Cellulite only affects women. (!) Did you know that? I did not know that. I am ignorant about so many things about womanhood still! This fact was hammered home to me last week when I read the new (and arguably best) guide to primal pregnancy, Primal Moms Look Good Naked by long time primal blogger and new time friend (hooray!) Peggy Emch.
So what’s the deal with cellulite? This is some of what I learned from Peggy (not the only perspective on cellulite, see Amber’s version here):
Cellulite is, in essence, not a condition of fat, per se, but rather the degeration of skin tissue such that “subcutaneous herniated fat starts to bulge through the connective tissue” of the skin.
Translation: cellulite occurs when the normal fat that lives beneath the skin pushes through the skin. This is enabled by the degeneration of skin tissue.
Does losing weight help?
No, actually, not really. Cellulite is a problem of the integrity of the skin, not a problem of being overweight.
Cellulite is almost exclusively found in women and almost never found in men. When in men, it only shows up when they have feminized hormone problems. This is because the female hormones estrogen and progesterone cause a slight change in skin structure.
Women’s skin has two important differences: 1) it is simply thinner around the buttocks and thighs than men’s is, which makes it easier for the fat that normally lives under the skin to push through to the surface. And 2) it has a different structure than men’s skin, which allows fat to more easily fit into pockets and move about.
Unfortunately, because cellulite is only found in women, and because it has become so common these days, many women see it as inevitable parts of life. In fact, there’s recently been some controversy in the media about body image, natural womanhood, and cellulite.
Demi Lovato, a celebrity of some sort — on one of Simon Cowell’s shows? — recently asserted that she’d like to own a Barbie that has cellulite. While I advocate self-love as much as the next raging feminist, I disagree with Lovato sharply. Lovato says
“Cellulite should be normalized. Many women have it and we are made to feel like it’s some sort of ailment that would go away if we were just better at being women.”
Well, maybe it kind of would go away if we just got better. If we healed.
(Emphasis on the kind-of — I have millions of bucketloads of sympathy for women who struggle with cellulite, I do. The whole point is only that it may be reversible, at least in Peggy’s estimation.)
It is, instead, the result of several different health problems. Contemporary diet and health has gotten so bad that women throw their hands up with regard to problems like cellulite and stretch marks and just go ahead and accept that they’ll be an inevitable part of their lives.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
What causes cellulite?
Peggy lists three specific causes.
1) Collagen degeneration. Collagen is the tissue responsible for skin’s firmness.
Collagen degeneration is, in turn, caused by a) toxic overload, b) nutrient defciencies, and c) cellular dehydration, three phenomena that often occur in tandem. “Deficiencies lead to toxicity due to our organs’ impaired ability to eliminate toxins. It might not be easy to find a group of test subjects who don’t have nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances, and a toxic liver all at the same time.”
Complete protein, vitamin C, and zinc are some of the most imporant components of nutrient sufficiency for healthy collagen and skin. Re: cellular dehydration, I recommend checking out Peggy’s site or book to learn more about it. It’s complicated and fascinating, but the gist of it is that water is necessary for cells to thicken layers of the skin as well as to release clumps of fat from the skin cells.
Nutrient deficiency is why cellulite shows up in pregnant women. Pregnant women share nutrients with their babies, so if you struggle to have adequate nutrient stores, cellulite and other nutrition problems become harsh realities with the introduction of a fetus into your system.
Boy, that’s a mouthful if I’ve ever read one. Glycosaminoglycans are another molecule I just learned about and got to researching today. (You can read just about everything there is to know about glycosaminoglycans here.) According to Peggy, glycosaminoglycans are responsible for keeping cells in the skin hydrated. Some of the reasons for depletion are sugar, inflammatory foods, and also excess fluoride in water and diet. Another big one is estrogen dominance. You need more glycosaminoglycans to heal cellulite, and one of the best ways to do so is with bone broth. (Need help making your own broth? Check out this book full of recipes for bones.)
3) Congested Lymph and Toxic Liver
The lymph and liver systems are our bodies’ detox systems. If they become overloaded, then toxins move into fat cells, and the fat cells get sick and crowded.
One helpful thing that Peggy does throughout this whole book is write a list in response to all of the problems she descirbes: “You might have this problem if….” This enables us to self-diagnose based on the symptoms we experience.
Peggy does that with all of the different cellulite problems, and then goes one to list strategies and discuss means by which to eliminate cellulite. It should come as no surprise that exercise, detox, and antioxidants are on the list of bonuses. Cellulite creams, body wraps, and other cosmetic procedures are also discussed.
Very cool stuff! Cellulite is female and pervasive, but it’s not definitively intractable! Liver (my favorite supplement if you are unable to eat liver), bone broth, high antioxidant diet, reduced inflammation, and hormone balance….
Also, check out my book, Sexy by Nature, in which I outline a whole foods diet that can correct the nutrient deficiencies that lead to cellulite.