Anti-cellulite treatments:
Surgery, diet, exercise

This is the last part of the series on anti-cellulite treatments. In the last few weeks, we covered creams, pills and machines. Today, we will look at surgery, diet, exercise.

A good and honest plastic or dermatological surgeon will tell you that liposuction cannot treat cellulite. In fact, if not done properly, it can make cellulite look even worse. Cellulite is found in the topmost or superficial layer of fat underneath the skin. Surgeons do liposuction on the second or deep layer of fat. They stay away from the superficial layer because it is full of nerves and blood vessels making the chances of nerve damage and uncontrolled bleeding high.

There are, however, some surgeons who claim to have developed special techniques to specifically treat cellulite. One such technique involves using a V-shaped device to selectively cut the fibrous bands of connective tissue that cause the dimpled appearance.

Another technique not only involves cutting the bands but also injecting the patient's own fat into the dimples to further smoothen out the skin.

These surgical techniques have been done on only a limited number of patients so there are still questions about the long-term results. Critics point out that the fibrous bands eventually grow back and the injected fat is usually reabsorbed by the body.

While losing weight will help somewhat to reduce the appearance of cellulite by making the fat cells smaller, there is no special diet that will specifically eradicate cellulite. So stay away from advice like, "Don't eat cottage cheese unless you want to have cottage cheese thighs."

Aerobic exercise (walking, running, swimming, dancing, etc.) will help to make your fat layer smaller but it won't do much to change the structure of your connective tissue. Resistance exercise (lifting weights, rubber bands, body weight exercise like yoga, etc.) is helpful in slightly improving the appearance of cellulite because a firm leg and buttocks' muscles make the skin smoother and tauter. Two years ago, Dr. Wayne Westcott proved this scientifically.

In his experiment, 16 women, ages 26-66, were put on a 20-minute, three times a week program of aerobic exercise, resistance exercise and stretching for two months. The women lost an average of one inch in their hips. Seventy percent of the women reported much less cellulite on their legs. Ultrasound measurements showed a 1-millimeter reduction of fat in the superficial layer where cellulite is found and a 1-mm increase in the muscle layer, which accounted for the look of smoother firmer thighs.

Being an exercise advocate, I wish I could say that exercise is the solution to all your cellulite woes but, unfortunately, it isn't. I know from experience (my own and that of many clients over the years) that cellulite looks better when the thighs are firm. Just don't expect a major miracle.

If you are a woman with unwanted dimples on your thighs and rear end, you are not alone. Eighty-five percent of post-adolescent women have it. Some of the world's most beautiful women have it. Cindy Crawford admitted on the Oprah Winfrey show that she has cellulite. Joanna Connell, makeup artist on "Baywatch" for nine years, told Good Housekeeping magazine that the actresses on the show needed a "little help" in camouflaging their cellulite with fake tans and body makeup. True enough, pictures of former "Baywatch" babe Pamela Lee Anderson's dimpled thighs have been ungraciously published in tabloids like the National Enquirer. Goldie Hawn, Princess Diana and Morgan Fairchild, among others, have been unlucky enough to have the cellulite on their thighs immortalized forever in print by the paparazzi.

None of the celebrities mentioned above are unfit and overweight. In fact, they are all (or were in the case of Princess Diana) in tip-top physical shape. And yet, they all have cellulite to a certain degree. The reason cellulite is so hard to get rid of is it is an inherited female-specific condition involving an irregular pattern of fibrous connective tissue and fat cells that creates an appearance of dimpled skin. Treating cellulite is akin to dyeing your hair. You can only cover it up temporarily. You cannot permanently change your skin and connective tissue structure or your hair color for that matter. So whatever cellulite treatment you decide to go for, first investigate if it really produces significant results then be prepared to have continuous maintenance treatments to sustain those results.

The final frontier in cellulite treatment is gene therapy. Scientists speculate that since cellulite is an inherited trait and it is specific to females, there is probably a cellulite gene on the X chromosome. Gene therapy would involve replacing that gene so that your body would now be following a different set of instructions to replace old cells in your skin and connective tissue and eventually you would have cellulite-free buttocks and thighs. When will this be available? Not any time soon but it will probably be in our lifetime because the potential financial reward is great.


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