Sad, Skinny, Cellulite.
June 20, 2012 2:53 PM   Subscribe

I'm a skinny girl, and I'm sad about my cellulite. What can I do?

I'm a 27 year old woman, about 5'9"/10", and normally weigh in between 140-150lbs. I'm in decent shape considering some health issues, and I work out 3-4 times a week. Typical workout consists of sprint intervals for 15-30 minutes, about 60-100 walking lunges, two one-minute planks (with a foam roller under the lower shin, as I get leg cramps and shin splints easily), lateral and front raises (3lbs), tricep extensions (one arm at a time) (3-5lbs), bicep curls (6-8lbs), and hammer curls (6-8lbs). I am also a daily bike commuter (only about 2 mi round trip).

I have a small amount of belly fat, but my weirdest problem is my legs. I have cellulite on my thighs, as well as on my calves. The calves are the most bizarre to me, as they are simultaneously muscular but also containing cellulite. When I flex, I see muscle and what appears to be cellulite around the edge or in the ridges of the muscle. My thighs have cellulite also, but it's in places where the muscle is less developed, like my inner/upper thigh or in my hip area. I have strong biker legs, though; My quads and hammies are like rocks, and I have shapely, but not large, calves.

My diet is fine, but not ideal; I don't eat a whole lot of fat, I don't restrict carbs, and I do eat sugar. I eat only lean proteins, and I usually have at least one veggie a day (thanks to a CSA!). If this is truly a problem, then I'm willing to accept that and make changes; otherwise, I am a crazy busy person who barely has time to wash the dishes or do the laundry, so anything more complex than what I'm doing now will be tough.

I realize that you can't just zap fat/cellulite away from targeted places, but are there exercises I could incorporate into my workout that may help with this? I'm willing to do anything that doesn't require a lot of stress on the joints, particularly my hips and knees. The lunges are great so far. Will squats help? Is it too late for me? What can I do? Would you recommend any other exercises just because?

Help! I hate my cellulite! Plastic surgery is not an ideal answer, but acceptable if it's the only solution.
posted by two lights above the sea to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: And I just remembered I have this excellent picture of my legs. I would really like to wear shorter shorts and be able to cross my legs in public!
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:00 PM on June 20, 2012

I have a couple of friends who swear that targeted cellulite-specific massage multiple times a week is making a noticeable difference, but they're also doing that P90X thing, so I don't really know how efficacious the massage is. For me personally, the only time I don't have at least some patches of random cellulite is when my body fat is basically bodybuilder low, which is a fucking bitch and a half to maintain.
posted by elizardbits at 3:01 PM on June 20, 2012

I always hit enter too soon, ugh.

ANYWAY squats have helped a lot with my general workout, I think, but most noticeably in the butt/upper thigh zone. Also deadlifting.
posted by elizardbits at 3:04 PM on June 20, 2012

posted by 200burritos at 3:09 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

For me, diet/exercise helps, but only minimally, because what works for me in getting rid of cellulite is limiting carbs/sugars and drastically lowering my overall body fat, which isn't always that practical/realistic.

What works MUCH better for me is a topical approach. A combination of using one of these cellulite massagers along with the appropriate cream (probably can find drugstore versions), and self-tanner like a mo'fo'. I just read this article which details a two-step process (!) but for me even one of the gradual build-up potions works. I really like Loreal's Sublime Bronze Mist because it dries super fast and doesn't smell, and after two applications is an even tan.
posted by stellaluna at 3:10 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

First of all, I see exactly ZERO cellulite in that picture you posted. So...I dunno...

But more to answer your question. The best thing I've found for it is massage. That's why those "creams" seem to work on occasion. It's the actual rubbing into the skin that smooths it out. However, you have to do this A LOT and EVERY DAY.

Also, cellulite is less noticeable when you have a tan, so maybe one of those self-tanner creams might be a good bet for you.

Losing body fat will also decrease cellulite, so you might want to cut carbs and sugar and diet down a few pounds.

But ultimately, I think your best bet is to work on body acceptance.
posted by katypickle at 3:22 PM on June 20, 2012 [19 favorites]

In empathy: I've got it too. I used to let it keep me from wearing shorts, but the older I get, the more I'm like WHO CARES IT IS HOT OUTSIDE I AM WEARING SHORTS.

Also, I figure, my legs are sturdy, so I don't tip over easy. ;)

(BTW: based on that photo, your legs are so freaking hot, I am a little shocked at the phrasing in your question...)

Methinks this might be something that only you notice. I'm with katypickle--body acceptance, w00t!
posted by whimsicalnymph at 3:39 PM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: The cellulite is, like I said, in my upper thigh (not in the the photo) and on the back of my calf (also not visible in the photo). I provided the picture so you could see that, despite their shape, they still contain cellulite. Trust me, I'm being truthful. It is there.

I'm generally not interested in fake tanning, but accept it as a possible solution. I'm pretty pale, so having TAN LEGS would be weird.

