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23 Things That Cause Cellulite

Avoid the cottage cheese cellulite dimples by tackling these common culprits!

Cellulite is one of those panic-inducing words that has been freaking out women of all ages for years. I remember my mom giving me that look if I added cheese to anything I was trying to enjoy. "Maybe skip it or you'll see it on your thighs," she'd always warn. I'd roll my eyes; but as much as I hate admitting it, my mom was onto something.

Cellulite is a pest that causes that dimpled-looking fat on your thighs, hips, butt, and belly. It's tough to get rid of it, especially since it's the DNA card some of us were dealt—but there are ways to prevent it (or at least slow it down). Here are 23 things you not have known were causing cellulite—and what you can do about it! Bookmark these recipes that reduce cellulite as your next step, too!

Sitting at Your Desk All Day

woman bored stressed work laptop

If you're lucky enough to have a job that doesn't require you to sit all day, we have some good news: you're a step ahead in the war against cellulite. But if you can't help but be chained to a desk all day, it's not all doom and gloom, since small changes can go a big distance. Dr. Jill Waibel, founder and owner of The Miami Dermatology and Laser in Institute, recommends spending a certain portion of the day standing up at your desk, "or simply take small breaks to walk around your building." It's all about small changes in your daily routine to help you stick to a healthier style of living.

Lack of Muscle

tired gym workout overtraining

"Building up muscle in these target areas [such as the back of your legs] will help decrease the appearance of dimpling skin," says NY Health and Wellness fitness specialist Joselle Valentine. "For the back of the leg, try a single leg deadlift or hamstring curls on a stability ball. The idea is to increase lean muscle mass which ultimately will decrease the appearance of cellulite in a significant way."

Poor Nutrition

junk food fridge

Eating a lot of refined and processed foods encourages cellulite to form. "The skin is the largest organ of detoxification in the body, and a chemical and impurity-laden diet will attempt partial excretion through the skin, where toxicities and metabolites can bundle together in tissues," says Brandon Mentore, Sports Nutritionist. "Make sure you eat a diet of nutrient-dense, natural foods," like these healthy foods that give you glowing skin.

A Leaky Gut

doctor and patient

"Perforations in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract can cause undigested food particles and metabolites to infiltrate into the tight junctions of cells and tissues," explains Mentore. "These are highly stressful and toxic to the body, which will respond by quarantining these toxins into insulated cellular pockets and worsening the appearance and amount of cellulite. Make sure your digestion is up to par."


couple eating donuts junk food

High levels of inflammation due to stress, poor nutrition, food intolerances, and oxidative stress can worsen cellulite. "One of the many facets attributed to the inflammatory process is swelling at the cellular level. The more often your tissues are inflamed, the more swollen they will appear," explains Mentore. "Quench inflammation with vegetables and supplementation."

Staying in Static Positions

television watching

Staying in the same position for a long time—whether it's standing or sitting—can affect the natural rhythm and flow of your circulatory system. "Varicose veins are a sign of altered circulatory routes due to static positions and lack of movement," says Mentore. "They reroute circulation pathways to relieve the stress, which can increase cellulite because cellulite naturally has less of a blood supply and lower level of hydration than normal tissue." Bottom line: Do whatever you can not to sit or stand for too long without changing positions.


bottled restaurant water

Since the human body is composed of about 60 percent water, it makes perfect sense that dehydration plays a big role in cellulite buildup under the skin. Not getting enough water can cause toxic buildup in the fat cells that's difficult for the body to metabolize—and contributes to the cottage cheese texture of cellulite. Also, dehydration causes thinner, weaker skin—and when the skin is weakened, it has a much greater tendency to show cellulite. So, drinking plenty of water can aid your body in metabolizing fat, ridding itself of toxins, and hiding cellulite via thicker skin.

Too Much Salt Intake

woman salting water

Too much salt causes swelling, which affects the appearance of cellulite. "When combined with poor quality skin, the swelling can happen between the skin areas like a honeycomb showing signs of cellulite," explains Dr. Ryan Neinstein, a plastic surgeon based in New York City.

Yo-Yo Dieting

hungry not eating

You know how after you've washed your favorite yoga pants one too many times they lose their ability to snap back? Think of your skin in the same in terms of when you're constantly losing and gaining and losing and gaining weight; one of the effects of yo-yo dieting includes making you more likely to develop cellulite. "The collagen in our skin was not designed to stretch and shrink," explains Neinstein. "The [habit of yo-yo dieting] damages it and allows the skin to look uneven."

