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Cellulite, why weight loss cannot fix it, and Peggy Emch’s Guide to Sexy Pregnancy

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.)

I learned from Primal Moms Look Good Naked that cellulite is not inevitable, or at least Peggy thinks it isn’t.  It isn’t a necessary part of aging from her perspective.

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.

2) Glycosaminoglycans.

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….

You can check out Primal Moms Look Good Naked here, or read about Peggy and all the amazing work she’s done in her own life and out in the world of primal mommyhood here.

Also, check out my book, Sexy by Naturein which I outline a whole foods diet that can correct the nutrient deficiencies that lead to cellulite.



So, just as a heads up - some links above may be my affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you click on it and make a purchase. Doing so is no additional cost to you, but helps me tremendously. Your support is SO greatly appreciated, so thank you in advance if you choose to do so. Check out my entire disclosure to know exactly how things work.

Managing director of Paleo for Women and author of Sexy by Nature.


  1. Pingback: Cellulite, why weight loss cannot fix it and Barbie should NOT have it, and Peggy Emch’s Guide to Sexy Pregnancy | Paleo Digest

  2. How would she explain that there are plenty of skinny, cellulite-free women with horrible diets, overweight women without cellulite, and slender, Paleo eating women with cellulite? It appears that genetics plays a bigger role in who develops cellulite. While I agree that diet and exercise can help (by firming and reducing overall fat), I do not believe that the lack of cellulite is necessarily indicative of good, overall health.

    • I agree completely with the above comment and would’ve said it myself if Claudia hadn’t beat me to it. Peggy’s “theory” just doesn’t sound legit to me.

    • Claudia,

      Hey, Peggy here. I agree that a cellulite-free woman is not necessarily a healthy woman. Likewise, one with a little cellulite isn’t necessarily terribly unhealthy either. What I learned in my research about cellulite is that our connective tissue can be damaged by the foods we eat and also by the foods we don’t. We can also pass this weak connective tissue on down to our kids through hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, and genetics. There are women who are more prone to developing cellulite for any of the above reasons. And there will be women who have a really difficult time ever reversing the condition. But I think it is important to realize that a connective tissue building diet and a hormone balancing diet can not only help our bodies be stronger on the inside and the outside, but also, can prevent this fate for our children.

      Cellulite and other problems with connective tissue are a sign of weakness in our tissues. The problem runs much deeper than tarnished beauty. Connective tissue break down is also what makes our veins and joints weak.

      • I’m 31, 5’10’ and thin, yet since starting a mostly paleo/primal diet almost two years ago, the visible fat/cellulite on my thighs has actually INCREASED. (and on the FRONT of my thighs, no less…) Its baffling. But maybe its as simple as I hit my 30s and BOOM, bye-bye connective tissue and young metabolism. I’ve always been active and healthy, so I think sometimes there is nothing much we can do except thank our mothers and love our bodies.

  3. This is awesome! It gives me hope LOL!!!

  4. Lost me on this one. I’m more into this blog post when it comes to cellulite: http://gokaleo.com/2013/03/06/cellulite-its-time-we-all-just-get-the-hell-over-it/

    • Interesting. Peggy makes the argument that those structural changes are due to male and female differences, but that they can be supported by proper hormone balance and dermis health. Looking at the diagram on the page that you linked to, I see where cellulite can be an issue lower in the skin, but can it be at least mitigated some by supporting a healthy dermis? Maybe. Thank you for sharing, anyway. I hadn’t seen this perspective. I also think there’s a bit of a difference between the Scarlett Johannson kind of wiggly fat (good adjective?) and the kind of fat Peggy is talking about which is pockmarkedy and much more extreme in terms of ‘bad quality.’ I didn’t select a good photo for that for the post. The photo I used is much more like the innocent sort I am thinking of. Perhaps moderate wiggly/funny looking fat is inevitable — my own weight on my thighs looks a bit like Johannson’s — but the pimply pockmarked kind can be soothed. Maybe.

      It also bears noting, MAYBE, that the writer over at gokaleo (I can’t for the life of me find her name or remember it) while saying ladies need to accept and get over cellulite appears to have none, and in fact just about zero body fat, herself. I run the risk of calling the kettle black since I spend so much time talking about weight acceptance and am fairly thin, but .. well, anyway. Easier said than done, these things.

