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Cellulite Explained

I think we can safely assume that cellulite does exist, whatever some doctors may say to the contrary, and that it is a major problem for thousands of women in the world today.

Every woman who has cellulite would rather not have it. But having been assured by countless medical ‘experts’ that the stuff doesn’t exist, the cellulite sufferer has assumed it is just something she has to put up with, just another of the difficulties which go with being a woman.

This is not so. Nature never meant us to have cellulite and we would all be a lot better off without it. But before attempting any successful anti-cellulite regime it is essential to understand exactly what cellulite is, why it develops, and what will make it go away. It becomes possible to get rid of it once you understand why it forms.

So how do you know whether you’ve got cellulite in the first place? One of the main characteristics is dimples. You know you’ve got cellulite on your legs if they have a dimply appearance when you stand up. Another factor is that cellulite areas feel cold to the touch. This is because circulation is poor in those areas.

Almost always, the skin on cellulite areas is whiter and more difficult to tan than other skin.

Cellulite is not flab, and it is not fat. Flabby skin does not have the dimpled appearance, and nor does ordinary fat. If you pinch an area containing cellulite you will find that it stays up for far longer than skin pinched, say, on the forearm. This indicates that the fat cells are waterlogged. If it is allowed to accumulate, it becomes hard and grainy. In the early stages it is soft because of the presence of fluid, but becomes progressively harder as the years go by. The harder cellulite is, the more difficult it becomes to lose, although it is never impossible.

The presence of cellulite is nothing to do with being overweight. You can be verging on anorexia and still have cellulite deposits. Conversely, you can be extremely fat and still not have any cellulite on your legs.

If you do have it, though, you should do all you can to get rid of the stuff. For it indicates that your body is in a toxic condition. If the cellulite is left untreated, the toxicity could lead to more serious conditions, such as arthritis or permanent water retention. The presence of cellulite is a warning that your body needs a thorough cleanse and detoxification.

Is cellulite a new problem, brought about by the artificiality of modern living, or has it always existed? Of course, it is difficult to be certain, as the concept and treatment did not come into being until about forty years ago. But, looking at certain Old Master paintings, it seems as though cellulite certainly existed in the seventeenth century. Many of the nudes in Rubens’ paintings, for instance, seem to have loads of cellulite. Patricia Davis, who was one of the first British aromatherapists to develop a successful cellulite treatment, believes that it is not a new phenomenon at all.

‘Most of Rembrandt’s nude paintings were of his second wife – and boy, did she have cellulite,’ Patricia said.‘All the characteristics are there – the dimpliness, the whiteness, the bulges. The classic painting of a woman with cellulite is the one where she is stepping into water semi-nude, and you just see the texture of her thighs, which are a dead giveaway.

1t seems extremely reasonable to suppose that cellulite existed in Holland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After all, the Dutch diet was high in dairy produce and the rich women would have led extremely sedentary lives. So I doubt that it’s all that new, although few people would have bothered about it much when thighs were never normally exposed.’

Patricia Davis says that she first became aware of cellulite as a medical problem in France around 1952, when she was studying ballet there. ‘At that time, the condition was attributed to water retention, and was considered treatable,’ she said. ‘In fact, we now know that although cellulite and water retention are linked, they are not exactly the same thing.

‘The standard treatment in those days was hydrotherapy at one of the famous spas, where extremely fierce jets of water would be applied to the affected areas. Hydrotherapy is the medicinal equivalent to a jacuzzi. The treatment worked, because you got a lot of pummelling, which would drive the cellulite out of the fat cells and help it to disperse. This treatment was backed up by lots of ordinary massage, mud baths and a “nature cure” diet.

‘In the 1950s the condition was thought to be caused by poor kidney function, which meant that excess water could not be excreted. Now of course, we know that cellulite is caused by a sluggish lymphatic system. But certainly in France it was always recognised as a woman-only problem.’

Patricia became interested in the question of diet and health when, at the early age of twenty-six, she developed severe arthritis. She gave up dancing when her first child was born, and soon her arthritis was so bad that she could not even walk down the street.

‘My doctor told me that I had given up dancing too quickly, and that arthritis was always a danger for dancers and athletes who suddenly stop. I was put on some drugs which were later found to be highly dangerous, but the condition just got worse. In those days- 1950-nobody ever spoke about curing yourself through diet. It would have been considered extremely cranky.

‘But one day a friend said, “Why don’t you try the nature cure?” She lent me a book written in the 193OS, and everything I read made complete sense. I put myself straightaway on what we would now call a healthy diet, and cured my own arthritis completely. Since going on the nature cure I have never had even a twinge.

‘That opened my eyes to the powerful effect food can have on bodies. Having made myself completely symptom-free I helped other people with arthritis, and then realised I could treat those with chronic illnesses.’

