Last week, I told yall about how I recently realized that I have cellulite.
No worries, I’m in good company. Roughly 95% of women have cellulite to some degree. And yes, even men can get cellulite, although it’s much less common.
So why do so many women have cellulite, and why do men seem to get off easy in this department?
See, cellulite is the result of fat, in that cellulite merely describes a certain appearance of fatty tissue. In other words, fat does not cause cellulite. There are a number of factors that contribute to cellulite [see more here], but the heart of the issue seems to be…
Women’s skin differs from that of men in a few ways , but one of the primary differences is in the structure of our fat stores. In this case, we are focusing on subcutaneous fat, which is the fat beneath the skin (as opposed to visceral fat which is packed between/around organs in the abdominal cavity).
Subcutaneous fat is stored in cells called adipocytes, which are organized beneath the skin in vertical chambers. These chambers have walls that are made of connective tissues called septa. Here’s where things get interesting:
In men, the septa form an X-shaped pattern, much like a chain link fence. This oblique structure is sturdy and does not easily break down even when adipocytes increase in size or number (fat gain) and put excess pressure on the septa (connective tissue “walls”).
In women, the septa form vertical walls. This vertical structure is prone to collapse when adipocytes increase in size or number, or even when cells swell from fluid retention.
These differences in fat structure are compounded by a few things.
Not only are women made to carry more fat than men, but they store their body fat in different locations [see more here]. Female fat deposits tend to be in the breasts, hips, thighs, bum and around the uterus – in other words, locations that support fertility. Male fat storage tends to be more evenly distributed all over with excess fat accumulating in the abdominal region (think visceral fat, or a “beer belly”). Having more total body fat, with more of it localized in the butt/hip/leg area, and weaker structures for the fat storage chambers, makes it so that women have a much greater chance of developing cellulite than men. Excess body fat can certainly exacerbate cellulite, but it does not cause it.
lack of collagen.
As we age, our bodies produce less collagen. For many women, cellulite becomes more present as they get older – this is why! Some people, regardless of age, struggle to produce sufficient collagen for their bodies, and dietary/supplemental collagen becomes increasingly important for overall skin/joint/tissue health. That lack of collagen also makes it easier for cellulite to make an appearance.
Just as some folks are genetically predisposed to have narrow feet, blue eyes, long legs, straight hair, or big breasts, some are genetically predisposed to have more cellulite. Weaker septa (the connective tissue that forms the chambers in which fat cells are stored), less collagen, and greater propensity towards fluid retention can all be genetic factors that contribute to cellulite. While your lifestyle choices and resulting body fat levels can certainly affect the degree to which those genes are expressed, genetic individuality dictates that cellulite will be more apparent for some people than for others, regardless of body fat levels. [See more here.]
So now that we’ve gone over why we have cellulite, you might be wondering what can be done about it.
Well, the good news is that there are a number of things you can do to improve the appearance of cellulite.
For those who have cellulite and also are obese or overweight, losing fat (decreasing your body fat percentage) can greatly help with the appearance. Less fat means smaller fat cells means less pressure on the septa forming those fat storage chambers beneath the skin.
[In the case of obesity + cellulite, it’s important to remember that the focus should first and foremost be health, i.e. a safe body fat percentage. Cellulite, or lack thereof, comes much further down the list of priorities.]
Additionally, increasing collagen can be helpful if you are low on collagen. If you are over the age of 35 or experiencing any kind of chronic joint pain, you may fall into this category. Aim to consume more dietary sources of collagen – such as gelatin, bone broth, and eggs – as well as increasing consumption of foods with vitamin C, which protects against the breakdown of collagen. Collagen supplements can also be helpful (these are both good options).
For a temporary fix, some cellulite-reducing creams can reduce the appearance of cellulite by stimulating the outermost layer of skin to plump up, fill out, and appear smoother. A spray tanner or one of those gradual sunless tanning lotions can also make cellulite less visible.
There’s one final tactic that a lot of folks overlook, although it’s the most effective in the long run. It might seem a bit radical, but it does work if you’re willing to commit to it:
Decide that you won’t let a few dimples on your ass take away from your self confidence, your appreciation of your body, or your enjoyment of life.
In case I haven’t made it clear, that is indeed my own bum up there, cellulite and stretch marks and all. When I walked out in ill-fitting bikini bottoms and asked her to take photos of my ass, still indented with the pattern of our patio furniture, my friend thought I was a little crazy. And when I added, “a make sure to get the lighting that really shows off my cellulite,” she thought I was absolutely batshit crazy.
Frankly, a year ago, I would have thought I was crazy. Today, though, I’m laughing about it. Do I love every dimple? Nope, not by a long shot. But I appreciate my body for all that it does and all it enables me to do…and most of the time, those imperfections don’t stay on my radar long enough to bother me.
Take it from someone who spent the majority of her life despising her body and trying to beat every imperfection into airbrushed submission: It’s a losing battle. You will wreck either your body or your mind, or both. That’s not to say you can’t change things about your body for the sake of health or personal preference, but that should also come with embracing the human body for what it is.
Amazing, yes, and also imperfect.
A gift, yes, and also a responsibility.
Beautiful, yes, and sometimes funny-looking.
And when you do that – when you accept the parts of yourself that may be perfectly healthy but not necessarily perfect-looking – you are so free in so many ways.
Free to slap on a bikini and go rock the hell out of it, dimply thighs and derriere be damned.
Free to laugh as you edit photos not to decrease the appearance of cellulite on your ass, but to really highlight it before you put it on the internet.
Free to put your mental energy towards matters far more pressing than the structure of your fat storage chambers and resulting texture of your thighs.
So here comes the tough love:
Your life and your worth are about so much more than the size of your thighs or the dimples that may decorate them. If you are blessed enough to have a body that is physically well and whole, don’t you dare tell me that the rippled texture of your ass is somehow keeping you from being happy or living life to the fullest. If dimples in your skin is your biggest problem, count yourself lucky. And if cellulite is what’s holding you back, it’s not your ass that needs fixing, it’s your attitude.
Do you ever feel like insecurities about your body hold you back somehow?
What’s something you can appreciate your body right now?
More food for thought…Cellulite: It’s Time We All Just Get The Hell Over It (from GoKaleo)