Weight gain is an upsetting thing to experience, and especially when you start to notice signs and indicators that it is running away from you and that you are crossing particular lines. Cellulite for instance is something that many of us associate with an unacceptable level of weight gain, and once it starts showing up we know that it’s time for us to start dieting.
However it’s important to note that contrary to what many believe, cellulite and fat are not one and the same, and the two are distinctly different phenomena. So what is cellulite, and how is it formed? And perhaps more important, how can it be avoided? Here we will answer all those questions by explaining the formation of cellulite.
What Is Cellulite?
As the name suggests, cellulite is to do with the cells. Specifically it is fat that is ‘trapped’ within the cells, and thus they ‘swell’ thereby appearing as dimples and lumps on the body. Usually there is a layer between the fat cells and the skin called ‘septa’ which prevents the fat cells from affecting the texture or the appearance of the skin itself. However when the cellulite becomes trapped in the fat cells they can end up breaking through the septa and thereby creating the ‘orange peel’ look of the skin. Normally the lymphatic circular system in our bodies works as almost a ‘garbage chute’ in our body and drains fluids like fat and other waste from our cells. The problem occurs when this circulatory system is affected and some areas don’t get drained, thereby causing the cells to swell. Meanwhile damage to the skin layers can reduce the amount of ‘padding’ between the fat cells and the visible outer layer of the skin, and this combined with the swelling can exacerbate the strange texture.
What Causes Cellulite?
Unfortunately cellulite, unlike ‘regular’ fat, is not simply correlated with how much you eat and how much exercise you do. Rather, cellulite can appear even if you are very lean, and it is actually more connected to hormonal issues, genetics and then some lifestyle factors.
In women the hormonal changes during their menstrual cycle, menopause and pregnancy can affect the flow of blood, and the lymphatic drainage of fluids and this is what can lead to cellulite. Anything that alters the hormone balance may result in either more or less cellulite including things like birth control pills. Another way in which hormones can impact cellulite is by altering the thickness of the skin – as hormones also control tissues and fat. Women are also more likely to develop cellulite because their fat layer is organized differently to men. In women the ‘fat chambers’ are arranged more loosely rather than in the compact diagonals that they are in men, and this means there is simply more space for them to build up and swell.
Age also can increase the likelihood of cellulite forming as the skin becomes thinner, and because the number of fat cells and lymph reduce.
While there is an element of luck in the formation of cellulite, there are certain things you can do to make it less likely that it forms.
For instance, if you want to avoid cellulite then you should make sure to exercise, which can encourage the healthy disposal of wastes through fat and through the burning of fat cells. Furthermore weight gain will of course increase the likelihood of cellulite as there are more tightly packed fat cells which are more likely to swell. Note however that once you have formed cellulite it cannot be ‘burned off’ in the same way that regular fat can.
For women it’s important to manage hormone levels carefully, and if the use of contraceptives has caused the appearance of cellulite, then you might want to speak to your doctor about changing to a different form of medication, or about using hormone replacement/supplements in order to restore a normal hormone balance.
It’s important to be careful to maintain the quality of your skin, and by ensuring it is thick, firm and healthy you can reduce the visibility of cellulite too. Use skin products, avoid too much exposure to the sun, and use massage to help drain the lymph nodes and encourage blood flow. Some people also recommend ‘dry skin brushing’ which also encourages circulation and blood flow.
For those who are very unhappy with their cellulite there are of course surgical measures that can be taken such as laser treatments. Note however that liposuction will not normally treat cellulite, and that natural methods are healthier and will do your skin and body more good in the long run.