The Cellulite Solution
Tabloids love to expose celebrities’ less-than-perfect derrieres or thighs because they, like a lot of people, have cellulite. Of course, no one wants to have cellulite, but chances are most of us do, at least to some degree.
Just because so many of us have cellulite doesn’t mean everyone knows what it is, much less why it occurs. But even more importantly, do you know what to do about it? It can be confusing because there are a lot of myths and misnomers out there.
Well, I think it’s time to know the truth about cellulite.
What is it?
First of all, it’s not a medical condition. Cellulite is nothing more than fat lying directly beneath the skin. What happens is there’s only so much room for these fat cells and they get pushed up toward the skin. This action puts pressure on the surrounding fascia.
Fascia is a web of connective tissue surrounding muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Think of it like the netting of a tennis racket with the strings representing the fascia. Over time, though, those strings or tissues lose their collagen and elasticity or too much fat develops and the fat gets pushed through the netting. That’s what gives a dimpled appearance, or what we call cellulite.
Cellulite doesn’t just appear. There are different grades or degrees:
• Grade 1: Detection at this stage is nearly impossible with the naked eye because it’s happening on a microscopic level.
• Grade 2: Some symptoms appear, such as a loss of elasticity in the skin and a cooler temperature to the touch.
• Grade 3: This is the look we most commonly associate with cellulite because there’s visible dimpling, but it has the other characteristics, too.
What causes it?
There’s no one answer to this question, but here’s a list of contributors:
The naturally occurring chemicals estrogen, insulin, noradrenaline, thyroid hormones, and prolactin have been linked to cellulite creation.
Did your mother, aunts, grandmothers have cellulite? Then chances are you are predisposed to it, too.
The more sedentary you are the greater the likelihood of developing cellulite. Also, smokers run a higher risk for cellulite.
Because cellulite involves fat cells, it only makes sense that what you eat would contribute to its buildup. Too much fat, carbohydrates, and salt, which leads to water retention, are the biggest culprits.
How do I banish it?
There’s an entire multimillion-dollar industry of creams, pills, and procedures claiming to remove cellulite; however, none of these has passed the scientific community’s standards. In fact, some are designed to treat unrelated conditions, like asthma, and others may cause serious side effects, like allergic reactions. Some methods, like massage, have temporary benefits, and others simply hide the cellulite, like compression garments. The keys words here are “temporary” and “hide.”
The good news is that there are three key ways to effectively minimize cellulite for the long-term:
1. Increase circulation
2. Maintain a healthy weight
3. Eat high-fiber and diuretic foods
• Increase circulation
Let’s face it, we just sit too much. It’s not enough to work out for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, we need to keep blood flowing to the lower body throughout the day. If your job demands you sit at a desk, get up to walk around every 20 minutes to increase you circulation. Or swap out your chair for a stability ball. Just sitting on the inflated ball requires you to engage your core, but with every slight movement, you have to shift to regain your balance. This constant balance challenge gets your body moving much more than sitting in a traditional office chair that does the balancing for you.
Strength training keeps cellulite from settling in, too. Because it tends to form in the buttocks and thighs, I like the Pop Squat: Lower into squat position as if you’re sitting down in a chair, abs engaged and making sure your knees don’t pop out past your toes. Push yourself to standing, but don’t stop there: Without locking your knees, add a little jump into the air. When you land, lower yourself right back down into the squat. Grab weights for added difficulty. Repeat for 30 seconds.
Also, certain foods help boost blood flow. Circulation Journal reported that dark chocolate (yes, chocolate), which is full of natural flavonoids, improved blood circulation compared with white chocolate. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are known to increase circulation, too.
• Maintain a healthy weight
The more weight you carry the more fat cells pushing through the fascia. Losing weight can result in a noticeable reduction of cellulite.
• Eat high-fiber and diuretic foods
When the body holds onto extra fluids, it adds more pressure to the fascia. If I’m feeling bloated before a photo shoot, I eat something I know will help my body get rid of extra water—my favorite is egg whites and asparagus. Well, if you’re feeling like your cellulite is more noticeable or you’re getting ready to wear something that shows a little skin and you want to minimize dimpling, then fill your plate with foods high in fiber or natural diuretics.
Fiber-rich foods take longer to digest and will keep you feeling full longer so you’re less likely to reach for a sugary or fatty, salty snack. Diuretics help the body release excess water, usually through urination. Some foods serve double duty, both high in fiber and a diuretic, such as steel-cut oats and artichokes. Even flavor enhancers, like parsley, ginger and garlic, assist the body in getting rid of water. Finally, green tea, one of my all-time favorite beverages, can give relief from bloating.
On the other hand, not enough fluids or dehydration also contribute to cellulite. So stay hydrated throughout the day.
While you may not erase cellulite completely, being active and eating healthfully is the best way to control it. And as ReShape subscribers, I’ll provide you with delicious and healthy recipes as well as effective exercise suggestions.
Make it happen!
