and dried “cures” out there. Having said that, there absolutely ARE ways to minimize its appearance and to achieve the smoothest skin your body is capable of sporting, and I can speak from personal experience.
I have always believed in treating the body holistically so, as tempting as those off-the-shelf creams always looked, I knew that they weren’t the answer. So what does work? Here are 7 things you can do that I can personally vouch for:
1. Change your diet
Changing your nutrition is probably the most fundamental change you can make in terms of completely revolutionizing both your health AND your body’s appearance. Our bodies are constantly regenerating and rebuilding on a cellular level. Without proper nourishment, especially as we get older, this regeneration is slowed down and unable to keep up with our body’s needs. Thus, it is essential that we give ourselves the building blocks to make this process as effective as possible.
This means eating the most nutrient dense foods possible whilst avoiding those that lead to systemic inflammation and the break-down of cells in our bodies. We’ve covered it many times here and here and here. Once you have this basic foundation in place, you will notice huge positive changes in both your appearance and in your health. Improving the appearance of cellulite is just one benefit you will see.
In a nutshell, eat healing whole foods that have always been food. Eat bone broth, fermented foods, liver, and the most nutrient dense foods possible, ie. grassfed meats, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. Avoid processed and GMO foods like grains, industrial seed oils, sugar, and pasteurized dairy. Simple.
We need plenty of protein and healthy fats to strengthen and build our connective tissues. Without adequate dense sources of these macronutrients (meat, fish, eggs, WHOLE-fat unprocessed dairy) our bodies will lack these vital building blocks, allowing for the breakdown in these tissues and the formation of conditions such as cellulite. Not to mention the fact that without adequate sources of these foods we would end up eating far more carbohydrates which leads to blood sugar imbalances, inflammation and, ultimately, weight gain.
2. Eat gelatin
In addition to a general overhaul of your diet, this is one superfood that will benefit the body and skin in ways that topical creams only dream of doing.
Gelatin supports skin, hair and nail growth, it’s great for joints, it aids digestion, it is an important (although not complete) source of protein, and it improves elasticity of the skin which will help in reducing the appearance of cellulite. One of the reasons we get cellulite is due to the decline of collagen in the skin as a result of aging. This reduces its elasticity and allows for the formation of the dimpled texture we associate with cellulite.
Gelatin is the best natural source of collagen, supplying additional amino acids like glycine, lysine and proline, which are all specifically needed by the body to build connective tissue structure.
It is also responsible for cell renewal, skin suppleness and firmness.
As collagen in the skin declines (after the age of 25) we begin to age, getting wrinkles, dull hair, less firm skin, and yes, cellulite.
Topical sources of collagen DO NOT WORK, no matter what the fancy creams/lotions claim. It must be ingested in the diet in order to have any effect.
When sourcing your gelatin, make sure it is from a grassfed source. An excellent source of gelatin, and something I try to include regularly in my diet, is bone broth. This is both a natural source of gelatin/collagen, and has so many other amazing minerals. Check out more on the incredible benefits of bone broth here. In addition to bone broth, here are the 2 different types of collagen powders I use daily (both grassfed, great sources which I switch between): Great Lakes and Vital Proteins.
I noticed a huge difference in the suppleness of my skin, in my finger nails and in my hair within a couple weeks of supplementing with additional collagen.
3. Dry Brushing
This is one of those remedies that is less scientific and more anecdotal in its effects, but I certainly notice benefits, so I am including it.
What is it? Basically it involves using a natural bristle brush like this one to brush the skin (whilst dry) in long sweeping strokes towards the heart.
It sloughs off dead skin cells, opening up the pores and stimulates circulation and the lymphatic system. This helps to flush out toxins in the body. The lymphatic system plays a key role in the formation of cellulite. When there is decreased lymphatic drainage, fluids that should be carrying away these waste toxins become trapped. The tissues surrounding this become stiff and hardened. Fat and fluids require good circulation of the lymphatic and blood systems in order to be used and drained, and so without this process, they remain in place and accumulate.
Just the exfoliation of the skin alone makes it worth doing – it will get your skin baby soft.
In particular, the crossfit favorite – the SQUAT! Preferably with weight. In addition to increasing circulation (as above) exercise builds muscle and tones the skin. Squats are one of the most effective movements for shaping and firming the butt and thighs, so do them often! Kettlebell movements are also awesome. Both these movements will increase circulation to these so-called “problem” areas of the body and help remove toxins, whilst building muscle that will make your booty look firm, peachy and smooth.
Contrary to popular belief, running and other traditional forms of “cardio” exercise will not achieve even remotely similar results. These tend to decrease efficient fat metabolism, increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol, increase systemic inflammation and increases oxidative damage (free radical production). None of which will help your body look or function well. Read more on the negative effects of “chronic cardio” here.
5. Moisturize using toxin free products
Standard store-bought moisturizers (even the “all-natural”, “organic” ones) pretty much all contain toxins that can lead to all sorts of health problems. Constantly slathering these chemical-laden products on our bodies eventually leads to the build up of these toxins in our tissues, which can contribute to cellulite, and a whole host of long term diseases. I threw out all my old cosmetics when I started learning about the junk that is in 99% of them, and now have simplified my beauty products to a few amazing homemade recipes that use only pure, organic ingredients (most of which are edible!). I figure if I wouldn’t want it inside my body, why would I slather it ON my body where it can be absorbed into my body. Since doing this my skin is softer, clearer and smoother. I will write more about this at some point, but for now this site has some amazing recipes for super simple diy cosmetics. This site also has some awesome natural skin care resources.
6. Balance your hormones
Hormones play a big part in cellulite formation (one reason women get it, whilst few men ever do). Maintaining a proper hormone balance can be key in helping the body reduce cellulite. Even if it doesn’t completely get rid of your cellulite, balanced hormones help the body in so many ways that it is worth it just for that.
Hormones can easily be thrown out of whack, but here are a few things that will drastically help in bringing them back into balance: avoid high omega 6 polyunsaturated fats (all industrial seed oils like canola oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, vegetable oils etc), limit caffeine intake, get enough SLEEP, avoid toxins, supplement wisely, exercise, lift heavy weights, avoid alcohol. For more, read this.
7. Avoid alcohol (or cut it down)
I don’t mean to be a party pooper, but the reality is that alcohol plays a huge role in the formation of cellulite. In addition to behaving like sugar in the body (which leads to fat accumulation and retention), alcohol increases the appetite, wears out the liver, reduces energy levels, and causes water retention and poor circulation.
When combined with sugar (as in beer and cocktails) these effects are increased drastically, especially when also combined with hormonal contraception, inactivity, and an otherwise poor diet.
Try all of these things and let me know how you get on in 2-3 months. I guarantee you will see far more amazing results from these relatively simple actions, than you would from slathering yourself with that super expensive anti-cellulite lotion you’ve been eyeing up in magazines.
You still have time before beach season begins!