Practical Tactics against "Fem Fat"
Even when she was 8 1/2 months pregnant and waddling like a duck, Colleen O'Callaghan, a former member of the American Ballet Theater in New York, had no cellulite.
Nor do any of the dancers she knows. They all have smooth, taut skin with not one hint of the dimpled, quilted or rippled effect that the cosmetic industry has dubbed "cellulite."
But why not? Why do dancers escape while so many others have to wrap themselves in beach towels every time they wear swimsuits?
"Cellulite is fat," answers Diana Bihova, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City and author of Beauty from the Inside Out. "And classical ballet dancers have very little or no fat. In either case, their thighs are so well-toned that the skin stays taut."
The difference between fat on your waist and cellulite is the way that it manifests itself, Dr. Bihova adds. You can develop it when you gain weight or when your skin gets a little lax from aging or lack of exercise. Then, the previously unobtrusive fat puffs out like the polyester fill in a comforter, and your skin looks as though it has been stuffed and stitched like a quilt.
WORK IT OFF
Although you probably won't have the cellulite-free thighs and buttocks of a dancer unless you're willing to put in whole days of leaps, twirls and twists en pointe, here's what women doctors say that you can do to improve the look of your cellulite-laced hips, thighs and backside.
Lose any extra fat. Weight loss frequently reduces the fat responsible for thigh and butt dimpling, says Allison Vidimos, M.D., a staff dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. So she advises women bothered by cellulite to drop any extra weight and exercise to tone muscles.
"People who lose weight through diet and exercise may note some improvement in the cellulite-prone areas," she says. Once the fat cells shrink, and muscle tone is improved, the contour of the skin may look more smooth.
Tone your lower body. Exercises that tone your thighs, hips and lower buttocks will give dimpled areas a better look, says Dr. Bihova. And they're a great way to help you lose weight. In fact, exercise works better than dieting at improving the way your thighs and buttocks look.
Work your outer thighs. One of the best exercises to tone your outer thighs is the leg lift, says Janet Wallace, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology at Indiana University in Bloomington.
To begin, lie down on the floor on your side, with your legs straight, one above the other. Then bend the elbow that's on the floor and prop your head on your hand. Put your other hand flat on the floor in front of your waist. Now, keeping both your legs straight and your toes pointed straight ahead, lift your top leg from hip to toe as far as it will go, then lower it back to the floor. Repeat the lift 11 more times, then turn on your other side and do 12 more.
Try leg lifts three times a week, adding a couple more each time you do them, until you reach a maximum of 30 repetitions on each side, says Dr. Wallace. "Forget that 'go for the burn' stuff," adds Dr. Wallace. Your thighs will begin to look smooth and taut without it.
Add bands to your workout. When you get to the point that you're doing 30 leg lifts a day with no effort, get a resistance band from your local sporting goods store, says Dr. Wallace. It looks like a giant rubber band, and they come in various colors.
Loop the band around each of your ankles and do your regular set of leg lifts. The added resistance will make your legs work harder and help tone your muscles further.
Work your inner thighs. One of the best exercises to tone your inner thighs is to lie down on the floor just as you did for leg lifts, says Dr. Wallace. But this time, instead of raising your top leg, hold that leg still, move your bottom leg out in front a few inches until it clears your top leg, then try to lift your bottom leg up in front of your top leg. Lift it as far as you can, then lower your leg to the floor.
Repeat the lift 11 more times, then turn on your other side and do 12 more, says Dr. Wallace. Try the exercise three times a week, adding a couple of lifts to each workout until you're doing 30 lifts a session.
Build your butt. Lie facedown on the floor, with your arms out at your shoulders, your elbows bent and your palms flat on the floor, says Dr. Wallace. Now, keeping your right leg straight, try to lift it heel-first off the floor. Lift it as far as you can, then lower it to the floor.