Cellulite, the dimpled appearance on the surface of the skin that is often described as "cottage cheese" or an "orange peel," is most common among women, especially on the thighs and buttocks. However, both men (about 10% of cases) and women can have cellulite, which can occur anywhere on the body, including the abdomen, arms and calves. Maintaining a certain level body fat is necessary and healthy for normal body functioning. Cellulite is simply visible subcutaneous ("below the skin") fat cells that bulge the skin.
While many people with cellulite feel self-conscious about it, simply having cellulite does not mean a person is overweight. Thin people, fit individuals, and even those who maintain a healthy weight (and healthy body fat percentage) can have cellulite, just as some unfit and overweight people may not. Most women (80%-90% or more) will have cellulite to some degree because they store more fat than men and their skin and fat cell structure is slightly different. Whether or not you develop cellulite depends on factors like genetics, gender and hormonal levels.
Because cellulite is fat, losing weight (if you are overweight) may help diminish the appearance of cellulite as the size of your fat cells decrease. But there is no way to "spot train" any area of the body to lose body fat using targeted exercises. Cardio exercise helps burn fat from all over the body and enhances fat loss. Strength training is important for both weight loss and overall health as well, but simply targeting the areas of your cellulite (hamstrings, buttocks, or abs for example) with "toning" exercises won't necessarily make it go away.
Many people who lose weight and notice an improved appearance in cellulite, especially as they build more lean muscle from strength training--but it's no guarantee. Because it's so closely linked to factors that you can't control (genetics, gender, hormones), losing weight may not completely get rid of cellulite.
Creams, treatments, massage techniques, and other cellulite therapies do NOT get rid of cellulite in a permanent way. While some products may help diminish the appearance of it through hydration or firming of the outer layers of the skin, these results are temporary won't result in weight loss. Do any of these (or other) methods work? Here's how they stack up in reducing or eliminating cellulite.
For more information about gender differences in fat storage, read Coach Dean's article on Gender, Body Fat and Weight Loss.
And finally, one way to "treat" cellulite it to simply accept it and live with it. Read my confession about my own cellulite for tips to embrace your body at any shape and size: Yes, I Have Cellulite and No, I'm Not Ashamed!
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