Exercise, body care and an eating plan make a powerful trio when it comes to banishing water retention and fighting cellulite as these women's 'after' pictures show

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We’re well aware that having cellulite is not the end of the world. But that’s not to say we haven’t tried everything from firming body creams  to in-clinic treatments  to reduce it. Someone else who’s made it her life’s work to find a solution for cellulite is Kate Shapland, former Daily Telegraph beauty columnist, co-founder of the British Beauty Council and founder of leg care line Legology .

Kate, 56, who has suffered from cellulite and heavy legs since her teens, has put together the  Cellu-Lite 8-Week Plan   as a culmination of everything she's learned, tried and had success with personally and professionally over 30 years,  "and a lot of common sense!" she says. And judging by the testimonials of the women who've tried it, it really works.

She challenged 20 volunteers around the world between the ages of 28 and 65 to trial the plan for eight weeks. "I had some trepidation about the challenge because I realised that what had worked for me would not necessarily work for others," says Kate, "but the results speak for themselves and every success story we hear is the ultimate recognition for this simple common-sense approach.

Rather than simply rubbing a cream into stubborn areas, the Legology  Cellu-Lite 8-Week Plan  is a three-pronged approach based on eating a healthy diet centred on oatmeal, yoghurt, leafy greens and protein and avoiding processed food, starch and sugar, daily exercise equivalent to 10,000 steps a day and a leg-care protocol involving dry brushing and oils and creams that encourage drainage as well as access to a Facebook support group.

The volunteers were asked to measure the widest part of their thighs and take ‘before’ images of the front, back and sides so they could see their level of progress as the challenge went on as well as to record video diaries. At the end of eight weeks, almost all reported smaller thighs and reduced puffiness after eight weeks. When writer Clover Stroud took the challenge for the Daily Mail, she lost seven pounds in weight and an inch and a half from her upper thigh.

"All of the participants saw a change to the evenness of the skin and the smoothness of the texture; they commented on the skin feeling softer, looking a better colour (a healthier pink and glowing – and not just their legs, their complexions too)," says Kate.

While it's not a weight loss diet per see, some of the volunteers lost inches off their thighs. "They saw better levels of circulation – saying that their legs were left feeling lighter and livelier," Kate tells us.

The difference in this approach to cellulite, and the reason why it worked for Kate, is that it's not such a focus on fat, but on the fluid retention around the fat cells, which can make the dimpling effect more visible. “Cellulite is a whole-body issue and I often hesitate to say that to people because again it makes it sound overly serious and overwhelming,” she says. “This plan is about addressing the way fluid and waste is transported, metabolised and removed by the body; diet, product and activity play a synergistic role in that."

The before and after pictures taken by the volunteers show clearly that the plan is effective. We're currently trialling ourselves and so far it doesn’t seem hard to follow, with broad food guidance rather than meal plans.

One trial participant, Zoe, 41, pictured below said: "In eight weeks I’ve got the legs that I always wanted. I’m over the moon." While another, Annie, 50, said: “I can tell the routine has made a real difference, my legs look so much better and I feel so much more confident in myself”

Step 1: How to eat to reduce cellulite

Kate stresses that the 'eating' section of the plan is balanced guidance offered from her personal experience. She also points out that it’s not a weight loss regime, more a tried and tested way of eating that has worked for her and others.

The plan encourages you to eat foods high in protein, low in carbohydrate and to drink with plenty of water. “We know that carbohydrates can encourage the body to retain fluid, as can salt, causing fluid to build and become trapped,” says Kate. “Certain foods will encourage water weight to drop because they have a diuretic quality. When I discovered how much diet helped my problem it was a massive breakthrough and since I couldn’t see any of this information being given a platform I decided to share it myself."

MORE GLOSS: Cellfina, the treatment that 'snips' your cellulite

While processed food and carbohydrates such as pasta, bread and potatoes, and sugar-rich fruits encourage water in the body, protein does the opposite, repelling water by promoting its elimination through urine, she explains. It's recommended to eat plenty of lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds with protein in every meal.

Upon waking it's advised to drink a cup of hot water with a squeeze of lemon to activate the digestion and encourage the elimination of waste.

