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Combatting Cellulite

You're cringing already just thinking about it, I know...

Experienced coaches know why you always wear black leggings and tops. It is rarely discussed out in the open but we know.

There are deep, emotional reasons you opt not to wear certain articles of clothing in public or at the gym. Don't get me wrong, I love a good pair of Lululemon yoga pants as they accentuate the positives BUT you do have other options ladies!

Look around your gym or fitness studio. I am sure someone in your entourage or standing next to you is wearing dark-colored yoga pants or biker shorts. Trendy? Yes, but you didn't JUST buy them for the cut and the comfort!

Think about those same women you see at the gym on a regular basis that never wear shorts but always opt for pants or dark-colored clothing instead. It’s not just you!

What is cellulite?

Some women would likely describe cellulite as a visual and visceral betrayal of not only their aesthetics but also their self-esteem. Cellulite gives a dimply, ‘orange peel,’ or ‘cottage cheese’ appearance to the skin of the thighs, pelvic region, glutes, midsection, or arms in women. By no means is it a disease but it is basically a cosmetic alteration of the skin that can take the form of smaller dimples or larger areas that form lumpy skin, deep dimples, or creases.

Here's quick anatomy primer: the outermost layer of the skin that you can see and touch is called the epidermis. Directly under that layer is the dermis, which is where hair follicles, sweat glands, blood vessels, nerve receptors, and connective tissue reside.

Below the dermis is where you will find subcutaneous fat – or fat beneath the skin – which is also just above your muscles. Under the dermis is where you will find the origin of cellulite [1,5,9]. Long story short, the skin dimpling you see on the outside layer, the epidermis, is caused by fat protrusions seeping into the dermis.

Who is affected by it?

So how is cellulite caused? One thing to always consider regardless of the individual is that genetics play a huge role in whether or not you will be predisposed to cellulite. Thank mother dearest for your cellulite if she has/had it too!

Other genetic traits such as having thinner skin or a lighter complexion can also allow cellulite to become more visible. Cellulite is rarely seen in men unless they lack male hormones [1] but also because men and women having differing connective tissue structure at the first layer of subcutaneous fat [6].

Cellulite tends not to discriminate either as it affects women of all shapes, sizes, and color (thinner women too)[3]. Caucasian females tend to be affected the most followed by Asian females, however, Avram’s assessment notes that cellulite is present in females of all races [1].

In a review performed by Rossi and Vergnanini in 2000, they found that a high-stress lifestyle could also contribute to the accumulation of cellulite [7]. Try finding ways to unwind if you’re always on edge or suffering from some form of anxiety. Perhaps find an interesting book to read, go get a massage, go for a walk, or even play some relaxing music when you have a moment alone. Exercise is also a fantastic solution but we’ll talk about the benefits of that in a moment…

Focus on the things you can control. There are some factors about cellulite you can control and others you cannot. Inevitable circumstances such as aging tend to wear down the thickness and structural integrity of the skin, which could heighten the appearance of cellulite.

Hormonal changes during pregnancy are also unavoidable. Women generally have a higher percentage of body fat than men, particularly in the thighs, glutes, and hips. It makes sense because these areas have five times more fat cells than any other area of their body [3], which is why cellulite is most prevalent there.

The things that you can control that may make the appearance of cellulite worse are making sure to avoid very low calorie diets, yo-yo dieting, chronically consuming excessively high intakes of carbohydrates without considering protein, becoming sedentary, and not drinking adequate amounts of fluids. Sounds like a manageable list, right?

So how do I get rid of it?! Treatment methods do exist for cellulite and range from topical cosmetic-based products, laser and light treatment, radiofrequency, nutritional supplements, acoustic wave therapy, occlusion or compression-based methods, and collagenase injections. When looking at the data we have available, no one method seems to have any lasting or long-term benefits of eliminating cellulite. Quoting Emanuel, "Quite disturbingly, the majority of treatment attempts to date have been conducted in an empirical manner and without the application of rigorous scientific methodology. This is likely due – at least in part – to the lack of major, evidence-based pathophysiological insights into the nature of this condition [10]."

Part of the issue is that there is no clear scientific method to even measure cellulite as summarized by Luebberding et al [11]. Out of the 6 studies the authors included in their review, 5 were observational and 1 was a randomized controlled trial (RCT). For the studies reviewed, the methods were not the most scientific or valid.

There is no cure or magical fix for cellulite.

