I’m not sure there is a trait that is used more ubiquitously to shame women than the presence of cellulite. Case in point:
Uh…Scarlett Johansson does NOT look like hell. She looks freakin’ HAWT.
Listen folks. Cellulite is not a ‘problem’. It is not a flaw. Cellulite is a normal function of the way women’s bodies store fat. 80-90% of women have cellulite to some degree. Lean women have cellulite, healthy women have cellulite, vegan women have cellulite, paleo women have cellulite, celebrities have cellulite, body builders have cellulite, bikini models have cellulite, women in isolated cultures who still live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle have cellulite, women with access to unlimited amounts of plastic surgery have cellulite. Most of the women reading this have cellulite. You’re not flawed. You’re normal.
An Anatomy Lesson
Above is a depiction of the way women’s bodies store fat. From the Mayo Clinic:
“Cellulite is caused by fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle, with the fat lying between. As the fat cells accumulate, they push up against the skin, while the long, tough cords are pulling down. This creates an uneven surface or dimpling.”
This is a matter of structural mechanics, folks. It’s not caused by poor circulation, PUFAs, animal foods, sugar, toxins, ‘negative energy’, poor diet, laziness, or any of the other novel and ridiculous things charlatans have come up with to sell you ‘cellulite cures’. Men are less prone to cellulite for three reasons: their connective tissues have more of a criss-cross pattern, their skin is actually thicker so any unevenness in fat below the skin is less evident, and they store more fat viscerally (around their internal organs) than subcutaneously (between the skin and muscle). Ie, their bodies are structurally different.
In 2008, Dr. Molly Wanner, from Harvard Medical School, did an in-depth review of cellulite treatments and the evidence supporting them. You can see the abstract here. I got my hands on the full text and wasn’t surprised at all by the conclusion she reached after examining the evidence:
“The best of the currently available treatments have, at most, shown mild improvements in the appearance of cellulite, most of which are not maintained over time.”
In other words, even the best treatments produce only mild changes and those changes are temporary. When you consider how expensive cellulite treatments are, and how painful and time consuming some of them can be, I have to ask WHY we are willing to spend the money and put ourselves through the discomfort for such a minimal return on our investment. I’ll tell you why: because the media and our culture have made us feel ashamed of something that is perfectly normal and that almost ALL of us have. And in response, we spend our emotional and financial resources chasing an impossible ideal. It’s time to get the hell over it. We have FAR far far better things to do with our time and energy and money than ‘fight’ cellulite.
And here’s another thing, for the single women reading. Once a man has seen a couple real-life women naked, he knows that real-life women have cellulite and stretch marks and jiggly thighs and other normal little traits that the media tries to convince us are flaws. Men who expect women to be perfect are men who have more experience with porn and magazines and blow-up dolls than real-life women. Any man who judges your worth on the basis of the presence of cellulite is only doing you the favor of letting you know that he doesn’t have much experience with women, and that he isn’t worth your time. There are plenty of men out there who know what real-life women look like, and who will value you for who you are and not the dimpliness of your thighs. Do yourself the favor of not wasting your time on the former.
Check out my ebook Taking Up Space for more on body image, cultural ideals, and eating to support a healthy weight.