      • Her name is Amber Evangeline Rogers. She just posted a photo 7 hours ago in her group Eating The Food showing the loose skin on her thighs and shared a reminder that even she had cellulite. I’m also more into the post on Amber’s site. I’ve met very few women without cellulite, and they’ve ranged from extremely healthy to extremely unhealthy. Cellulite has been around for as long as people have been around. I think it’s time we just get over ourselves.

      • Actually I do have cellulite and my body fat is currently in the high teens, not zero.

      • To answer your question…the writer at Go Kaleo is named Amber Rogers and she was once obese and has gradually lost weight using time, portion control and lifting weights. She writes about cellulite because though her body is bangin’, she still has cellulite on her butt and thighs. I believe she wrote the post to help people end their judgement of women’s bodies and accept that they come in all shapes and sizes…to help others see that comments like ‘cellulite is nasty’ are not helpful for general body image improvement in women.

      • Yeah, maybe it would be worth finding out her name and reading up a bit. Not only will you find that Amber is an amazing woman, you’ll also discover she has cellulite and far more than 0% bodyfat.

      • maybe *both* articles are on to something.

        i think gokaleo only cites fragments from 2 studies? it’s interesting that she notes that men store more visceral fat, since visceral fat is inflammatory.

        Peggy and Cate Shanahan and other WAPF folks make the argument that diet shapes (and can change) skin quality and cellulite. but as far as i know, this is all theory.

        I would like to believe that food can equal medicine. that like nourishes like (eg drink gelatinous bone broth to support collagen integrity). whether the research is there or not, it feels instinctually right to me.

        it also feels instinctually right to not judge myself or others because of cellulite, crowded teeth, acne, or any other ill that is a product of modern living (diet + environment).

        in reality, the definition of health changes each decade. and man, i see it all the time. people love to get hung up on the details of what’s right and what is not. a to-do list. numbers.

        even paleo, back-to-roots eating habits can get all self-involved. like, missing the forest for the trees.

        i am all for “healthier” choices. especially those that are intuitively guided– rather some kind of quick mental calculation.

        btw, re gokaleo having cellulite– muscular people can toootally have cellulite (especially plausible if you buy that cellulite is related to skin integrity, amiright?)

        • word!

  5. What structural differences between male and female skin are you referring to?

  6. http://gokaleo.com/?s=cellulite

    Read these, which someone already posted a link to one of them. Also, explain to me then why babies have dimples? Not all babies, but most of the babies I’ve had the pleasure of knowing have those adorable dimples.

    Also, tell me why, from as young as I can remember, I have had cellulite. It’s definitely not from aging!

    Also, about Go Kaleo-she doesn’t have zero body fat. Also, people like Jamie Eason at her low BF% (probably between 10-14% at the time she posted about it) has cellulite. She eats pretty clean and takes good care of herself. She is also extremely lean. She said even when she was leaner, competing lean, she still struggled with it.

    I also can’t fathom how if cellulite is from toxins and such, then why has it been discussed way before we ended up with processed foods?

    I like the argument, I just have more facts to back up something different.

  7. Glycosaminoglycans are another molecule I just learned about today. According to Primal Moms, these molecules 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.

    Would it be unreasonable to expect just one citation supporting just one of these claims instead of just repeating them w/o scrutiny?

  8. As someone who values the healthy empowerment/love-and-nourish-our-whole-bodies-and-selves perspective so characteristic of this space, I found this a surprising and disheartening post.

    I’m working hard to break free of the cultural conditioning that locates a woman’s worth in her appearance, and I’d venture that you, Stefani, and others who read your thoughtful work here may be on similar journeys. So I will ask, as respectfully as I can, to further what is a tremendously complicated, emotionally fraught, and continuing conversation too big for a blog comments section: “Cellulite is nasty”? Why is that?

    • That’s totally fair. I do think we should accept our bodies as we are and to love them wholly, pockmocks and scars and love handles and cellulite and all. Whatever we’ve got, it’s a part of us and we’ve got to love it as such. That does not mean, however, that I do not support mindful and still loving efforts to transform our bodies naturally in the aim of greater health, where cosmetic changes can ride along with that. They should not be primary goals, IMHO, but insofar as they can fit into strides towards better health and embodiment… yeah, I can get behind that.

      I’d also like to note that I had no idea this post was going to incite so much commentary on both sides. “both sides” To be honest, I didn’t even think there would be ‘sides.’ I can see now that the language I used made it easier for sides to rise up because I wasn’t careful about the place I think these cosmetic kinds of changes should take in our journeys — which is as backseats, or on the coattails, of health. Again, however, I didn’t know that that was even going to be necessary. I get it now, though. I get it!