When her children were young Patricia ran a ballet school, but later she trained as an aromatherapist and masseuse and set up business in the mid 1960s. It was then that she began to realize the extent of the cellulite problem. In those days, she said, women did not come to her for their cellulite, as most had no idea they were suffering from any kind of treatable condition. They just assumed that the lumps and bumps were somehow supposed to be there, just the way they were made.

‘Very many of my clients were coming to me because of a weight problem’ she said. ‘But as I massaged them, I realized that many hadn’t got a weight problem at all but were suffering from cellulite instead.

I would tell them that it wasn’t fat they had, but cellulite, and they would say: but what’s that?’

Since there were no textbooks to guide her, Patricia Davis began treating cellulite with hard massage and essential oils. ‘It was simply trial and error,’ she told me. ‘I knew from my aromatherapy training that certain essential oils did help the body to cleanse and detoxify, and that others were stimulating for circulation. The effect of certain essential oils has been very well documented in France, and I simply applied this knowledge to the cellulite problem.

‘I knew all about detoxifying diets from treating my own arthritis, and so I just put the two bits of knowledge together. If, as I suspected, cellulite was a toxic condition, then the diet plus massage and aroma therapy treatments would get rid of it. And of course, it did.

‘But I have to say that I and other aroma therapists were proceeding very much from theory. In the early days, it was a matter of backing a hunch, as we had no medical textbooks to guide us. It was all very difficult, as our treatments and suggestions were being completely derided by orthodox doctors, who regarded us as charlatans and cranks.’

In many ways, the story of cellulite can be compared to the pre-menstrual tension saga. In the 1920s and 19308 there was no mention whatever of PMT in any medical textbook. So far as the mainly male medical profession was concerned, the condition simply didn’t exist. All ‘female problems’ were just evidence that women were the weaker sex and had to be humoured like children. And of course, all doctors knew the correct cure for period problems of any kind – go away and have a baby.

It wasn’t until gynaecologist Dr Katharine Dalton began to ask pertinent questions about hormonal fluctuations in women that the syndrome began to be recognised, named, and written up in medical literature. This was in 1953. When Dr Dalton began training as a doctor she was already married with three children, and had noticed that whenever she became pregnant the headaches, depression, heaviness and bloating. that she suffered from just before a period, went away. Of course, in those days, the term ‘premenstrual tension’ had not been invented. But through study and research, Dr Dalton came to realise that it was a medical condition suffered by very many women, and that it was treatable.

Now, of course, her conclusions are accepted by all doctors, several of which have set up special PMT clinics. PMT is big business nowadays, and huge sums of money are being made out of patent treatments such as evening primrose oil and vitamin B6. Consequently it is hard to realise that only forty years ago doctors were assuring women there was no such thing as PMT. Problems associated with menstruation were, like many women-only complaints, seen as trivial.

Over the past few years there has been much research on PMT. Since about 1980 it has been established that there is a definite connection between PMT and the lack of certain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. This explosion of knowledge on the subject means that there is no longer any reason for women to suffer from PMT – at least, not in silence.

The same thing now needs to happen with cellulite.

Unlike PMT, which comes and goes, cellulite is an ever-present problem. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that it is caused by the wrong kind of diet, stress, prescription drugs, a sedentary lifestyle, too much tea, coffee and alcohol, cigarettes, poor circulation and a sluggish lymphatic system.

Although cellulite has probably always existed, it seems reasonable to suppose that the problem is getting worse. The main reason for this is that more women than ever now smoke, drink, eat processed foods and take prescription drugs, such as the pill. All of these alter hormonal balance and may well affect the workings of vital organs.

The other factor which has a bearing on our new awareness of cellulite is that it is only in the latter half of this century that women generally began exposing their legs and thighs. In the past, that was confined to artists’ models. In the mid-1960s, with the advent of miniskirts, the standard explanation of bulgy thighs was that they were caused by cold weather. If girls were daft enough to walk around in the middle of winter with skirts halfway up their thighs they must expect some bulges, doctors seriously said.

They then explained cellulite by saying that body developed extra layers of fat to cope with the cold. For a time, we all believed this. But then when miniskirts went out of fashion to be replaced by midi skirts and the bulges still didn’t go away, that theory fell into disuse.

To me, the most telling evidence for the existence of cellulite is the neat appearance of French women over ‘a certain age’. Whereas the majority of middle-aged English women have thighs absolutely thick with cellulite, it is noticeably absent from the legs of French ladies. Now, either French women are constructed completely differently from their English counterparts, or they have learned something that we still need to learn – that cellulite is a problem which can be treated.

Not that cellulite is a problem confined to older women by any means. The condition can appear as early as the age of twelve or thirteen and then remain for life, unless treated.