Read an Excerpt
Toward a Cellulite Resistant Body
You slowly turn your back to the mirror. There it is. That dreaded puckered skin on the back of your hips, thighs, and buttocks.
You know it when you see it: cellulite.
Cellulite gives your outer skin an orange peel or cottage-cheesy appearance. It has also been described as spongy, puckered, or indented like a mattress.
No one wants cellulite, yet most of us have it--eight out of every ten women, to be exact.
What is this imperfection called cellulite--and can anything be done about it?
Cellulite is not a disease or a medical problem, but rather a recognized cosmetic condition related to the underlying structure of the skin. It is characterized by a lax, dimpled skin surface covering the thighs, buttocks, and hips. Doctors and medical researchers who study cellulite have drawn numerous conclusions about it. Cellulite:
* begins to develop during or after puberty.
* varies in severity from person to person.
* is progressive, if interventional treatments are not pursued.
* is found in women of all races.
* is not necessarily related to being overweight, although excess weight worsens the condition.
* is found in slender women too.
* rarely appears in men, regardless of their weight, except in men who are deficient in certain hormones called androgens.
* has numerous causes.
* is not painful.
* can be successfully treated with natural methods.
A misconception exists that cellulite is a type of body fat. In fact, cellulite is a condition in which the outer layer of skin turns dimpled in appearance as a result ofstructural changes taking place beneath the skin's surface. To help you better understand cellulite, let's take a close look at the underlying structure of your skin and the anatomy of cellulite.
The Structure of Skin
The skin is the largest organ of the body, covering approximately two square yards if you stretched it out like a tablecloth. Anatomically, it is made up of two layers--the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis is the visible top layer. Its outermost surface is made up of dead skin cells; living skin cells lie just underneath.
The dermis, situated below the epidermis, makes up the bulk of your skin--about 90 percent. The dermis provides strength and gives elasticity to your skin. It is composed of elastic yellow fibers called elastin, and strong white fibers known as collagen.
Collagen deserves some explanation because of the important role it plays in skin and tissue firmness. It is the most abundant protein in the body and makes up about 6 percent of our weight. Structurally, each collagen fiber is twisted together like a rope. Collagen is very strong tissue, with enough toughness and resiliency to spring back after being pulled or compressed.
Although distributed mostly in the connective tissue, collagen also gives shape to vital organs. It forms a fine scaffolding for organ cells and blood vessels so that they can arrange themselves into their characteristic shapes. Collagen literally binds our bodies together.
Along with collagen fibers, there are blood vessels, muscle cells, nerves, lymph vessels, hair follicles, and glands interspersed throughout the dermis too.
As you get older, the dermis becomes thinner and less elastic--the result of a declining number of "mother cells" in the skin. Technically referred to as fibroblasts, mother cells give birth to new collagen and elastin. But with their age-related decline, collagen and elastin production slows down, and skin elasticity decreases.
Beneath the dermis is the subcutaneous fat layer, which also contains a network of blood vessels, lymph vessels, and nerves.
Most of the fat in the subcutaneous layer is referred to as storage fat. It is the type we are always trying to get rid of. Although most storage fat is found in the subcutaneous fat layer, some storage fat pads organs for protection.
There is also a type of fat called essential fat. It is the structural constituent of vital body parts such as the brain, nerve tissue, bone marrow, heart, and cell membranes. Women have about 12 to 15 percent essential fat. Overall, you have about 20 billion to 30 billion fat cells in your body--enough fat to fuel a forty-day fast.
Subcutaneous fat is composed of two layers separated by a sheet of connective tissue known as the fascia. The deeper of the two layers is technically referred to as localized fat deposits (LFDs). LFDs are the primary fat targeted for removal in the surgical procedure known as liposuction. (See Appendix A for more information on liposuction.) The fat cells found in LFDs enlarge faster than other fat cells in the body and are very resistant to dieting. The "saddlebags" on some women's thighs are aggregates of LFDs.
The Anatomy of Cellulite
Cellulite is located in the uppermost layer of subcutaneous fat. This layer is structurally compartmentalized in tiny upright chambers arched like church windows. These chambers are encircled and separated by vertical bands of connective tissue called septa. They are anchored to the dermis above and the fascia below. This architecture resembles a honeycomb.
In women, the fat chambers tend to be large and irregularly shaped. By contrast, in men these chambers are smaller and neatly structured in uniform, polygon-shaped units.
The fat cells inside these chambers can increase up to three hundred times their original size. When this occurs, too much fat becomes crammed inside these chambers. The overstuffed chambers make the skin jut out, creating that all-too-familiar, quiltlike appearance over the outer surface of your hips, thighs, and buttocks.
Compounding the problem are structural weaknesses involving the septa, the connective tissue. With age and other factors, the septa shrinks and thickens, pulling the skin downward--much like the stitching that holds mattress tucks down. This causes the characteristic indentations in the outer skin. The net effect of overstuffed fat chambers and shortened septa is cellulite.
What Actually Triggers Cellulite?
Recent scientific evidence points to multiple reasons for changes in skin and fat architecture that lead to cellulite. This is good news, because identified causes lead to effective treatments. Here's what we know about the mechanisms that contribute to the formation of cellulite, and aggravate its appearance.
INCREASED COLLAGEN BREAKDOWN
Although it is very strong, collagen can be broken down by enzymes that occur naturally in the skin--a reaction triggered by the female hormone estrogen (see below). Collagen breakdown produces some corresponding symptoms that lead to cellulite: water retention, swelling, and pressure on the fat chambers. Consequently, fat extrudes, or bulges, from its chambers, creating the characteristic dimpled appearance of cellulite.
The female hormone estrogen plays a role in the development of cellulite. Estrogen is the collective name for a trio of female hormones: estradiol, secreted from the ovaries during reproductive years; estriol, produced by the placenta during pregnancy; and estrone, secreted by the ovaries and adrenal glands and found in women after menopause.