Cellulite is the bane of many women’s lives and with so many gimmicks and treatment systems on the market, it’s no wonder we all get confused. Before resorting to expensive spa treatments or worse – surgery – we want to show you some natural ways to treat cellulite.
Cellulite is not just confined to those who are overweight. Many underweight women suffer the same dimpling and “orange peel” effect on their thighs. Cellulite is affected by many variables:
- Nutrition & Exercise: even if you are not overweight, your nutrition may still need some changes if you are serious about reducing cellulite. You may want to consider targeting the problem areas with specific exercises, to help strengthen the muscles, and improve circulation.
- Detoxification processes: If your body is unable to eliminate toxins, these cause inflammation, which makes it difficult to lose weight. If you are not overweight, and still suffering with cellulite, it is possible that your body is not detoxifying properly.
- Lymphatic system & Circulation: When circulation is poor, lymph fluid can build up around the fatty cells, worsening the appearance of cellulite. Improving circulation will allow the lymph fluid to drain naturally, and take the toxins with it.
- Hormonal balance: the endocrine (hormone) system is very delicately balanced. Disruption to this balance, by stress, blood sugar spikes or excessive oestrogen can result in inflammation.
- Stress: we all suffer from stress at some point in our lives. When stress becomes chronic, it creates a cascade of problems and makes losing fat very difficult.
Let’s look at these in more detail:
Natural ways to treat cellulite:
Before trying “external” methods of treating cellulite, treat it from the inside out. There is no quick-fix way to magically reduce your cellulite!
If you are overweight, then the first port of call is to lose the extra pounds. There is no known way to reduce cellulite whilst you are overweight. However, do not just embark on the latest crash diet that requires you to starve yourself or live off shakes all day! Consider that you need a sustainable way to maintain a healthy diet. This will allow your body to lose fat, feel energetic and full of life – without eating boring food.
A diet filled with processed foods, pre-packaged meals and plenty of sugary drinks is not going to help your cellulite. If you eat this way, the only effect it will have on your cellulite is to worsen it. And before you come up with lots of excuses, consider the question “are you sure you want to get rid of your cellulite?”
If you’ve come up with the answer “yes”, then you may need to make some changes. The good news is, you are ready for them.
A healthy, whole-food based eating plan not only helps you lose weight naturally. It will enhance all the other aspects of cellulite reduction. Your immune system will improve, your digestion will thank you, the healthy nutrients you are ingesting will help your detoxification pathways and reduce inflammation.
The way we start our coaching clients is to have them keep a food diary. This can be two to five days, noting down everything you eat and drink.
Then look at it and assess it for the following:
- Am I eating enough protein?
Do you eat a palm-sized portion of unprocessed protein with every meal? That could be a portion of chicken, beef, lamb, pork, fish, seafood – indeed any meat or seafood you enjoy. Protein contains the essential building blocks for tissue repair. It plays a major role in strengthening the immune system and detoxifying the liver.
Meat and fish/seafood are the best sources of protein as they contain all the amino acids your body requires. Vegetable sources of protein (such as beans, lentils or tofu) have an incomplete amino acid profile.
- Am I eating enough vegetables?
Do you have a portion of vegetables with every meal? Leafy greens, carrots, salad leaves, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, beans – any vegetable of your choosing.
If your food diary reveals a high amount of starchy carbohydrates – such as rice, pasta, bread or cereals – then try replacing these with additional vegetables. White carbohydrates are broken down into glucose to use as energy. If the body doesn’t need the all the energy that is consumed, it will be firstly be stored in the liver as glycogen. Once the glycogen stores are full, excess glucose will be stored as fat.
Lack of vegetables in your diet can lead to not getting enough fibre. Read more about the importance of fibre to help get rid of cellulite naturally, go here.
- Did I drink enough water?
8 glasses a day should be your goal. Water is vital for efficient digestion, absorption of nutrients and detoxification. If you are dehydrated you are more likely to feel hungry, when in fact you are thirsty.