The plan recommends oat bran (high in protein and fibre and absorbs excess water - up to 20 times on average its own volume) to be eaten daily, This can easily be made into breakfast, mixed with yoghurt, made into porridge or pancakes.

For lunch and dinner, Kate suggests protein (chicken, eggs, smoked salmon, white fish) and vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach and cauliflower. Celery, cucumber, onion, garlic, ginger and carrots also have a diuretic value, encouraging the body to expel fluid.

Before bed, it's another cup of hot water with a squeeze of lemon and a slice of ginger. Key to the plan is drinking at least a litre of water per day, waiting five hours between each meal, and limiting dairy.

Step 2: Why you need to keep moving to combat cellulite

Don’t worry about being put through your paces by a militant trainer. The plan simply requires you to do the equivalent of 10,000 steps a day in order to get the lymph, your body’s natural waste disposal, working. Whether you get your steps in by walking or running doesn’t matter, or if yoga and Pilates are more your thing that’s great too because they encourage speedier removal of waste trapped around fat cells. It’s important that your lymph is regularly pumped so try to more frequently through the day - take the stairs, get off the bus a stop earlier etc.

Step 3: How creams, body brushing and massage help to reduce cellulite

The plan comes with three Legology products, Air-Lite , a cream which relieves puffiness caused by water retention, Cellu-Lite , an oil that stimulates cells when massaged in, Lymph-Lite , a bristled brush for body brushing and drainage cupping tool Circu-Lite , all designed to promote the lymph and encourage trapped waste (fluid) to be eliminated by drainage and stimulation.

“Skincare helps with cellulite but it’s not the only solution, it’s part of the jigsaw,” says Kate. “The key topical ingredients are those that have an impact on the circulation and lymph – so stimulating properties such as caffeine, horse chestnut and potassium; also potent aromatherapy diuretic oils like juniper, Siberian fir, rosemary and eucalyptus; we include all of these properties in our products.”

Body brushing  is also key to the plan as Kate explains: “Products don’t have to be combined with manual brushing, but manual brushing is completely essential because it’s one of the most efficient ways to move the lymph.” The plan advises body brushing for a couple of minutes both morning and night as well as massaging the skin for three or four minutes in the morning and evening to bring oxygen-rich blood up to the surface.

The products have gone down well with the volunteers. “I use the oil each evening, spending around 10 minutes using the suction cup and massaging it in," says Annie. "It smells divine and leaves my legs tingling and feeling much lighter. I am definitely seeing an improvement in my cellulite."

We've been trying them too and while the cupping element, which involves dragging the suction cup over your cellulite with the help of oil, can be a little uncomfortable, you can definitely feel a shift happening under the skin.

The maintenance plan

Kate doesn't overpromise when it comes to results: "Yes cellulite will creep back if you don't keep up with the plan. But again this is why I wanted the plan to be flexible and sustainable. It’s not so much about maintenance as a way of life. You fall off the wagon and get back on it without feeling like you’re embarking on a whole new 'big deal' regime. You might follow the plan for eight weeks and see great results, then fall into old habits for a week and see changes you don’t like and go back into eating and living in a way that will positively impact on cellulite because you’ve got the tools to do it."

The unexpected mental health benefits

When we asked Kate what the effects of cellulite can be on mental health she replied: "Misery! I’ve had cellulite since my teens and as the years progressed the problem extended itself from ankle to buttock. And along with it a lower leg puffiness, and swelling of my left ankle and foot that got particularly bad in hot weather, at the wrong time of the month and while travelling. When I went into menopause it manifested itself slightly differently and I noticed I lost definition around my ankles and knees along with cellulite in the usual places and a general feeling of bloat. I’ve learned to manage this, using the knowledge I’d picked up over the years. My obsession pushed me to research fluid retention and its link with cellulite.

"A lot of women have shared the same experience and mental effects with me – feeling unnecessarily heavy, stuck, tired and devitalised. Many women who suffer with lipedema (an abnormal build-up of fat cells) use Legology products because they bring relief and comfort to this incredibly challenging condition, helping uplift, nurture and encourage.  When I discovered how much diet, in particular, helped my problem it was a massive breakthrough."

The  Cellu-Lite 8-Week Plan costs £99.60 per month on subscription.