I have cellulite.
I'm not sure there's any subject more ubiquitous to women than the admission and discussion of cellulite. It's a fact that 85 to 90% of all women have it - skinny, overweight, tall, short, young, and old. A genetic condition, it dimples our thighs and contours our butts and sometimes pops up on arms and stomachs. A January 2013 study commissioned by Cynosure Inc. about women and cellulite revealed that women who report having cellulite have a different perspective on how they appear than those without cellulite. On a ten-point scale, with 1 being 'extremely unattractive' and 10 being 'extremely attractive,' women with cellulite rated their own appearance on average lower than women without cellulite (6.4 vs. 6.7, respectively). In fact, ninety-seven percent of women with cellulite shared that given the opportunity they would change a part of their body. Of those, 82% would change their stomach, followed by their upper legs (62%), then 50% their buttocks and lastly, 37% their arms. Only 23% of women with cellulite find their lower legs most attractive, while 18% selected buttocks, 10% choose upper legs and 4% believe their stomach is most attractive.
The results confirmed that women with cellulite have tried many approaches to hide the bumpy appearance on their bodies. This includes, but is not limited to, avoiding certain types of clothing (72%), keeping the lights off while intimate (28%) and shunning communal fitting rooms (15%).
The very presence of cellulite is enough to send us into a shame spiral involving the purchase of expensive caffeine laden creams, "skin tightening" treatments, and hours spent perspiring on cardio equipment. There are complicated diets, liposuction, juice fasts, massage, dry brushing and endomology.
And yet it remains, stubbornly mocking our attempts to eradicate it.
America is hyper-obsessed with body image, pairing photoshopped images of emaciated models alongside scintillating exposes of celebrities with cellulite. Headlines scream both about the latest actress they've exposed as anorexic, and those they've "caught" with visible cellulite. This is presented as something shocking and downright dreadful. Our culture tell us, in no uncertain terms, that cellulite is just Not Okay.
I started getting cellulite about nine years ago (I'm 39.) Despite the fact that I was somewhat underweight, there it was, peeking out on the backs of my upper thighs. I thought about my cellulite a lot. I wondered if women whispered about it when I was at the community pool in my swimsuit. I worried that it affected the fit of my clothing, and quit wearing yoga pants, even in the privacy of my house. The shame of having such a common genetic condition sent me to the internet, where I researched skin tightening products. I seriously considered liposuction. I restricted my diet down to the bare bones.
The cellulite stayed.
These days, I don't think about my cellulite at all. I've found comfort in the fact that there really isn't anything I can do about it and that there was nothing I did to cause it, aside from being born into a family of genetically cursed women. 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.”
I have to ask myself why so many women are willing to shell out ridiculous amounts of money and sometimes even undergo surgical procedures to attempt to eradicate something nearly all of us have. And it comes down to this: the media and out culture have made us feel ashamed about something we have literally no control over, is perfectly normal, and almost all of us have. In response, we spend our time, energy, and hard earned money chasing after an unattainable ideal.
Screw that message. We can do so much better.
Here's what it comes down to: Cellulite is not a problem. It is not a flaw. It's a normal function of the way women's bodies store fat. Lean women have cellulite. Healthy women have cellulite. Celebrities have cellulite. Vegan women, paleo women, gluten-free women, lactose-free women have cellulite. Body builder women have it. Bikini models have it. Women in isolated hunter-gatherer tribes have it. Women with unlimited access to plastic surgery have it. Most of the women reading this blog post have it. There's nothing wrong with you.
Last night I took a good hard look at my cellulite. Then I had a slice of red velvet cake.
It was delicious.