Fitness phenomenon Fajah Lourens talks honestly about what can realistically be done about cellulite. From painful treatments to lifestyle changes, she’s tried them so you don’t have to…
Dutch fitness star Fajah Lourens may be known for her motivating workout plans, no-nonsense attitude to nutrition and killer body (hence her successful My Killer Body Motivation programme ), but she’s not immune to body hangups or succumbing to a gimmicky treatment in order to correct her “flaws”. Like many women, her bodily bug bear is cellulite , and she’s tried almost everything under the sun to rid herself of the orange peel. In this extract from her internationally bestselling book, she gets under the skin of what causes cellulite, why it’s not something to be ashamed of, and which wacky treatments are likely to be a waste of money…
Cellulite is probably the thing that upsets me the most when I look at my body, and if the volume of messages I get about the subject (a third of the total) are anything to go by, it seems I share this with quite a lot of women. Pleased as I am with my hourglass figure, unfortunately this makes me relatively more prone to cellulite than someone with, say, an apple-shaped body. The fat tends to go straight to my buttocks and legs, and those horrible dimples are the tell-tale signs.
My cellulite got really bad during my two pregnancies, because of all the oestrogen my body was producing. Fortunately much of it disappeared afterwards, but it reared its ugly head again after I took part in Expedition Robinson and also during my training for the New York marathon. I think that was because my body was producing too many stress hormones, while at the same time I was also eating a lot of soy products, which stimulate the production of oestrogen.
But I finally have it under control. Not that I am completely free of the problem, but I can live with the amount I have. I think I have tried pretty much every treatment going over the years, only to conclude that sadly, nothing really works. So be wary of miracle cures, all those creams, special treatments or training offered by companies that often have only one motive: profit. Just make sure you know what you are signing up for.
Here are some of the different treatments I have tried . . .
ENDERMOLOGY (GYMNASTICS ON THE SKIN)
A mechanical massage therapy, this didn’t work at all for me. But some people seem to get positive results, if only temporarily.
Very painful and costly, but the three treatments per week I had did actually work. The results were visible after about ten treatments, though the dimples returned as soon as I stopped. Once, in America, I had little injections into each and every dimple, supposedly to dissolve the fat and make them disappear. Stupidly, I did it just before a photoshoot. I ended up with 200 bruises on my legs, and all the dimples still there.
The least costly treatment, and the advice is to only have it done twice. You will look slimmer after the treatment, and may actually go down a dress size, but that is only because of the loss of fluids. So make the most of your new svelte look, because it will only last one evening.
CONNECTIVE TISSUE MASSAGE
As long as you eat well, are physically active and drink plenty of water, it is not a bad idea to have a connective tissue massage about once a week. It is very painful, but it does help rid your body of toxins.
What is cellulite?
Cellulite is a condition in which subcutaneous fat causes dimpling of the skin, giving it the appearance and feel of orange peel – hence it is commonly referred to as ‘orange peel skin’.
But let’s be clear: cellulite is not to be confused with cellulitis, which is a bacterial infection of the subcutaneous connective tissue that often causes redness, swelling and fever. Cellulite,
on the other hand, is not an infection, but the result of fatty deposits within the underlying connective tissue of the skin.
If you have cellulite, you are not alone, so don’t feel embarrassed about it. Some 90% of all women have it, though some worse than others. Oestrogen, the female hormone, can have a particularly marked effect on the skin during puberty , pregnancy and the menopause . Smoking is also bad for cellulite, so it’s best not to, or at least to cut down.
Cellulite has a number of different causes, including:
• Stagnation of blood flow and lymphatic congestion with fluid retention. Toxins are then trapped in the body and nestle between the fat cells
• Fat cells clogging up and swelling together
• Connective tissue adhesions
• Loss of skin elasticity
• Genetic predisposition
• Liver problems, for example due to alcohol
• Poor sleeping patterns
• Medical causes or medication
You may find that not all of these apply to you: cellulite can be the result of just a few of these problems.
Diet and stress
Stress is another cause of cellulite. It has a detrimental effect on the skin because it disturbs the processing of fats and the body’s hormonal balance. It also affects your breathing, reducing the amount of oxygen you take in, which in turn impacts on your metabolism and sleeping patterns. And if you don’t sleep well, your body doesn’t get the rest it needs to recuperate and restore.
Hormones are often the main culprit, especially when there is an imbalance between oestrogen and testosterone levels, as relatively high oestrogen often causes cellulite. Taking the pill also increases your chances of getting it.
Cellulite is also caused by weight cycling , otherwise known as the yo-yo effect, as your skin will gradually lose elasticity. Cellulite consists of fat cells, which grow when you gain weight, making the cellulite more pronounced. As you gain weight, the dimples will get deeper, but when you shed the excess weight again, they will not reduce back to the size they were.
Cellulite has three levels: at the lowest level it is only discernible when you actually squeeze the skin or tense your muscles; at the medium level it is slightly visible, though more so when you tense your muscles, while at the highest level it is very pronounced, and always clearly visible.
Remember, all types of cellulite are very hard to reduce. If it’s only minor, you may be able to treat it but if the metabolism of your skin is disturbed, it will require specialist treatment by a beautician, masseur and/or physiotherapist. A combination of power and cardio-training may help to reduce it, as will cutting back on alcohol and minimising stress. You could also consider a break from taking the pill, to see if that makes a difference for you. Obviously, healthy eating and ensuring that your weight remains stable are also key.
Sports and exercise
Building muscle mass underneath the cellulite will visibly reduce it, as the skin will become more taut. In any case, exercising will improve circulation and can reduce fatty deposits as
well. If you combine a healthy lifestyle and exercise with a sensible, balanced diet, you are much less likely to get cellulite, and to reduce it, you should moderate your intake of:
• Coffee (no more than three cups a day)
• Soft drinks
Lastly, eat as many green vegetables as you can, consider trying DIM supplements (after getting appropriate medical advice), which help to reduce oestrogen dominance, and use your coffee grounds to give yourself a really good scrub once a week!