I love my body and realize that we all have imperfections. I'm just trying to figure out if there are concrete, real things I can do for this. I'm happy with what I look, but this seems like a problem I can possibly solve, so why wouldn't I try?
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:57 PM on June 20, 2012

I'm your height and when I was your age I was also your weight, and I got rid of my stubborn cellulite. The main difference between what you're doing and what I did is the exercise: I was doing less cardio and more weights. I was lifting heavier weights, doing squats, and doing weighted hamstring curls on a cheapo home bench. If I remember right, the unfortunately titled book Bottoms Up had useful exercises for the lower body and gave me good results. So I'd vote for a tweak to your body composition toward more muscle and less fat.

However, with that said, like the others I don't see one hint of cellulite in your photo!
posted by ceiba at 3:58 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ok, now I see your update and I believe you, the cellulite is just hiding.
posted by ceiba at 3:59 PM on June 20, 2012

If you want to spend money on this problem the classic solution to cellulite is endermologie treatments. They put your skin through a set of rollers and thousands of dollars later you have temporary relief from cellulite. It is non-invasive and does seem to work - might be worth a try.
posted by Wolfie at 4:01 PM on June 20, 2012

It sounds (and looks) like you're already taking great care of yourself. I'm big into the Crossfit scene, which emphasizes workouts that are constantly varied, high intensity, and work on functional movements (like squats and deadlifts as others have suggested). Integrating some of these methods would be beneficial. What you currently do is great, but try combining all those individual elements into a single routine. For example, run 200 meters, then 20 pushups (these will tone your arms and shoulders), then 20 squats (just your body weight), then 20 situps. Repeat 4 times and time yourself. It will be fun and intense. Keeping your heart rate up with little rest does wonders. Mix up your workouts, keep your body guessing! Good luck and keep it up!
posted by cad at 4:06 PM on June 20, 2012

I feel your pain. I inherited a tendency towards BAD cellulite from my mom, even at my leanest it was there, messing up my ability to wear shorts. It is an inherited condition where bits of fat poke through your connective tissue. Put simply, cellulite is fat hernias.

Two (non-surgical) things get rid of fat hernias:
1) Losing fat (make fat hernias smaller)
2) Building muscle (spread fat hernias across a larger surface area)

If you are already slim #1 is possible but takes time, dedication, and generally being more OCD about food intake than most people are willing to be. If you are already at a healthy weight #1 gets more difficult (not impossible--but definitely more difficult).

#2 is the preferred method from a health standpoint, especially for slim people. Sprints only take you so far, and high-rep bodyweight lunge work builds more strength endurance than muscle mass. You need lower rep workouts focusing on heavier weights, and compound lower-body movements like squats and deadlifts--barbell squats, dumbbell split squats, barbell deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, etc etc etc. You do not have to get crazy huge to start noticing a big difference. For what it's worth, stuff like Crossfit is not all that effective for building muscle mass unless you're so out of shape flailing around wildly could put mass on you.

I haven't read any studies about the efficacy of massage, but maybe it helps push the hernias down back through their holes? There is also a new surgery that consists of zapping your fat pockets with a laser and effectively melting them off.
posted by schroedinger at 4:32 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Anecdotal, and a little bit woo, but:

Went and had a body wrap treatment at a posh spa for my birthday this year. The kind where there was a lymph-stimulating skin brushing, (but not a strenous, subcutaneous-tissue-working massage) then they slather you with some weird smelling all natural detoxing goop and wrap you like a burrito for half an hour. All good, left feeling pampered.

About a week later, I noticed that all the mid-thigh cottage cheese (which didn't particularly bother me, but I knew was there) had vanished. Like, whoa!

YMMV, of course, and maybe if you went in expecting a spa treatment to fix everything, whatever did happen might be dissapointing and not enough. But the conclusion I happily drew was that the right topical concoctions have some sort of cell-stimulating power where they get all happy and start shoving the fat around like they were rearranging the furniture, leaving me with refreshed, remodeled thighs.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 5:16 PM on June 20, 2012

I agree too: add more weight to your workouts and you'll be fine. Double the weights, do fewer reps until you get back to the same number of reps again, and then maybe add one more step of weights.
posted by gjc at 7:39 PM on June 20, 2012

I don't know if my results are typical, but I am small (5'4 and 115lbs) but also wasn't too fond of my butt-cellulite.

I've switched to a paleo and occasionally slow carb (a-la 4 hour body by tim ferris) diet and my cellulite pretty much completely went away after 3 weeks on the slow carb (I lost 4 lbs) and hasn't returned after a few months on paleo (they're pretty much the same diet but paleo includes fruit.)

I've also been doing kettlebell swings (75 reps 3x a week) and the perfect posterior exercises outlined in the book, and putting icepacks on the back of my neck for 20 minutes a day which is supposed to convert your white fat to brown fat or some crap. haha.

but anyways, we're in similar boats and it really worked for me without any real effort. the exercises take maybe a total of 15 mins a day and I've seen a 100% improvement in the sides of my butt.
posted by euphoria066 at 8:17 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

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