The TRUTH About Cellulite–And What You Can Do About It

low body fat girl

This very lean model is about 15% body fat.
(MIchele Merkin by Ian Scott via Wikimedia Commons)

If you’re like most women and puberty is a few years behind you, you may not feel great about wearing short shorts—and especially not a bathing suit. These types of clothes are not the most flattering choices if you have cellulite. According to the magazine Scientific American, 90% of women and 10% of men get cellulite.  (This number applies primarily to individuals in industrialized nations, meaning people who tend to have desk jobs and be sedentary. Later in this article you’ll know why this note is so crucial. )

The main reason mostly women have cellulite is because the fairer sex naturally have more body fat and tend to store the fat in their hips and legs, while most men store it in  their bellies. Aggravating this is the fact that women have weaker connective tissue, allowing for the fat right under their skin to appear more dimpled.  Last, as you may already know, estrogen—which also influences the development of cellulite—is far more prevalent in women than in men.  Which is why you very, very rarely see cellulite on girls in their lower teens.

It is often said that cellulite becomes more prevalent as one ages.  It’s true, but only because we lose muscle as we age, which often also leads to weight gain.  In other words, older people tend to have more body fat than younger ones.  Obviously, there’ll be more cellulite!

So, is there anything you can do to make  cellulite go away? Yes, but making it go away completely is hard, especially for women who have a genetically pear-shaped body like Jennifer Lopez. You can definitely make it a LOT better, though.  I’ve spent about fifteen years comparing the appearance of cellulite in both my clients and in my female friends and acquaintances, as well as on athletes and any other woman I can get my hands on. (If I run into you on the beach, you’re not safe. Though I will probably not ask to pinch your thighs to verify your body fat levels 🙂 )The number one thing you should focus on to improve your cellulite is to lose body fat.  And the leaner you get, the better your cellulite will be. Don’t waste your money on expensive treatments such as caffeine creams, laser and massage tools to increase circulation. Not even eating healthy and not smoking will have as much of an impact as lowering your body fat significantly.

After having measured body fat levels using both skinfold calipers and bioelectrical impedance scales on several hundred women over the years, I’ve found that the magic number where women tend to be cellulite free is 17% and below.  This applies to women who tend to collect fat in their hips and thighs, which is most women.  Those women need to hit 17 % when skinfold tested for body fat on their thighs. Women with a tendency to collect fat in their stomach and upper body—apple-shaped women—never have any cellulite because their legs are very lean, typically around 17% and below, exactly like men. Coincidence? I think not.

Maintaining a body fat level of 17 % is very hard. Being a glutton, I struggle with this myself every day, but no more than when I was 20, which is two decades ago:( because I’ve maintained my muscle mass. Poor women in developing countries who spend their day moving around unlike women in industrialized countries rarely have to struggle with this.

If you see a woman with an hourglass figure and no cellulite, I can almost guarantee you her thighs have no more than 17% body fat and that she’s, if not model slender, also the proud owner of an athletic, muscular body. Which brings me to professional athletes. Have you ever seen a sprinter or gymnast with cellulite? I didn’t think so. Not even the older ones like Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, 46, have any cellulite.  This is because their body fat levels is 12-13%. Of course, getting your body fat levels that low is extremely hard and not healthy. I’m not advocating that, nor am I advocating taking up smoking as a means to lose body fat. (Sadly, I know many cases in which female smokers are completely cellulite free because their body fat levels are very low. ) Instead, to improve your cellulite, aim to lower your thigh body fat levels to as close to 17% as you can sustain by eating healthy and doing vigorous body-weight exercises and intervals.


8 responses to “The TRUTH About Cellulite–And What You Can Do About It

  1. I got my body fat down to 9.6% in prep for a figure competition and I still had cellulite. So this Magic 17% number isn’t true for everyone.

    • I’m sorry to be rude, but there is no chance you’re 15 % body fat and have cellulite. Most likely what happened is that the person who did your body fat doesn’t know what they’re doing. And if it was a machine, I can tell you from experience that those can be several percentage points off. Oh, I see I forgot to reply to the person above who claimed she was 9.6 % body fat. I just don’t believe she was that low. The lowest I’ve ever seen a woman’s body fat is 12 %. And trust me, that woman was extremely lean.

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