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 even very fit women, cellulite can be the final frontier of the “perfect body.” Maybe you’re reasonably lean everywhere else, 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 what they consider 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! I have cellulite myself, and I always have. I had it when I was 165+ pounds, and I had it when I was 115 pounds. For a long time, I thought there was a “perfect workout” that would smooth 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.

So if you have cellulite and you torture yourself over it, here are my tips for you:

Get in 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. 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 feeling great about your fitness overall.

Assess body fat correctly, and not by dissatisfaction with your “problem areas.”

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 certainly not a good measure of how fit you are. Good body fat assessments include waist-to-hip ratio (aiming for 0.8 or below), and overall measurements combined with weight.

Stay away from miracle cures.

No cream, gel, device, or procedure will make a difference in your relationship with your appearance like regular exercise, a solid, healthy diet, and healthy mental reframing. 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 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.

Why?

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.”

So:

Lift weights.

Go for a run.

Grocery shop for healthy foods.

Wear the swimsuit.

Wear the shorts.

… And forget about your cellulite.

Rachel Trotta

I am a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Physique and Bodybuilding Specialist, and Women's Fitness Specialist. I live in New Jersey in the NYC metro area, and I coach clients online all over the world. As a trainer and health writer, my mission is to make healthy living sustainable for the average person. I’m also a wife, mom, nature lover, runner, avid cook, weightlifting aficionado, history nerd, travel addict, and obsessive podcast listener. Get in touch!

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