Ask Kate: Is Cellulite Unhealthy?
Cellulite is a common and harmless condition that causes skin to look uneven and dimpled on thighs, hips, upper arms, buttocks and abdomen. It’s not unhealthy, even though sometimes it can feel a bit tender, but it can be interpreted as a sign that the body isn’t performing at the optimum.
One of the greatest misconceptions about cellulite is that it’s caused by being overweight. It’s not. Women of all shapes and sizes have cellulite. 90% of us in fact. Cellulite is about flow, not fat. Let me explain. Cellulite develops in areas of the body where there is there a density of fat – so thighs and upper arms – of the body. The reason for this is down to the way cellulite forms.
What happens is that when the body isn’t removing waste (fluid) quickly enough it gets trapped between the fat cells, and it’s this space-filling that causes the bumps by pushing the fat cells out of alignment. That’s why cellulite sometimes feels a bit tender – the area is waterlogged! With time (and age) the fibres that cross the cells to keep them uniform, degrade, and the whole process is accelerated – more surface bumps, slacker skin and so on.
This is why, in treating cellulite, we focus on the performance of the lymph – the network of vessels that carry fluids around the body to be metabolised and removed. If the lymph isn’t working to its optimum, fluid doesn’t get to be filtered by lymph nodes and ends up setting around fat cells, triggering cellulite.
The interesting thing about lymph is that it only moves when you move. Unlike your blood circulation it doesn’t have a heart to pump it around your body, so it relies on you to be active. As well as that, products like Air-Lite and Cellu-Lite, with deep drainage benefits, promote the lymph and decongest, as do certain foods (protein, green and leafy) and still mineral water – plenty of it!
That’s what we mean by taking a 360 degree approach to cellulite. Making these small changes to your life is not only the best way to change the gears, it is also the healthy way. Come to think of it, the only unhealthy thing about cellulite (apart from having the wrong attitude and expectations towards it) are some of the jaw-dropping ways some experts recommend we shift it.
Take fascia blasting. No one should ever beat themselves up with a stick over anything, let alone cellulite! Fascia (or myofascial tissue) is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fibre and muscle in place. Fascia does more than provide internal structure, it has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin. Some cellulite experts also believe it plays a role in cellulite, maintaining that women who develop it have a weakness in the dermis and connective tissue, including superficial fascia, and that ‘blasting’ fascia with a hard knobbly plastic stick breaks up fat bumps by freeing cells from the fibrous bands that surround them. This is a real belt and braces approach to tackling cellulite, and one which over time does nothing but cause harm – not just bruising and skin discolouration, but possibly worsen cellulite and varicose veins, not to mention damage to the lymph, the key to your legs good shape and health.
Undoubtedly the best massage (if that’s what fascia blasting can be called) for cellulite and – importantly – lymph, is done by hand and brush. The transformative effects of an intuitive therapist who can feel where the congestion is around fat cells and eke it out in a customised way are profound, as is the gentle daily abrasion of body brushing, and this is what cellulite needs. Not mindless bashing. Heat, applied locally via infrared or a warm poultice, can also be beneficial.
One more unhealthy approach to cellulite is to starve yourself. I’ll write more on why stringent diets don’t work on any level in another post, but where cellulite goes, avoiding specific food groups completely is really unhelpful. Since cellulite is a byproduct of a congested lymph, reducing it rests on doing everything within your power to enhance the body’s natural waste process, and while some foods – protein, green and watery vegetables and fruit – will support the lymph, others – sugar, carbohydrates and starch – will impede it.
So cellulite, in some ways, can be considered a healthy natural reaction to congestion – your body showing you that you need to help it clear itself of unwanted fluid and toxins. So act on it, in a healthy way.