As you can imagine, I’ve seen a lot of exercise trends over the past 30 years. Some fizzled out while and others have stuck around. One of the most popular and long-lasting trends has been Stepping. Starting in the late 1980s throughout the ’90s and well into the 2000s, you could sign up for a whole variety of Step Aerobics or Step Dance classes at any gym.
While newer trends may have taken over the popularity top spot, Stepping never lost its value. It’s still a great, super-effective workout.
The First Step
My good friend Gin Miller created Step Aerobics as a result of injuring her knee. Sound confusing? What happened is her physical therapist suggested she step up and down on a plastic milk crate as a way to strengthen the muscles supporting the knee. After experiencing the amount of effort it took to step up and down for an extended time, Gin thought it would be a great exercise for anyone, not just those rehabbing from injury, and she was right.
The thing that makes Stepping so amazing is that you’re doing double duty: an aerobic calorie burn, muscle sculpting and toning. Simply by adding the height of a platform, the movement of stepping up and down is turned into a weight-bearing activity, even without using dumbbells. By supporting your own body weight, you are creating resistance, which forces your muscles to engage deeper and the result is firm, toned legs and butt. Stepping has created a lot of attractive “assets” over the years. I still love doing a Step program precisely because NOTHING sculpts and tones the glutes and thighs quite like it.
When you move up and down on a step you are using all the lower-body muscles—hamstrings and quads, both the front and back of your thighs—glutes and hips. Change from a standard front step to a lateral or side step and you switch the focus to the inner and outer thighs. Start pumping your arms back and forth and you have a full-body workout.
I really like the freedom to mix things up. Turn on the music and dance through a Step routine with kicks and jumps. Grab some hand weights to increase the resistance. Raise the platform a little to challenge yourself if you feel like things are getting too easy. For beginners, I recommend to keep the step at four inches, but as your fitness level improves, raise it to six inches. You can even use the platform as a bench for triceps dips, or lower one side so it’s at an angle to lean against for an upper-body workout with weights, like a chest press.
Any Step workout is going to get your heart rate up, like running does, but here’s the big difference: it’s easy on the joints! Unlike the constant pounding of running or jogging, a Step routine has built-in shock absorbers that lessen the impact. Not only do most platforms have a cushioned surface, but by switching the support leg—step up with the left for a few reps, then start with the right—you’re alleviating stress. That’s great news if you have knees that can’t take a lot of strain. After all, remember Gin started stepping as a way to recover from a serious knee injury.
Also, because Stepping is a weight-bearing activity (even without dumbbells), you’re doing your bones good. According to the University of Arizona Bone Builders program, Stepping helps build both bone strength and density, which prevents osteoporosis.
And, as long as you can climb stairs, then Step exercising is appropriate for every age group, and great for any ability level. It’s okay to start slow because you’ll still get results. One study showed that people who stepped only during commercials while watching one hour of television—we’re talking three to five minutes at a time—burned an average 148 calories. Now, think about how much you could burn if you swap the scenario and stepped while watching TV and rested during commercials. A 130-pound woman can burn more than 260 calories in 30 minutes at a moderate pace.
And remember, the more into Stepping you go, the more you can bump up the intensity. Pick up the weights or pick up the pace. The faster you become, the more steps you’ll get in, the more calories you’ll use, the better you’ll look and feel.
Make it happen!
Jog In Place
White Jeans for June
Last weekend marked the unofficial start of summer. Did you spend Memorial Day barbecuing with friends and family? Or did you go through your wardrobe pulling out all your summer fashions? After all, it’s okay to wear white now.
But, it’s been a long winter, so maybe, after trying on a few outfits, you wish your favorite pants, shorts or summery skirt looked more flattering or felt more comfortable, especially in the lower belly area. You know the region; it’s what some people call “muffin tops” or “love handles.” This is an area a lot of women find so hard to firm up. But when it is toned and tight, not only does it make your stomach look awesome, but your hips, butt, and legs look fantastic, too.
Even if your endgame isn’t a six pack, but just a nicely shaped midsection, the key to fabulous abs is a combination of toning, cardio, and nutrition.
Old-school, but effective
The truth of the matter is you’re not going to get great abs from crunches alone. That doesn’t mean you should completely forget about these exercises. They’re actually a great starting point because they target all the right muscles.
Did you know the abdominal or core area consists of three different muscle groups plus your back muscles? The rectus abdominis are the “six pack” muscles running from ribs to hips. The transverse abdominis hug or wrap around your midsection.
It is the obliques, though, that are responsible for any love handles…or lack thereof. These muscles run diagonally from the ribs to the front of the pelvis. When out of shape, they can slack and rest on top of the waistband of your jeans or shorts, giving name to the infamous “muffin top” look. When worked out and made strong, the obliques cut inward creating a defined and sexy waistline.
The key to targeting this set of abdominal muscles is to include a twist, literally, like a rowing crunch.
- Sit on the floor with knees bent.
- Lean back as far as you comfortably can while keeping a straight back.
- Pull your belly button in toward your spine to engage the abs.
- Clasp hands together in front of you with elbows pointing out.
- Keeping your back braced, twist to the left bringing your elbow slightly down toward the floor, but not touching it.
