Cellulite Is Normal, So Get Over It
In my experience of exclusively training women, the phrase “I want to tone up” or, “I just want to live a healthy lifestyle,” is actually secret female code for “I want you to teach me the secret workout to get rid of my cellulite.”
The truth usually comes out after about 1-2 months of training, and I have the opportunity to have a candid conversation with women about female physiology, hormones, and body shape.
For most relatively fit women, cellulite is the “final frontier” of the perfect body. Your abs are enviable, your body weight is healthy, your body fat percentage is in the “athletic” range, and you’re killing it in the gym and/or on the track, but you just can’t get rid of the dimpled areas on your butt and thighs. What to do?
My no-nonsense answer is:
Get over it.
For many women, their butt, hips, and thighs are their biggest problem areas. The dreaded “cottage cheese” appearance provokes anxiety, lots of Googling, and the purchase of expensive gels, creams, spa treatments, QVC torture devices, and multi-level-marketing miracle cures.
I relate! For a long time, I thought there was a “perfect workout” that would smoothe my butt and thighs. I felt embarrassed about the appearance of my legs and worried about swimsuit season. Now, I’ve dealt with those demons, and I’ve learned that it’s just not worth it.
The bottom line is that cellulite is a normal feature of the female body, even for lean, athletic women. It’s a uniquely female aspect of physiology that can have a large genetic component (if your mom and/or aunts had/have it, you probably will too), and it’s not entirely related to body weight or body fat. I am 5’5, 120 pounds, and 20% body fat, and I still have it!
So if you have cellulite and you torture yourself over it, here are my tips for you:
Stay in excellent shape.
This may seem obvious, but so many women get immersed in “spot toning” and targeting their problem areas, they miss the forest for the trees and don’t exercise as much as they should. The absolute best thing you can do for your overall aesthetic appearance is to stay really strong and fit through a balanced program of intense full-body workouts, weight training, and cardio. Don’t spot-tone – work your whole body! Be consistent, get into a routine, and keep at it! You’ll be surprised at how much you don’t notice your cellulite when you’re in slamming shape overall.
Manage your weight with nutrition.
Even though cellulite is related to the way we as women store fat, it is still fat. So the less fat you have, the less apparent your cellulite will be. Remember, crash diets and fad diets are not effective in the big picture, and extreme/fast weight loss can result in unwanted loose skin. Instead, focus on eating three square meals a day with a few snacks, never more than 3-4 hours apart, and fill up on veggies, lean protein, and whole grains. Your weight will take care of itself in time, and you will be healthier overall. Want to learn more about how to manage your nutrition? Check out this post.
Contrary to what many women believe, weight training will not make you bulky. When it comes to the butt and thighs, especially, the opposite is true, and it’s the closest thing to a “silver bullet” there is when it comes to cellulite. The more muscle you build in your butt, the more metabolically active your entire body will be and your legs will have a more shapely, lifted, “toned” appearance, even if there is still some cellulite. It will just be far less noticeable. Use heavy weights (you’re stronger than you think!), use good form, and do lots of deadlifts, squats, and lunges. You will love the way your legs look and feel!
Use your abdomen, not your butt, as your measure of leanness.
The fat that we store in our butt and thighs is generally healthy. For many women, it’s part of reproductive health (and it’s genetic, remember?), and it’s not a good measure of how fit you are. As long as your measurements are good (your waist-hip ratio is 0.8 or below) and your stomach is pretty flat when you’re standing up, you’re good to go (it’s the fat that gets stored in the abdomen that is metabolically worrisome). If you have definition in your abs but cellulite on your butt, it’s not a big deal!
Stay away from miracle cures.
Nothing beats fitness. Nothing. No cream, gel, device, or procedure will make a difference in your overall appearance like regular exercise and a solid, healthy diet will. The cellulite elimination industry, in fact, is an incredibly large racket that takes advantage of your insecurity. The miracle cures are expensive and their results (and methods) are extremely dubious. Besides, most products say, “may improve the appearance of…” as well as, “most effective when combined with a healthy lifestyle.” Why not just skip the cream and live the healthy lifestyle?
Don’t compare yourself to others.
This is incredibly important. When another woman seems to have a perfect body (note that I used the word “seems”), it’s vital to remember that you don’t know much (or anything) about her genetics, exercise, nutrition, or overall health. Or maybe what her body even looks like in context. We tend to see others in flattering environments that allow us to minimize their “flaws,” while agonizing over our own perceived imperfections in the horrible lighting of a Bloomingdale’s fitting room. You don’t know (1) what someone’s body actually looks like and (2) how they achieved their physique. Leave comparison out of the picture!
Remember: no one else notices your cellulite.
Finally, as difficult as it may be at first, you just need to focus on the tips above and forget about the cellulite.
Because no one else notices it.
Really. You may focus on it so much that you have blown it all out of proportion and it is actually barely visible. Trust me on this. We have an incredible ability to distort self-image, and your perception of your cellulite is probably greatly exaggerated.
You may deprive yourself of wearing a swimsuit, short skirts, short shorts, and other cute clothes, but the reality is that no one else is as harsh a critic of you as you are of yourself.
Remember: it’s possible that someone else thinks you have the “perfect body.”
Go for a run.
Grocery shop for healthy foods.
Wear the swimsuit.
Wear the shorts.
… And forget about your cellulite.