There comes a point in everyone’s life when they first encounter the idea of their body being a series of ‘problem areas’ or obstacles to overcome, fix and change.. For the first few years of life, most of us are lucky enough to see our bodies for what they do rather than what they look like. We climb trees, feel our arms slice through water as we swim, and eat when we’re hungry. That changes though. I remember reading the word cellulite in a magazine while I was waiting to see my GP when I was about twelve. ‘How To Get Rid Of Unsightly Cellulite’, the headline read in big black letters. ‘Unsightly’ was in bold.
As soon as I found out what cellulite was, I couldn’t stop noticing it. Roaring red circles around the thighs of celebrities on beaches that showed a hint of it, across three or four pages of a gossip magazine’s ‘summer body special’. These images of models and actresses with cellulite, taken without their permission as they tried to enjoy a holiday didn’t make me feel better about my body – but I couldn’t stop reading them.
I pinched the flesh on my thighs and felt disgusted at the sight of the soft dimples that appeared under my skin. I wouldn’t wear shorts, skirts or dresses without opaque tights and the thought of going swimming made fluttery waves of panic course through my body. The concept of going bare-legged anywhere was just a no-go.
Hours of research went into what food to eat and avoid, what body brushes to stimulate circulation to buy, and I compared myself to other girls whose legs remained smooth when they sat down. This went on for a few years, and so too did the hope that I would finally get rid of it and feel free to dress however I wanted.
The thing is though, cellulite isn’t a ‘problem’ that you can tackle for all eternity with expensive products, following a strict diet and drinking water 24/7. Instead, there are ways to stop caring about it, and I highly recommend you take that route instead.
So, what is cellulite exactly?
The connective tissue in your body that separates the fat cells from the skin is made up of a substance called collagen. This tissue has a honeycomb-like structure (yum), and sometimes the bands of collagen can be weaker in some areas – these are the areas you might see a dimpled effect. You’re more likely to see it around your hips and thighs, but some people get it on their stomach or arms too.
Why do some people have it while others don’t?
Let’s be real here. Countless advertisements from the beauty industry tell us that cellulite is a specialised condition that you need to spend lots of money on to get rid of. During the summer you’ll notice there will be a push to sell creams, lotions and treatments that apparently get rid of cellulite for good – you can’t possibly go to the beach with less-than-perfect thighs, apparently.
What they don’t say is that 90% of women have it or will develop it in their lifetimes. That’s nine out of ten women, of all shapes and size and all walks of life. Like stretch marks, it’s just your body changing and developing as you grow and live in the world. Some people are more genetically predisposed to it, and it doesn’t have anything to do with how much you weigh or whether you exercise often or not. It just happens!
Many ‘cellulite-eliminating’ products do so apparently by getting rid of ‘toxins’ from the body. By taking the supplement or slathering on the lotion, these toxins that cause cellulite are apparently removed. This is a complete lie with ZERO scientific evidence to back it up.
Creams that contain caffeine are marketed as a way to achieve Barbie-smooth skin, but any effect they have is totally temporary until you stop using them. Be sceptical about workout gear that claims to reduce the appearance of cellulite. This marketing gimmick will just leave you out of money with only a pair of overpriced leggings to show for it.
Much like bogus detox diets, these products just play on your fears and insecurities in order to get you to fork out your hard-earned money.
Being kind to yourself
Now more than ever we can see a diverse range of bodies represented in the public eye. The power of social media means that people are now seeing themselves represented. Instead of discussing ways to minimise ‘imperfections’ and desperately trying to fit into one single acceptable standard of beauty, people are celebrating and redefining what beauty really is.
The only reason we see things like cellulite as a problem is because we’re sold the idea that it is. Companies have successfully marketed a perfectly normal and common genetic trait as a gross eyesore to be body-brushed and exfoliated away. Thoughts like this can make something as fun and carefree as a trip to the beach turn into a spiral of anxiety.
It’s important to remember that your body is the only one you’ll ever have, and you should look after it. Think about all the cool stuff you could do with the time you might have spent being angry at yourself for something you really can’t control. You could learn a language, make a Victoria sponge cake or finally perfect your winged liner. It’s a good idea to counteract negative thoughts about your body the best you can.
Ask yourself, ‘would I tell my best friend she shouldn’t wear that cute swimsuit because of how her body naturally stores fat?’ Whether it’s cellulite or thigh gaps, there will always be a new part of your body that you’ll be told to fix, smooth or scrub. None of it matters. Eat good meals when you’re hungry, drink lots of water and be kind to yourself.
Image: Katie Edmunds