- How many sugary drinks (including fruit juice) or “junk food” snacks did I consume?
Do you have a daily dose of chocolate biscuits or chips? Try replacing these with nuts, seeds, fruit or some raw vegetables with a guacamole dip. You can replace sodas with plain water or herbal tea. Remember, if your body is not using the sugar for energy, it will be stored as fat.
Drinking green tea is a very good habit to get into, as it contains powerful antioxidants and can help with detoxification.
- How much alcohol did I consume?
Cut down! Any fat loss regime can be quickly derailed by the empty calories contained in alcohol. Excessive alcohol places a strain on the liver, as it is metabolised into toxic waste products and – sugar.
- How many meals did I have that were not home-cooked?
Eating out a lot or having pre-prepared meals means you are not in control of what you are eating. Often these have added sugar, unnecessary fats, flavour enhancers, preservatives or other toxic filler ingredients.
- How much bread/pasta/white carbohydrates do I eat?
Instead of a sandwich, try switching to a salad with a healthy protein source, or at the very least, an open-face sandwich not loaded with processed meats and mayo. Cutting down on bread and pasta is an easy way to transform your nutrition and shed the extra pounds.
Remember: breads, pastas, cereals are all broken down into glucose, which, if not used as energy, will be stored as fat!
- What fat sources am I consuming?
Every cell in your body consists of some fat. It is very important to ensure that you are getting the fats that your cells need, and not fats that cause inflammation and damage to cells.
“Good fats” are unprocessed fats from meat, fish, eggs, avocados nuts and seeds.
“Bad fats” are processed vegetable oils such as canola, corn oil, sunflower oil and margarine. This is not a comprehensive list.
- Breakfast: is it cereal with milk and sugar? Or orange juice?
Starting the day with a sugary meal often leads to cravings for more sugary foods.If your go-to breakfast is cereal, you need to think about changing this. Adding a protein source is essential. For example eggs and some spinach, or smoked salmon.
Personally, I have no problem eating a small steak for breakfast! If you don’t like eggs, then exchange your sugary cereal for oatmeal or a good quality muesli/granola, with no added sugar.
I don’t recommend drinking fruit juice, as most of the fibre has been taken out of it, and what you are left with is very sugary water. It is much better to eat the whole fruit.
Eating a protein source in the morning has been shown to balance blood sugar resulting in less food cravings. In addition it can improve cognitive function – setting your brain up for the day ahead.
- Now make a plan.
So often we are caught out eating on the run, and have to grab whatever is available.
Every weekend, plan the meals for the week ahead so you know what you are going to be eating and when. You’ll also find that you may save money by planning ahead so you only buy what you actually need from the grocery store!
Using plenty of herbs and spices will ensure that none of your meals need to feel “boring”.
Exercise will not only burn calories, strengthen your muscles, and kick-start your metabolism but it also helps improve circulation and lymphatic drainage. All of which contribute to the appearance of cellulite. Since we spend so much of our time seated, our muscles get slack and our circulation can become impaired.
So now that you have a plan for your nutrition, it’s time to move that body.
Where do I start?
- If you are a regular gym-goer, make sure you incorporate some weight training into your programme. Squats, walking lunges, deadlifts, kettle bell swings, hip thrusters, all the exercises that target the “posterior chain” (the muscles in your buttocks and thighs: glutes and hamstrings).
By targeting and strengthening these muscles, you can be almost guaranteed to reduce the appearance of your cellulite and eventually get rid of it altogether, leaving you with a toned, sculpted look.
- Instead of just using the treadmill, try the stair-climber. This targets those all-important glutes and hamstrings. Or put the treadmill on a steep gradient, which has the same effect.
