DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: How can I get rid of the cellulite on my thighs? I am 48 years old, 5’7″ and weigh 124 lbs. I go to spin class three times a week, jog occasionally, do yoga twice a week and have maintained my weight for years. I gained a little weight with my second daughter who is now 11, but lost it quickly. But from my knees to my waist, there is a layer of cottage cheese fat blanketing my legs. My mom has cellulite—is it her fault? What do you suggest for getting rid of it? Should I do more weight lifting for my lower-body? If so, do you recommend free weights or machines? Am I too old to try?—Jane
DEAR JANE: Yes—this is one thing you can legitimately blame, at least in part, on your mother (sorry, Jane’s mom!). And Dad too. Experts say that cellulite does seem to run in families, and being at a healthy weight doesn’t always guarantee that you won’t get it, as you well know. Age is also a risk factor for cellulite—your skin thins and loses elasticity, allowing the fat cells responsible for that cottage-cheese effect become more noticeable. So are you, Jane, destined to be dimpled?
The hard truth is that yes, you could be. While there are varying theories on how to approach cellulite, there is agreement on one thing: It’s very difficult to get rid of cellulite with exercise and a healthy diet, and even with the high-tech (and high-dollar) treatments folks have come up with in recent years. The most you can hope for, if you don’t want to shell out some big bucks for a treatment that still might not give you the sinewy thighs you’re looking for, is to minimize the appearance of cellulite. Here’s how.
Change up your workout. Now, I’ll tell it to you straight: Some experts believe that exercise does nothing to improve the appearance of cellulite. But others—including me—say that toning up your quads can have a positive effect. At your height, you are certainly not overweight, and it sounds like you are fit and healthy. But even though Spinning can be a challenging workout, your muscles have probably adapted to it and aren’t responding to it like they did when you first started. Pull a fast one on them by switching to something like interval running workouts 2-3 times a week. This might cause that “muscle confusion” necessary to help with your lower-body muscle tone. Here’s how to do it: Start with a 5-10 minute warmup at a comfortable running pace (4 on a difficulty scale of 1-10. Then, increase your pace for 2 minutes so that you’re breathing hard (8 on a scale of 1-10). Next, recover for 1 minute at an easy pace (3-4 on a scale of 1-10). Repeat 5 times (or more, depending on how long you want to run); cool down for 5-10 minutes.
Try lunges. In addition to switching up your cardio routine, try doing lower-body exercises like lunges and squats. I prefer exercises where you use only your body weight or free weights rather than machines—particularly exercises like lunges that require you to use your stabilizing muscles to balance. You’re likely to get more out of such exercises rather than those you do on weight machines, which tend to isolate particular muscles.
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Tweak your diet. Dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad, author of The Cellulite Solution says that a diet high in nutrients such as lecithin, essential fatty acids, amino acids and antioxidants reduce cellular inflammation and fluids, and increase circulation deep in skin cells to keep cellulite from surfacing. Eggs, soy, cauliflower and peanut butter are good sources of lecithin; flaxseed, olive and canola oils, ground flax and raw nuts contain high amounts of essential fatty acids; and berries, pomegranates and citrus fruits are high in antioxidants and amino acids.
Try caffeine—topically, that is. Creams containing caffeine seem to reduce fluid and encourage fat burning if applied to the area over time.
Get some color. Use a self-tanner or get a spray tan (get the inside scoop on spray tanning with our First Timer’s Guide to soften the effect of cellulite. By no means should you use this as license to tan the old fashioned way—either in a tanning bed or under the sun. UV exposure actually thins the skin and can make cellulite more prominent.
Don’t waste your money. While some high-tech therapies show promise—lasers and light therapy, most notably—there’s little proof that any will have lasting effects. Plus, some are downright dangerous. If you’re interested in finding out more about a particular cellulite treatment, check out our guide here.
Let it go. I know from personal experience how easy it is to obsess about a particular body flaw (P.S.—I’m a healthy weight and have cellulite too!). But in the end, you are healthy, fit and look great in most clothes. So you might not feel comfortable wearing hot pants (I don’t either), but so what? Appreciate your body for its health, its strength, its maturity. Play up your assets—great calves, or elegant arms and shoulders, the posture of a dancer, your radiant complexion. Focus on what’s right about your body—and you may make cellulite disappear after all.