Sudden cellulite (or when cellulite “develops overnight”)

"I woke up one morning with cellulite painted all over my legs"

Imagine the following scenario, something which I hear about all too often from my clients: you wake up one morning and suddenly realise that someone has "painted cellulite" all over your legs.

You swear that cellulite wasn't there last night, or last month for that matter, and are freaking out. "I used to have such great legs, what happened?", you wonder and turn to Google for answers. Apparently, "sudden cellulite" is an all too common Google query, as evidenced by the Google search auto-complete function.

 

6+1 "sudden cellulite" scenarios

The fact is that cellulite does not develop overnight or in a few weeks, it usually develops slowly and insipidly under the surface over many years (this aesthetic condition is aptly called "pre-cellulite") and you only realise it's existence when it is already fully established ("cellulite-proper").

However, in some cases, cellulite can indeed develop (or if already there, it can become significantly worse) in just a few short months. There are 6+1 common scenarios when this happens, which are analysed below.

 

Sudden inactivity

This is a very common scenario with clients at my clinic. Clients quite often say that...

"For the last few months I had to study very hard for my master's diploma and I was literally stuck on my chair all day for months on end"... "I used to exercise a lot but since I moved to my new job this year I am bound to my desk for fourteen hours a day"... "I had a skiing accident and had to be in bed for three months"... "I suffered from chronic fatigue and I was very inactive for years".

What is common in all those scenarios is "severe inactivity". Inactivity favours the proliferation of adipocytes (fat cells) at the expense of fibroblasts (collagen-producing cells), so you effectively swap firmness for "flab", i.e. fat and skin looseness.

This is a simple case of "if you don't use it, you lose it": if you don't need firm skin because you don't move much, you will lose some skin. And since not moving usually implies excess calories (i.e. excess fat looking to be stored somewhere), fat cells will take the place of collagen cells.

Furthermore, inactivity also weakens blood vessel, lymphatic vessel and capillary function, which means less blood circulation, less lymphatic drainage and consequently more water retention.

More fat, more water retention and less skin firmness are three of the main hallmarks of cellulite. Inactivity is a major cause of cellulite, so don't blame the extra cup of coffee you have been having at your new job. It is the inactivity that caused the cellulite, not the coffee.

 

Starting on the contraceptive pill

No doctor will tell you - either because they don't care or because they don't know - but is is a fact: the pill causes cellulite. Period (excuse the pan)...

Hormonal contraceptives, including pills, patches, medicated coils and injections, contain high amounts of artificial estrogens. Estrogen, on the other hand, is a major cause of cellulite, due to it's stimulating effect on adipocytes that are found under the surface of the skin around the thigh, buttock, hip and other areas. Oestrogen is also the reason why women develop cellulite and men generally don't.

I have seen countless clients who suddenly - in the course of a few months - developed cellulite after going on the "pill". In some cases the change is very evident, so the client can visibly see the difference. In some others, though, the effect is more gradual and the person blames the cellulite on diet, lack of exercise, coffee, not drinking enough water etc. Of course the latter do contribute to cellulite, but the main triggering factor is excess estrogen, not lack of water etc.

 

Pregnancy

Another case where estrogen levels in the body soar is pregnancy, especially the last few months of it. As described above, estrogen boosts the creation of cellulite, always in combination with an excess of calorie consumption and inactivity, both of which occur during pregnancy, in most cases.

The solution to this is simple: keep exercising and keep eating healthily and not excessively, in order to minimise cellulite during pregnancy. And afterwards, have a course of strong anti-cellulite treatments and apply a quality anti-cellulite cream, to reduce the little cellulite created.

 

Excessive sugar consumption

Sugar, in all it's forms (white sugar, brown sugar, sweet juices, honey, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup etc.), is the number one cause of cellulite today. Women consume several times more sugar today than just a few decades ago and the results are visible: cellulite has increased as fast as sugar consumption did, and now even girls as young as 14 or 15 have cellulite.

Sugar creates insulin spikes and lows in the bloodstream which encourage fat deposition (basically sugar becomes fat in the body) and cravings, which lead to further sugar or other food consumption. Excessive fat accumulation is the main aspect of cellulite.

Sugar also damages proteins in the body via a process called glycation, including proteins such as collagen and elastin that keep the skin and blood vessels firm and elastic. This leads to skin and blood vessel ageing and overall deterioration. Skin deterioration, skin looseness and poor circulation are three important aspects of cellulite.