- If you are not ready to hit the gym, then start with getting into the habit of walking and taking the stairs. Consider getting a Fitbit (or if you have a smart phone, then there will be an app) for tracking the number of steps you take per day. If you are taking 10,000 steps or more per day, you are off to a good start. If you have not exercised for some time, then set yourself a goal, initially, of working up to the 10,000 steps per day
- Yoga is of particular benefit to cellulite sufferers. The combination of breathing and movement helps lymphatic drainage and reduces stress. It also stretches and strengthens muscles gently.
- Incorporate some exercises that you can do at home to target that all important “posterior chain”. Bodyweight squats, walking lunges, squat jumps, hip bridges, planks.
When circulation becomes impaired, blood flow to the cellulite-affected area is restricted and lymph fluid will not drain efficiently. One of the causes of cellulite appears to be an accumulation of fluid in the fatty tissue. This causes these cells to expand and put pressure on the connective tissue surrounding them. The toxins that accumulate in this fluid can cause the breakdown of the collagen in the connective tissue. This causes damage to the elastin fibres which help keep the skin smooth and dimple-free.
Read more about the lymphatic system and how it causes cellulite here.
Exercise will stimulate circulation and lymphatic drainage, but there are some additional techniques to employ at home as well.
- Dry-brushing of the areas that are affected by cellulite can not only help to exfoliate the skin, but stimulate blood flow to the area and lymphatic flow away from the area. Some women report a fairly rapid improvement in the appearance of their cellulite, by incorporating dry-brushing in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise.
- Gently massaging the area can also stimulate the circulation, assist with lymphatic drainage and is of particular benefit when your muscles may be a little sore after exercise!
- Manual Lymphatic drainage is a particular type of gentle massage which stimulates the lymph to flow away from the area. This reduces fluid retention and toxic build up.
- If you spend a lot of time sitting down, try to take regular breaks to move around and get the circulation flowing. One of the major causes of impaired circulation in the buttocks and thighs is that we spend so long sitting on them!
- Foam rolling can produce some very good results. This “self-myofascial release” can help release tight muscles and connective tissue, and improve circulation. Foam rollers are a cheap addition to your at-home cellulite treatment.
4. Supporting detoxification and elimination pathways.
Toxins get into your body in various ways. Chemicals in your diet, the by-products of digestion and hormone breakdown, cleaning chemicals, hair dyes and even what beauty products you use. Toxins cause inflammation and put added pressure on your liver, both of which affect your ability to lose weight.
If your digestive system is working well, then you should have regular bowel movements at least once per day. Eating a whole food diet containing plenty of natural fibre, this should be quite normal. If you are not eliminating waste products then toxins will build up and be reabsorbed. This creates inflammation, which will have a negative effect on your cellulite.
Read more about detoxification and how it could be the key to getting rid of cellulite here.
Supporting your liver detoxification pathways can be achieved in several ways:
- eating a nutrient-dense, whole-food based diet, with no additives or preservatives, organic meats and vegetables if possible.
- drinking adequate filtered water, green tea, herbal teas and avoiding alcohol.
- avoiding toxic chemicals in cleaning products and beauty products head over to Environmental Working Group for a list of “best and worst” beauty products and household cleaners
- eat adequate protein: contrary to what all the “juice-detox-fast” people tell you, your liver needs and cannot function without certain amino acids. Every toxic compound that your liver processes needs to be “bound” to an amino acid to enable it to be excreted. You will get the full spectrum of these amino acids from eating a wide variety of protein sources.
- eat plenty of colourful vegetables and fruits! These contain antioxidants and fibre, which promotes healthy elimination and provide the vital nutrients your liver requires.
5. Estrogen detoxification
An imbalance between estrogen and other hormones in the body can have a cascading effect on your health and your fat loss goals. Excess or poorly metabolised estrogen is thought to be the cause of many women gaining fat around their hips and thighs.