Too Much Sun Exposure

women in bikini's sharing soda

If you're looking to avoid and/or reduce the appearance of cellulite, stay away from the sun (and slather on the sunscreen if you can't stay away). "Damage from the sun is the number one way to ruin the quality of your skin and give it a rough, aged appearance," says Neinstein.

Not Having Yearly Physical Exams

heart health

Not having medical checkups periodically is a bad habit because you can miss discovering things such as hormone imbalances with your thyroid or an estrogen overload that can increase the risk of cellulite.

Not Doing HIIT


"High-intensity interval training is the most effective and efficient fat-burning form of cardiovascular training there is," explains GYMGUYZ Founder and CEO Josh York. "Given that cellulite is comprised of fat tissue, reducing overall body fat will help reduce the appearance of cellulite."


asian family

Sometimes, it might not matter how hard you try to prevent or get rid of cellulite; there may come a point where you just have to accept that it's the genetic card you were dealt. If your mother and grandmother had cellulite, you have a better chance of developing it. But if your mother and grandmother did not have cellulite, you're not guaranteed to avoid cellulite if you're not following a healthy lifestyle.

Eating Cheese

lose weight woman dairy cheese

Processed cheeses—like feta—can carry 400 milligrams of salt in a quarter-cup serving. All that sodium causes water retention—which can make cellulite more visible.

Not Eating Real Food

eating junk food

"Kick processed foods and sugar to the curb and tuck into anti-inflammatory foods like fresh berries, wild caught salmon, avocados and olive oil," suggests fitness trainer Kacy Duke. "Drink plenty of water and green tea to stay hydrated and keep flushing your system too."

Drinking Alcohol

woman with alcohol

Alcoholic beverages won't cause cellulite, but alcohol constricts blood vessels in the skin, which makes your cellulite worse. And let's not forget that alcohol is just all "empty calories" that can lead to weight gain and doesn't provide any nutrients. Alcoholic beverages promote fluid retention and increase fat deposits in areas like your thighs, arms, abdomen, and glutes.


depressed woman

Hormones play a major role in the appearance of cellulite in women as they age. When your bodies start producing less estrogen, it leads to poorer circulation, a decrease in new collagen production, and the breakdown of older connective tissue.

Tight Clothing

woman in leggings stretching

For those of you who wear compression-style leggings at the gym to "suck it all in," you should know that it's a temporary effect that won't make a lasting change to the appearance of cellulite in places like your thighs. In fact, some tight fitting clothing can have the reverse effect if they cut off circulation and limit blood flow and can lead to the appearance of cellulite.

Cigarette Smoke

man in suit smoking

Cigarette smoke can reduce blood vessel flow, which will weaken and disrupt the formation of collagen. That causes the connective tissue to stretch, weaken, and become damaged more easily. As a result, more underlying fat—aka cellulite—will show through.

Shunning Kelp

kelp seaweed

Kelp contains fucoxanthin, a compound found in green plants with chlorophyll that helps the body burn fat. A study in Food Chemistry found thatalginate (a compound found in seaweed) could help block fat absorption by up to 75 percent, thus reducing the appearance of cellulite!

Skipping Out on Regular Massages

massage in spa

Ahhh—the benefits of a great massage are just neverending! Cellulite develops because fibrous connective bands between the skin and fat pull the fat to the surface, creating a rippled skin appearance. A massage helps by stimulating circulation and draining excess fluids. When the fat cells aren't as "full," the lumps appear smoothed. So, go ahead and treat yourself!

Not Brushing Your Body Regularly

spa bath relax

Dry body brushing is an easy and affordable way to lessen the appearance of cellulite. Doing it on a regular basis can actually make a major impact on blasting away cellulite on your thighs. Strong strokes on your thighs can aid with getting rid of fat in that area when you make it a part of your routine. We like this Aromatherapy Associates body brush!

Not Accepting Your Fate

women looking at winter

Okay, "being a woman" is not a bad habit. But the simple fact is that women are built to carry more fat around their hips and thighs with less supportive connective tissue to keep it all in place. While it's estimated that about 10 percent of men suffer from cellulite, don't compare yourself or your habits to your guy's lifestyle.


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