Cellulite is NOT an itis…

On the left, cellulitis; On the right, cellulite – big difference!

I can’t tell you how many times, when discussing “trouble spots” with a client they refer to their cellulitis. What they mean to say is their cellulite, but the term they choose has nothing to do with the aesthetic appearance of their wobbly bits (see image above). It is understandable that for some women, the look of cellulite can feel like a serious medical condition. With summer unexpectedly here, they become acutely aware of their “imperfections” and panic; rushing to the spa for any firming, toning and detoxifying treatments available in the hopes that they can bare their flesh without fierce judgements. Cellulite doesn’t happen overnight, though. We are all born with a certain amount of fat cells that are distributed throughout our bodies according to our genetics. As we enter puberty, hormonal fluctuations affect our metabolism and shifts the distribution of the fat underneath our skin. The same thing occurs as we age and enter into menopause. In 80 to 90% of women, some level of cellulite will be visible; however the following factors greatly influence its widespread formation. Take notes:

  • Poor circulation and lymphatic drainage

The tissues in your body need to be fed and then flushed of the by products and toxins left behind after the fact. However, if you have a genetic or pathological insufficiency, the “toilet water” sits and festers, causing the breakdown of the matrix that holds the fat cells in their proper place. Since it all has to get flushed up and out, the areas most affected are the extremities. Exactly where you don’t want to see the cellulite.

  • Increased levels of stress hormones in the blood

We all know a high stress lifestyle can take a toll on our health, but it also has an affect on our fat distribution and connective tissue. Cortisol and catecholamines are stress hormones release by the adrenal glands as part of our “fight-or-flight” sympathetic nervous response. The body instinctively slows its metabolism and increases its “padding” of fat as it reacts to survive. The presence of the hormones over long periods of time can start to break down connective tissue, which as mentioned above, creates the matrix that holds the fat cells at bay. Once the matrix is damaged, the fat cells push up against the lower layers of skin, which is the puckered look that we all recognize as cellulite. The slowed metabolism also causes weight gain, which swells the size of the fat cells, making them pucker up even more.

  • Yo-yo dieting

Weight fluctuations occur as a result of physiological and hormonal changes. Step on the scale in the morning and again at night, and you could see your number rise or fall by 5-8 lbs. This is normal. Patterns of weight loss and gain over long periods of time of more than 20 lbs, damages the elasticity of the skin and connective tissue matrix. Out pops the cellulite.

  • Liposuction

Remember how we are all born with a certain number of fat cells? This procedure removes them from specific areas of the body also referred to as “re-contouring.” Once the fat cells are gone, they are gone. However, should the individual gain weight, the fat cells that are left redistribute the bulk in places the individual never had before. This is why the best candidates for liposuction are those who lead an active lifestyle and have a consistently clean diet.

And speaking of active lifestyles and clean diets, let’s segue into how one can address cellulite. Certain treatments and topical applications can produce visible results if the person remains consistent with modifications to their diet and exercise. Here are some of the one’s I can vouch for in my professional and personal practice. Still taking notes, I hope :-).

Dry brushing per day keeps the cellulite at bay…

Dry Brushing – One of my favorites is dry brushing. The practice consists of lightly brushing the surface of the skin in long upward strokes, starting at the lower limbs and moving upwards toward the heart. The brush bristles should be made of natural fibers and the brush itself easy to grip in order to properly handle it. Not only will you exfoliate the top layer of skin, but the increased blood flow to the capillary networks renews and tightens the skin’s surface. The movement towards the heart promotes proper circulation and flushing of the tissues via the lymphatic system. Done daily, it’s a great way to diminish the dimples.

Flushing and tightening

Caffeine, topically applied – As a little girl in Greece, every female relative young and old swore by their CLARINS cellulite cream and slathered in liberally in all corners and crevices of their bodies. What many creams geared toward cellulite contain is caffeine and what they do is act as a diuretic for the tissues, flushing out excess fluid and helping to tighten the surface of the skin. The cellulite puckers less; happy times on the beach. What I have seen work best is an application of caffeinated cream prior to a workout. The combination of an exercise induced sweat and that of the caffeine is like a one-two punch, firming and flushing. Also, since tissue repair happens during sleep, an application at night can be effective as well.

Courtesy of “8 Kilos to 50” Tumblr (You go girl!)

Get your sweat on and build muscle Recall how earlier we talked about people having a predisposed amount of fat cells that are distributed under the deepest level of skin in different ways dependent on genetics, hormones and age. These factors are sort of written in stone; however what you can control is how much a fat cell can swell. Therefore, the amount of lean muscle you build will reduce the size of the fat cells and help spike your metabolism, as muscle requires more calories than fat for maintenance. Reducing your overall body fat % will counter the factors you cannot control. A wonderful little exercise known as the Bulgarian Split Squat can do a whole lot to diminish the look of the dimples that many women have directly under their gluteal fold. At least, that’s what I have found within my own workouts. A tiny addendum to this bit on exercise is to make sure you are hydrating properly to flush your system out while also maintaining a balanced diet that is specific to your activity level and overall bodily needs. Consulting a registered dietician or certified nutritionist for advice is a great way to make sure you are eating right for you, cellulite or not.

It is also important to keep in mind that within that 80-90% of women who have cellulite are the fashion models, actresses and popular girls we gush(ed) over and/or envy. It’s a fact of physiological life that we can address to a certain extent, but inevitably must come to accept. Be good to your body through all its transformations and transitions and hopefully, it will be good to you.

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Lord of the flies

My enemy – the blow fly.

The intense heat and humidity that is August in NYC breeds all kinds of unbearable infestations. The rats in Chinatown seem hungrier, the mosquitoes travel in thicker clouds and the flies are relentless. Recently, I noticed a blow fly in my apartment and immediately swatted it dead. Within a minute, two more flew past me. Killed them too. I walked into my bathroom and about 5 were doing a crazed flight pattern. I freaked and began looking for the source of their entry. I grabbed a bottle of RAID and sprayed the bathroom, shutting the door behind me. In the bedroom there were two in the light fixture and three more on my windowsill. More spraying and shutting of the windows to trap the fumes. I left my home and upon return many hours later, I found them all upside down buzzing their last bits of life on the windowsills of both bathroom and bedroom. When I carefully inspected the windows, I made a shocking discovery. The entire outside screen panel was covered with clinging blow flies waiting for the second I would open up to make their way in. To say I was horrified is not a truly strong enough statement because the blow fly is not your regular little “shoo fly, don’t bother me” house pest. This type of fly is only present when there is freshly rotting flesh, garbage and raw sewage. Yes, blow flies are the ultimate FILTH fly.

The blow fly’s distinct characteristic is its metallic, shiny coloring in hues of green, blue or black. They lay their eggs in carcasses and corpses, which then hatch, burrow out of the body 6 to 11 days later and into the ground. They then emerge as adults 2 weeks after that to repeat the cycle all over again. Blow flies are the first to arrive when something has died. They can smell decomposition in its early stages from over a mile away. Forensic scientists use the presence of their eggs/larvae to determine a time interval of death. Amazing tool for them. Horrific house guest for me.  They feed on anything that smells like rotting meat and obviously rotting flesh itself. They are known carriers of such diseases as dysentery (extreme fever and diarrhea) and salmonellosis (Salmonella bacteria turning your insides out and for some people, death). Don’t let these guys land on any food or drink. Hence, my not really wanting them to hang out in any part of my apartment.

This all being said, why are these creatures in my home and how am I supposed to get rid of them???

Three likely scenarios would bring blow flies into the home. The first is a break and/or crack in a sewage line because the poop attracts their appetites. The second is not taking out the garbage enough, especially in summertime. The heat and presence of rotten vegetables or meat is a perfect environment for the laying of their eggs, which will hatch amongst the refuse and then emerge from the garbage can overtaking your home. The third scenario is a dead animal present in or around the home. Even a small mouse can produce a large number of blow flies. In my case, all three could be very true. The garbage cans containing mine and my landlords’ waste are situated adjacent to one of my windows. Although the lids are on, it is summer and as I mentioned before sultry hot out, which could be hatching up a swarm of these flies right into the easy entry that is my window below. I do not keep any garbage in the apartment and I am always wiping down surfaces with Clorox Cleanup Wipes. Last month, I had a mouse emerge from a hole in the wall. After a lot of cajoling and sleepless nights, the holes were plugged up and the apartment thoroughly cleaned. No sign of a mouse since and no stench of death. However, it is not entirely impossible for a family member of the original mouse to have died somewhere in the wall and through a micro crack, the blow flies are coming in. The final bit is the presence of two drains by each window that filter rain water and other natural materials. When you combine all three of these scenarios, it’s as if I invited them in.

Not wanting to become their Extended Stay America, I bought a bottle of bleach and a monstrous can of spray. I poured the bleach by the drain near the bathroom (the other drain in not accessible to me) and then sprayed the whole area surrounding that window with the insecticide. I noticed three blow flies lodged in the screen facing inwards. They were already dead. I then poured the remaining bleach down the drains in the home and sprayed near the plugged up holes. I was still nervous to open the window and aerate the apartment, lest they come in. So, I STUPIDLY suffered the fumes and barely slept. (WARNING: Inhaling the bug spray can cause respiratory issues (burning eyes, nose, throat, coughing, tightness in chest, etc) and in high concentrations neurological damage. It can cause seizures in children if they have prolonged exposure.)  This morning, I am happy to say, the window is now open sans buzzing.

I am taking this experience as a sign it may be time to find another place to live; blow flies uninvited!

Additional information provided by:

http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/blowflies.shtml

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002763.htm