      AND, most importantly, “Nasty” was a bad word — one I rely on too heavy — and shall be changing that straight away.

      Oh, AND, of course I meant zero offense to Amber – I have not interacted with her (or you, hi Amber!) personally but have heard nothing but delightful and empowering things – my only aim in pointing out the pot / kettle / cellulite thing was that for all of us body acceptance is easier said than done. I am sorry that I did so, at this point, it brought unnecessary pain and baggage into this discussion.

  9. “Apple needs to retain its focus on delivering compelling products and services to the consumer. This means fixing the issues that the current services have while improving them,” Baker added. “Additionally, Apple needs to demonstrate that it still has the ability to innovate and invent products that consumers don’t know that they need or want yet.” new jordans for women http://www.leaguelineup.com/newjordansforwomen/

  10. There are two common ways for losing weight, one is managing your eating habits and second is exercise. Exercise does not means heavy work outs but even consistent mild exercises will suffice

  11. I’m pretty thin and I had mild cellulite before Paleo. For about six months I’ve been pounding bone broth and zinc and doing other things to cure my acne, and I’ve also been lifting weights. I read this and decided to check my cellulite status- it’s gone, or at least not visible to myself anymore, and it seems even my skin’s texture has firmed up and improved.

    • I developed cellulite as a teenager, after puberty. It disappeared when I was in my 20’s and doing physically demanding jobs, with lots and lots of running around all day… and 6 flights of stairs to climb every evening. Cellulite reappeared when I got an office job: I was studying p/t and spending about 100 hours a week seated at a desk (Stefani will know what I am talking about) so the diameter of my thighs and buttocks dramatically increased as well…
      I started working out (including steps/aerobic/aquafit classes) and switched to a paleo diet earlier this year, and lo and behold, the cellulite has greatly reduced, if not disappeared altogether, at the same time the weight was dropping off.
      I think that if you don’t have a lot of cellulite to begin with, and you have ‘lucky’ genes, it is not too difficult to make it go away. However, once it’s built up to a certain level, you won’t be able to get rid of it completely.

  12. Stephanie, I generally like your blog, but this post was insensitive and offensive to me as a woman and a mother. I come to your blog for empowerment and inspiration, but today I am leaving feeling inadequate and broken.

  13. hi!,I love your writing very so much! share we keep up a correspondence extra approximately your post on AOL? I require a specialist on this area to unravel my problem. May be that’s you! Taking a look forward to look you.

  14. Believe me, I’ve been through so many products before. Not until I found out that it is impossible to get rid of the dimples and shadows (cellulite) by rubbing an odd gel, weird lotion or goopy cream on your trouble zones and problem spots. I found this article, it introduced me into many different things about cellulite. One thing I learned, you have to know what you’re dealing with.

    You know there are many supposed ‘cellulite reduction creams’ on the market today with
    extreme claims. From what I learned (from the blog that I read). There is no possible way for any one of them, even if it is too expensive, to get rid of your cellulite. According to the blog, cellulite is not a skin problem. Its an underlying structural issue, that can only be corrected by reversing the cause of atrophied muscle fibers directly beneath your “cellulite” trouble spots.

    I can only speak from my own experience, here’s the blog cellulitefreeme.info/blog/
    I am not paid to share this blog, I am just amazed because it provides me so many amazing information about cellulite. Good luck and God bless.

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  17. I have lost all of my baby weight from having my 3rd daughter and of course being a 32 year old mother of 3, there can be areas that needa little extra help. I read a review that if you use the Lady Soma Berry Masque on cellulite – it would work. This is a glyolic mask.

    This mask will not replace proper diet and working out. However, in conjunction with, it is excellent. Decided to try the Lady Soma Mask on my stretch marks – I apply it to the area I want to treat and I wrap myself in saran plastic wrap. I see beautiful smooth results. I’ve even noticed a HUGE decrease in the creases on the skin on my neck. Which has been a proble since I was young. Anyway, my BUT is, you have to still work out, eat right and drink lots of h20. Enjoy the results!

  18. Well I noticed dimples in my thighs around aug2014. I looked for reviews on the internet of different DermalMD Cellulite Reduction Serum. I noticed great reviews on DermalMD Cellulite Reduction Serum, and decided to buy it. I have been using it for five months, and it has gotten rid of the celluite (dimples)!!! I recommend this product to anyone having trouble with celluite!!

  19. Thanks for writing the truth of weight loss, was helpful to me.

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