Got Cellulite? You're Not Alone - Here's the Skinny on Cellulite

Woman pinching fat
Getty Images/azgAr Donmaz

If you're a woman, chances are you have some experience with cellulite, aka cottage cheese, thigh dimples, orange peel legs, etc.  It's that annoying dimply fat that appears everywhere from your belly to your thighs and everywhere in between and it affects almost all of us.  In fact, one study published in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy suggests that cellulite affects somewhere between affects 85–98% of females, although it isn't just limited to women.

So what exactly is cellulite and is there anything we can do about it?  Let's discuss.

What IS Cellulite?

First, cellulite is fat.  It's no different from any other kind of fat in the body, it's just a name we've given to fat that looks different or, to some eyes, unsightly. 

Now, there are different types of fat in the body:  Brown fat - The best fat because it actually burns more calories at rest than other types of fat, Visceral fat - A bad kind because it hangs around the inside of your body around the internal organs, and White fat - The rest of the fat that hangs around places like your arms, hips and thighs and, yes, this includes cellulite.

Why Do I Have Cellulite?

You often see more cellulite on women because God hates us.  No, wait, that's not right.  There's actually a scientific reason behind the way fat looks on our bodies.  Here's a summary

  1. As we get to around 25 to 35, our estrogen levels start to decrease as a natural part of aging.
  1. As estrogen decreases, you have decreased circulation and you start to lose receptors in the blood vessels and the thighs.
  2. While this is happening, fat cells become bigger and they start to squeeze out between the connective tissue.
  3. We have special connective tissue allows fat to expand into the skin, which is what causes that lovely dimpling effect.

    There are a number of other factors involved here - Your diet, exercise and activity levels, of course, and there's a genetic component as well.  Some people will just be more predisposed to have cellulite.

    How do I Get Rid of This Nasty Stuff?

    There really is no great permanent treatment for cellulite and anything you do find - like special creams and the like, are only temporary.

    Like any kind of body fat, the only way to lose cellulite is to lose overall body weight.  That may help reduce the size of your fat cells and, perhaps minimize the appearance of cellulite.

    Exercise for Fat Loss

    So how much exercise do you really need to lose weight?  Probably more than you think and you can't spot reduce - In other words, you can't do an exercise for a certain body part in the hopes of losing fat there.  What you can do is start exercising.  Here are some places to start:


    Note: body wraps, toning lotions, electrical muscle stimulation, herbal remedies and other quick fix solutions usually don't work and often don't have any objective scientific evidence to prove otherwise.

    Any effects you experience will often only be temporary.


    Kravitz, L; Achenbach, N. "Cellulite: A Review of Its Anatomy, Physiology, and Treatment." IDEA Fitness Journal, 2010;7(4): 37-43.

    Rawlings, A.V. "Cellulite and its treatment." International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2006;28(3): 175 - 190.

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