Spending money on liposuction, subcision, injectables, skin kneading and manipulation techniques, thermotherapy, topical ointments, and herbals for cellulite management may provide a temporary relief but evidence for the efficacy of these practices is limited and also very costly [1]. Some of these practices do more harm than good with risks ranging from permanent scarring, bruising, burns, skin deformation, painful knots, and in some cases the cellulite actually returns!

Ladies, your best bet to combat cellulite is to choose a healthy lifestyle that combines a balanced approach to exercise and nutrition. All diets have one thing in common: a calorie deficit. To be honest, it'll be much harder for you to achieve the results you want without the proper proportion of proteins, carbs, and fats your body responds best to. To add to that, make sure you are regularly engaging in some form of strength training and aerobic activity at least 2-3 days per week.

Studies confirm women that lose weight lessen the appearance of cellulite [8] so make sure you are consuming the appropriate amount of calories that allow for steady fat-loss without starving yourselves because crash dieting or other aggressive approaches can lead to rapid weight-loss causing the skin to thin out and sag, possibly making the appearance of cellulite much worse [7]. If you lose muscle, you gain body fat.

Along with the health-boosting benefits of regular exercise, utilizing regular resistance-training will shrink those fat cells leading to reductions in your total body fat percentage. The women I've been fortunate enough to Coach the past decade always report increased strength, boosted confidence, and more muscle tone to show off their arms and shoulders after following one of my programs. Think of all the body parts you want to expose in that bikini or sleeveless top such as the thighs, glutes, belly, shoulders, and arms!

Remember that diet is going to be the most important factor in weight-loss. I often times hear stories of women claiming that they only eat 1200 calories (or other arbitrary totals) but can't lose any weight.

What if I told you that Lichtman et al found in 1992 study that out of 224 study subjects who self-reported their assumed low-caloric intake, the subjects were significantly UNDER-reporting their food intake by around 47%?! Subjects also OVER-reported their physical activity by an average of ~51%!


Basically, it is VERY easy to misrepresent what you are actually consuming or expending from an energy standpoint. But all is not lost. I have Coached many wonderful people on their nutrition so they can optimize their body composition and training.

Reducing the appearance of cellulite around the midsection can be accomplished with various forms of direct abdominal exercise or core work while also dropping inches. If you think you may have areas plagued by cellulite then I would love to help. Click my Google Form to apply for one of my Online 12-Week Transformation programs. You won't be disappointed when you're more confident in how you feel, how you look, or how much knowledge you will gain from your experience working with me.

Ready to stop killing yourself in the gym 5+ days/week? I'm excited to show you a better way to do things.


  1. Avram, M. (2004). Cellulite: a review of its physiology and treatment. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, 6, 181-185.

  2. Emanuele E, Bertona M, Geroldi D (2010). “A multilocus candidate approach identifies ACE and HIF1A as susceptibility genes for cellulite”. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 24 (8): 930–5.

  3. Heyward, V.H. (2006). Advanced Fitness Assessment and Exercise Prescription 6th Edition. Human Kinetics.

  4. del Pino, E., Rosado, R., Auela, A., Guzman, G., Arguelles, D., Rodriguez, C., and Rosado, G. M. (2006). Effect of controlled volumetric tissue heating with radiofrequency on cellulite and the subcutaneous tissue of the buttocks and thighs. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 5(8), 709-717.

  5. Rawlings, A. (2006). Cellulite and its treatment. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 28, 175-190.

  6. Rosenbaum, M., Prieto, V., Hellmer, J., Boschmann, M., Krueger, J., Leibel, R.L., and Ship, A.G. (1998). An exploratory investigation of the morphology and biochemistry of cellulite. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 101, 1934-1939.

  7. Rossi AB, Vergnanini AL (July 2000). “Cellulite: a review”. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 14 (4): 251–62.

  8. Sadick, N., and Magro, C. (2007). A study evaluating the safety and efficacy of the Velasmooth™ system in the treatment of cellulite. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy, 9, 15-20.

  9. Wanner M, Avram M (April 2008). “An evidence-based assessment of treatments for cellulite”. J Drugs Dermatol7 (4): 341–5.

  10. Emanuel E. Cellulite: advances in treatment: facts and controversies. Clin Dermatol. 2013. Nov-Dec; 31(6):725-30.

  11. Luebberding S, Krueger N, Sadick NS. Cellulite: an evidence-based review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2015. Aug 16(4):243-56.

  12. Lichtman, S W et al. “Discrepancy between self-reported and actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects.” The New England journal of medicine vol. 327,27 (1992): 1893-8. doi:10.1056/NEJM199212313272701

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