Sugar also creates a state of low grade inflammation in the body and chronic, sub-clinical inflammation is one of the aspects of cellulite.

Developing a habit of regularly eating sugary foods (such as muffins, cakes, chocolates, ice cream, fizzy drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, croissants etc.), in very little time can create cellulite where there used to be nice, firm skin: just a few months are enough.

 

Excessive alcohol consumption

About 18 years ago, when I wasn't yet involved with cellulite reduction, I used to see a client who had the perfect body. She used to exercise a lot and her legs were toned, both inside (muscles) and out (skin).

She was my client for about a year (I used to do bodywork and nutrition back then) and then at some point she stopped coming for treatments, as her life became very unsettled, due to marital problems.

Then, more than a year later, she started coming again for treatments. Luckily her marriage went back on track, but in the process, during the tough times, she developed a habit of drinking wine - a little bit, but several times a day - for several months. I suppose, she was self-medicating with a bit of wine throughout the day.

She did not develop any alcohol addiction or anything similarly serious, but when I looked at her body I could not believe my eyes: her once perfectly toned legs were covered with cellulite, which was also evident all over the body. Clearly, the excessive calories from alcohol combined with the toxic effect of alcohol on the liver had a pronounced effect on her body.

Fortunately, she went back on track and started exercising intensively again and several months later she managed to get rid most of her cellulite, but not all. This is because, once cellulite gets established, it can not be completely eliminated with ANY method - even the apparently "miracle" ones - due to the permanent damage caused on the connective tissues under the skin. However, with the right treatments and creams and a good dose of healthy living cellulite can be reduced to a large extent.

Drinking alcohol - especially binge-drinking - is a major cause of "sudden cellulite" creation.

 

Fast weight gain

Gradually putting on weight may not lead to the creation of significant amounts of cellulite, especially if you follow a relatively healthy lifestyle (I use the word "relatively" because the fact that you put on weight means that your lifestyle is not that healthy).

However, suddenly putting on a lot of weight, will almost certainly lead to the appearance of cellulite. This is because with excessive calorie consumption there is an excessive stimulation of fat cell proliferation (creation of new fat cells) and some of them will proliferate in the deeper layers of the skin (cellulite) to accommodate the excess fat.

Also, fast weight gain almost certainly implies inactivity combined with carb consumption and possibly fat, sugar and/or alcohol consumption and too much estrogen.

 

Too much London (New York, Milano, Paris...)

It is a common theme at my practice to see clients who complain that their cellulite developed or became significantly worse after coming to live in London.

London is a very international city and hundreds of thousands of people from the UK, the EU and all over the world come here to study and work every year. Of course, it is not that there is something in the air or the water of London that causes women to develop cellulite or put on weight.

It is the reduced exercise levels, either because of the weather or due to starting a demanding new job or demanding new year at university, which does not allow them to exercise as much as they want to.

Add to that the beer culture after work (granted, it is usually wine or cocktails for the ladies, but it's still alcohol), the generally fattening, unhealthy food found at work / school cafeterias, pubs, coffee shops and restaurants and the sugary snacks to cope with the moody weather, and you have a recipe for weight gain and cellulite.

Starting on the pill for acne, unsettled periods or just good old contraception after finding love, adds the icing on the cake...

 

Cellulite: a condition of excess

I don't know if you've noticed, but the main theme in all the above cases is excess. Cellulite is a condition of excess. Normally, it takes years of relatively poor diet and relatively sedentary living for cellulite to appear - with the speed of it's appearance depending on every woman's genetic make-up. However, it can only take just a few months of excess estrogen, sugar, alcohol, inactivity or food in general for cellulite to appear.

 

Unnatural living

There is also another word that comes to mind: unnatural.

Being so sedentary is totally unnatural and a feature of modern life in the west. Sugar is an unnatural food whose consumption only sky-rocketed the last few years. Alcohol is equally unnatural and the same applies to putting artificial hormones in our bodies.

Clearly, cellulite is a combination of excess and unnatural living and that's where we should start if we want to avoid it. Eating healthily and exercising a lot is a good start. Applying a good, highly concentrated cellulite cream with natural active ingredients is another step. And having a quality cellulite treatment which stimulates natural processes in the body is yet another.