- Then come back to center before twisting to the right. Return to center after each twist.
- Repeat the whole move for 15 reps.
Toning the underlying muscles is only one part of the vanishing-ab-flab formula. Most women have a layer of fat covering our abdominal muscles. That’s why crunches alone rarely ever lead to flat stomachs. To melt away this fat so you can show off the muscles hiding behind it, you have to get moving. Yes, I mean sweat-producing, calorie-burning cardio.
You don’t have to become a competitive runner to get great cardio results. Even better than running at a steady pace for miles or just full-out sprinting all the time is alternating between the two intensity levels, or interval training. When you switch from a moderate pace to a higher intensity that cardio burst kicks your metabolism into high gear. The best part is that your metabolism stays in that super-productive mode for an extended time, even after you finish your workout. That means prolonged calorie burning.
- Warm-up: 4 minutes walking at a steady state—fast enough to get your heart rate up.
- 90 seconds moderate (on a scale of 1-10, keep the pace at 4-5)
- 90 seconds at level 7
- 90 seconds recovery (level 3-4)
- 90 seconds at level 8
- 90 seconds recovery
- 30 seconds at level 8-9
- Cool-down: 4 minutes steady
- Go through the full cycle FIVE times.
Want even more ideas on how to look great in your white jeans this summer? Here’s one that we don’t think about too often: water retention. When our bodies hold onto extra water, it emphasizes that pouchy look. Here’s how to keep belly bloating to a minimum:
• Swap water for sugary or alcoholic drinks.
Not only will water taste refreshing on hot days, but soda and alcohol add extra calories to your daily intake.
• Cut back on salt.
This mineral naturally makes us retain water, so ease up on it, especially on hot, humid days.
• Load up on fiber.
If you’re craving summer salads, add dandelion greens or spicy arugula for flavor and fiber. Another high-fiber favorite of mine is avocado, which is great in salads, with eggs, or spread over a piece of toasted whole-wheat or multi-grain bread.
• Drink your vegetables.
If you have a juicer at home, throw in some kale, spinach, cucumber, and celery with a little apple or lemon. No juicer? No problem. Skip the creamy smoothies and ask for a fresh green juice at your local juice bar.
Get ready white jeans… here we come!
I’d like to introduce you to your new best friend. His name is Gonzo. This Gonzo isn’t a Muppet alien with a big nose and an unrequited crush on Miss Piggy. Far from it. This Gonzo I’m talking about is an approach to exercise – a method that will help you burn MORE fat, in LESS amount of time.
Going Gonzo is another term for Burst training, or interval training, which uses short bursts of higher intensity when you work out. So for example, if you’re on a brisk walk for three minutes, then you do a one-minute burst, where you walk as fast as you can or you break into a run – that’s burst training. So how does it work?
First, it’s important to understand how to gauge the intensity levels of your workouts. You can do that with what I call your Perceived Exertion Scale.
Check out this video…
See that happy face? When you’re at about 60-75% of your maximum, you’re at that happy face level. That’s when you’re exercising at a nice, long, slow steady pace.
But when you push to a 75-85% that smile turns into a look of determination. You couldn’t carry on a conversation with your workout buddy, you’re focused, on a mission.
- Then, at 85-95%, you start to go Gonzo. Because that’s when you’re doing burst training. That’s when you’re going for broke. That’s where you make a Gonzo battle-cry face, because it’s an all-out effort that you can only keep up for a minute or two.
Here’s an example of how you can put it all together for an effective workout:
Warm up for 5 minutes to get your body loose and moving. Then:
30 seconds Happy Face Pace
30 seconds Determined Face Pace
60-90 seconds Gonzo Pace
Repeat this cycle 5 times.
Going Gonzo also helps you raise your Lactate Threshold. When you reach your lactate threshold, you’re starting to “feel the burn.” That’s the feeling of your body producing more of the waste product lactic acid than it can clear away. The more the lactic acid builds up, the more you feel the burn. The lactate threshold is what keeps you from pushing harder and breaking through your workout barriers. Check out this video that demonstrates how it works.
If you only work out at a steady state (in the happy face range), you never reach that limit. But when you push yourself to go Gonzo a few times a week by doing some burst training, here’s what happens:
You raise the calorie count of your workouts.
You train your body to clear lactic acid more efficiently, so you can work out at a harder level more easily.
You raise your metabolism for several hours afterward, so again, more calories burned more efficiently.
And you start to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which improve muscle tone, and, once again, this cranks up your body’s natural calorie-burning engines.
- When we go Gonzo and do burst training, we start to tap into those deeper fat stores. If you’re already an exerciser – and we just saw in your survey that most of you exercise pretty regularly – burst training is the key to breaking through any plateaus you might have reached – so if you’ve been working out and suddenly you stopped seeing results, burst training can help you break through that plateau.
That’s what makes going Gonzo such a powerful timesaver, and that’s why people with packed schedules use this type of training. It’s all about efficiency, and performing at your peak levels. And when you’re performing at your peak, you’re more likely to be the best version of yourself – at home, at work, and in your community.