Bothered by the appearance of your legs? If so, you’re not alone. It’s estimated 90 per cent of women have cellulite. And while I wrote in the last post that this week I’d also discuss the varicose and spider veins that between 50 to 55 per cent of us also suffer from, there’s just too much still to say about the dimply stuff. So read on to find out more about how to stop cellulite and in next week’s post we’ll go skin-deep on the veins.
Strategies to stop cellulite
Whether you refer to it as cottage cheese, orange peel or plain-old lumpy skin on your lower half, it’s tricky to treat. As I discussed in last week’s post, cellulite is challenging to address because it doesn’t just involve fat but also the way female connective tissue is structured beneath the skin.
Its stubbornness and the lengths women will go to get rid of it are indicated by the fact that in 2011 alone, women in the U.S. spent more than $12 million on cellulite treatments, including creams. And cellulite-firming creams, many of which contain caffeine to temporarily make skin look tighter, offer a minor improvement at best.
But don’t despair. Cellulite can be managed by preventive steps, lifestyle habits and, in some cases, medical treatment.
Cellulite: an ounce of prevention
Oh, how I wish I knew when I was a teenager that my less-than healthy diet and (minimal) exercise habits were laying the foundation of future cellulite. While genetics definitely plays a role in cellulite formation, the processed food and sedentary lifestyle I had back then were also likely large contributors.
So today I try to eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, drink plenty of water and get regular exercise. Both aerobic and weight-bearing exercise are essential to help reduce cellulite, but there are specific moves that may actually target it directly.
While the efficacy of spot reducing is controversial, here are two moves that some fitness experts claim help address cellulite. The bonus is they don’t require a gym.
Single-legged bench sit
I originally saw this exercise in Oxygen magazine and have been doing it for about a year. It targets the back of the thighs, quads and buttocks.
Stand a few inches in front of a flat bench or stable chair. Raise one leg straight in front of you so it’s perpendicular to your hip, and extend arms straight in front for balance.
Bend your other leg to sink into a squat, and slowly lower until you’re sitting on the bench, keeping your other leg extended out. Press through the ball of your foot to stand. The advanced move is to stop a few inches above the bench before standing (12 months on, I still haven’t mastered this). Do 10 reps, and repeat on other leg. Eventually you should work up to doing three sets on each leg.
Stability-ball hamstring curl
This is another exercise touted by Oxygen, but I’ve seen other fitness experts also recommend it for targeting the back of thighs and the behind, and also as helpful for cellulite. For this one you need an exercise ball.
Lie on your back with your calves resting on the stability ball. Extend your arms alongside your body and lift hips so your body forms a straight line. Bend your knees to bring the ball towards your backside, without letting your hips sag. Extend legs to return to starting position. Do 15 reps and work up to three sets.
As mentioned in previous posts, there are theories that cellulite is caused by a sluggish lymphatic system. In addition to dry brushing, which I’ve discussed previously, another practice purported to help stimulate lymphatic circulation is rebounding (jumping on a mini trampoline).
Rebounder proponents claim the shift in gravity when jumping on the trampoline allows for greater blood flow, which increases the amount of toxins flushed through the body.
Start with five minutes a day and work up to 20, and aim to do it a few times a week.
(Note: as always, before starting a new fitness regimen, consult your health-care professional to see if the exercises are appropriate for you).
Getting clinical: Cellulaze
If you’ve tried to minimize your cellulite through lifestyle measures and achieved little success, there’s a fairly new medical procedure (approved by Health Canada in 2011 and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012.) reported to deliver long-term to permanent results.
Cellulaze, which I mentioned briefly in last week’s post, is a laser-assisted surgery that’s the first to treat structural issues below the skin. It’s done with local anesthetic or a numbing solution and involves a surgeon creating a couple of tiny incisions in the areas where there’s cellulite, and threading a Cellulaze laser fiber through a very small tube and inserting it at the incision site.
The laser fiber is used to level out fatty lumps, treat dimpling and stimulate collagen to increase your skin thickness and improve elasticity. The procedure takes between one to one and half hours. You also may have to wear a compression garment after treatment. Downtime is a day or two before resuming regular activities and a week or two before strenuous exercise.
While the promise of getting rid of cellulite with one procedure is decidedly appealing, are there any downsides? Any surgery involves risk, so if you decide to go this route research it carefully and find a physician certified to do the procedure with a successful track record performing it.
In addition, you can expect bruising and some discomfort, and there may be a small amount of fluid that leaks from the incision site.
The “bottom line” is perhaps the biggest detractor. Cellulaze costs between $5000 to $7000 depending on the area to be treated and the city or town where you’re having it done.
While Cellulaze seems to be a promising, if costly, treatment for the lumps, evidence suggests liposuction should be avoided. This procedure, which removes fat by extracting it from under the skin, may increase the dimpling and actually worsen the appearance of cellulite.
But you don’t need to go to surgical lengths to worsen cellulite. Did you know something as simple as your underwear can exacerbate the condition? Some physicians, including Dr. Oz, say that elastic panties pinch cellulite, which can exaggerate its appearance. Opt instead for non-elasticized underwear with smooth fabric, which aids blood flow and prevents fat from being pushed up under the skin. Yes, it’s time to bring out the thong…
Finally, although we would all like to know how to stop cellulite, the “slack” we should most consider is what we should cut ourselves. You see, many doctors actually consider cellulite to be a secondary sex characteristic for women as biologically mandated as our hips, or as Adam’s apples are in men. So if your cellulite bothers you, try some of these measures, but also realize it’s also a sign you belong to the sisterhood.
Next week, other markers of belonging to the female federation: varicose and spider veins.