Having an estrogen imbalance can be caused by chemical estrogen exposure (known as xenoestrogens), which can be found in a plethora of unlikely places. These chemicals mimic natural estrogen and bind to estrogen receptors. This has been linked to mood disorders, obesity and cancer. Some common sources of chemical estrogens include:
- BPA in plastics, aluminium cans, new furniture, new cars – try to buy BPA-free plastics and canned food wherever possible
- Phthalates – these are found in many air fresheners and perfumes (including fragrances used in household cleaning products).
- Parabens – these are found in many beauty products such as shampoos and body lotions.
Apart from chemical estrogen exposure, there can be internal reasons for excess estrogen. The most common one is elevated aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen, throwing the whole hormonal balance out of kilter. Aromatase can be elevated in one of a number of ways:
- being overweight. Excessive fat stores produce more aromatase, so losing the extra pounds can help reduce this.
- excessive alcohol consumption. The liver efficiently converts excess oestrogen to compounds that can be eliminated from the body. Alcohol places an additional, unnecessary load on the liver.
- certain nutritional deficiencies cause elevated levels of aromatase – eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower) as these contain DIM (di-indolyl-methane), which helps block aromatase.
In addition to aromatase, your liver may not be breaking down estrogen efficiently. To support the healthy metabolism of estrogen, we should pay particular attention to the following:
- good digestion and elimination (regular bowel movements), adequate fibre to prevent reabsorption of partially metabolised oestrogens in the gut.
- limiting exposure to chemical oestrogen, buy those BPA-free cans and water bottles. Drink filtered water, as many municipal supplies contain oestrogens.
- get plenty of Omega-3 fats from oily fish, seafood, grass-fed meats, and flax seeds. Omega-3’s also reduce aromatase activity.
Remember: ensure you get adequate protein, as toxins need to bind to amino acids to enable excretion!
6. Sleep and Stress
Now you have some ideas about how to improve your diet, start an exercise programme and support your body in the elimination and detoxification processes. It’s time to think about whether or not you are getting adequate rest and recovery. We lead busy lives, we have stress from work and family demands and often can find it hard to switch off at night.
Chronic stress is one of the major causes of fatigue, inflammation and weight gain. When you are chronically stressed, your body releases more of the hormone cortisol. This causes an imbalance between insulin (which controls your blood sugar) and cortisol, causing inflammation and blood sugar disruption making it very difficult to lose weight.
Stress can cause you to crave sugary foods and caffeine throughout the day. Stress depletes certain nutrients and amino acids causing deficiencies. Serotonin – the hormone responsible for making you feel happy – will be depleted, and your weight loss goals will be disrupted.
How to manage stress levels
Managing stress is a large topic, so I’ll stick to some very basic tips here:
- Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours uninterrupted every night) is one of the most important ways of managing stress. We may think we can survive on 4-5 hours per night, but eventually this will catch up, and without noticing it, we will be adding to our chronic stress.
- Meditation. Since I started meditating for twenty minutes per day (I use the Deepak Chopra guided meditations), I find my sleep has improved and my stress levels are under control.
- Yoga. Not only is yoga one of the great natural ways to treat cellulite, but it will help you to de-stress, relax and can have a positive effect on your sleep patterns. If you can’t do a full Yoga session, then incorporating some stretching routines can be a good option.
- Walking. Taking a daily walk reduces cortisol, and is an activity that primarily burns fat for fuel. A twenty minute walk after work can help reduce your stress levels and clear your head.
- Nutrition – support your body by consuming plenty of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables at each meal, don’t skip your protein, ensure you are getting plenty of Omega-3 oils to combat inflammation. Chronic inflammation will increase your stress levels, without you even noticing it.
Implementing some of these methods should be your starting point if you are wanting to find natural ways to treat cellulite. No gimmicks, no quick-fixes. Once all these factors are optimised, then – and only then – should you start to think about adding supplements or alternative therapies.
Right, so what are you waiting for? No need to continue wondering what on earth you can do about your cellulite. Start now! And if you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it, we do appreciate sharing.
If you have any comments or questions, please ask them here, we’re here to help: