Being a fit mom is a paradox of sorts, which is actually a good thing! That’s because a paradox is something that is made up of two opposite things that seem impossible but is actually true or possible. Basically, moms are supposed to have a lot of fat on them, it is how the body naturally prepares to take care of another human being. Unfortunately, extra fat often means cellulite. The good news is that although a mother’s body is predisposed to storing fat and therefore cellulite, it doesn’t mean that all moms are condemned to a life of tankinis and modest sarongs!

woman with cellulite on the back of her legs

What is cellulite? Sue Heintze, founder and Managing Director of Ideal Bodies Online, explains “that cellulite is not a medical term. It is not a disease, an illness or a ‘condition’. It’s not ‘fat gone wrong’. It’s simply fat – too much fat in one area. It looks different because of the unique structure of the tiny little fat compartments in the connective tissue of women. If the connective tissue doesn’t hold in the underlying fat, it pushes out at the top and creates that lumpy look that we term cellulite. In females, the structure of our skin and fat layers is different to males. In females our fat storage cells are shaped like long vertical chambers, with a rigid floor and side walls. It’s only the top that is pliable, and if you carry too much fat, it pushes through to the surface and shows up lumpy. In males, the fat cells are shaped differently, and thus they do not have the issues that we do when they carry additional fat in those areas. Along with this, the female hormone Estrogen tends to increase fluid build-up – plus our overall tendency for thinner skin means that unfortunately, if you’re a female, you are prone to get cellulite.” In a nutshell, even our fat cells have muffin tops!

Although difficult, it is not impossible to lose stored fat and therefore diminish the appearance of cellulite. As you may have guessed already, this can be accomplished with both diet and exercise, but not just any diet and exercise. According to Heintze, “when women lose fat, typically we lose it from our upper body first. No matter that we may have a lot more fat down below; our body will always take the fat from our upper body first. That’s the pattern of fat loss for most women, and as frustrating as that is, unfortunately we can’t change that.” The reason for this is adrenoreceptors. Our body fat has two kinds of adrenoreceptors, ones that promote fat metabolism and ones that block them. Unfortunately, a woman’s body tends to have 9 times more of the receptors that block metabolism.

woman showing the cellulite on her leg

So what’s a woman to do? Heintze believes it is a two step process for removing excess fat from our cells and therefore diminishing the appearance of cellulite. The first step is mobilization – getting the fat to actually leave the cell. This can be accomplished with high intensity exercise (read: HIIT It, Girls: The Hottest Ways to Tone Up and Slim Down) but your workout isn’t over there. She believes the secret is “following up the high intensity workout with some steady state cardio work. This allows your body to burn off the fat that is now circulating in the blood stream. This type of cardio, performed at around 65-70% of your maximum heart rate, is well known as the ‘fat burning zone’. If you train in this zone you will be burning mostly fat for fuel, as compared to carbohydrates.” (Need cardio inspiration? Check out Cardio Killers For a Better Body or visit Skinny Mom’s Fitness Index for hundreds of cardio workouts.)

fried tofu dinner

So what foods are the biggest contributors to cellulite? You may be thinking the answer to that question is something “fatty” like cheese, so you will be surprised to find out that Heintze believes that soy is the biggest culprit, along with refined sugar and processed foods. Although she warns  “it’s not so much individual foods that cause cellulite but more so an accumulation over the years of undesirable foods/chemicals/additives along with an overload of calories and toxins that contribute to visible cellulite.” (read: 10 Foods You Should Never, Ever Eat. Not Ever)

Why does soy cause cellulite? Heintze asserts, “We’ve been told for years that soy foods are good for us, however it’s now coming to light that over-consumption of soy products can lead to significant hormonal imbalances (in both women AND men). This is due to the high levels of phyto-estrogens contained in some soy products (and other things like certain plastics and environmental factors). Hormones also play a large role in where you store your fat. Many women unknowingly suffer from a condition known as Estrogen Dominance, which in addition to stubborn fat gain particularly around the hips and thighs and stomach, causes ill health including (but not limited to): PMS, infertility, PCOS, missed or irregular periods, swollen or fibrocystic breasts, irritability, fatigue, allergies and asthma, fibroids, mood swings, magnesium deficiency, thyroid dysfunction.”

frozen food aisle at the grocery store

However, soy isn’t the only culprit here. “Refined sugar and processed foods are among the worst for increasing pro-inflammatory hormones. Your body treats these preservatives, colors, additives, and other chemicals in foods and the environment as poison and thus triggers an immune system response. This leads to chronic internal inflammation causing all sorts of undesirable reactions in the body. A recent study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) performed on hundreds of non-industry workers (ie: those NOT subjected daily to toxic environments) showed that we now have around 100 new chemicals in our blood that were not present there 40 years ago!”

The moral of the story is that by following a fat-blasting exercise routine and avoiding foods that screw around with your hormones you can, in fact, successfully win the war with cellulite!

Not sure about the whole estrogen factor? Take a Hormone Imbalance Test to see if you could have Estrogen Dominance.