Junk in tha Trunk

June 11, 2009

A friend of mine once referred to her derriere as a cottage cheese buffet (not that that stopped her from mooning people out the school bus window.) Following is an article I wrote on cellulite for “Swag Magazine”; I put it in quotation marks because it’s a fake magazine that only exists in the owner’s mind. Enjoy ladies!

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What is more famous than celebrities these days? Celebrity cellulite. From Mischa Barton to Britney Spears, celebrity thighs and butts are finding their way onto magazine covers – exposed cellulite super-imposed, circled in white, and pointed to with arrows. In a world not only meticulous about size and shape – texture, too, has taken center stage in the requirements for perfection. So who wants to see all this cellulite blown-up and zoomed in on? The media is appealing here to the many people who love to bust typically glossed-over celebrities for their imperfections in order to see them as regular, flawed people. But unfortunately, instead of making readers feel better about themselves, the result of this cellulite hunt is a white circle around our own thighs and butts. Hilariously referred to as “hail damage” or “mattress phenomenon”, cellulite is an appearance of dimpled skin caused by collections of fat cells that bulge through the mesh of the connective tissue beneath the skin. Appearing most commonly on the upper thighs and buttocks, cellulite can also be visible on the upper arms and stomach, but is not necessarily related to being overweight. “I don’t care how skinny you are,” Cindy Simonelli from Dermal Laser Centre comments. “Everyone has it.” Well, maybe not everyone, but most women – up to 95%. So – if so many women have cellulite, then why has it become a universal secret shame? With women showing more skin in the media these days, posing in bikinis and sometimes naked for photo shoots, a new window has opened for close scrutiny of areas that were previously covered up. Then of course there is airbrushing to thank for our collective forgetting that women are not poreless and Barbie-plastic smooth. Or maybe it’s because men, in comparison, rarely suffer from cellulite. Whereas women have thinner skin than men (physically – not emotionally…) when women’s fat cells expand they burst through their connective tissue; men’s outer skin is thicker and obscures surplus fat. Elements that can contribute to cellulite besides genetics are: smoking, fatty foods, lack of exercise, poor circulation, hormone changes, stress, and caffeine. Except when caffeine is rubbed onto the skin, it can reduce the appearance of cellulite… Or can it?

With names like Fat Girl Slim and WonderBod Jiggle Gel, many cellulite creams these days contain caffeine, thought to increase blood flow and drain water from fat cells. Another popular ingredient often found in cellulite creams is Retinol, which is supposed to penetrate the skin and increase collagen production, making the skin thicker and hiding the fat (however high of amounts of Retinol can cause the skin to redden and peel). Some creams also contain DMAE – an anti-oxidant found in our fishy friends that stimulates the muscles to contract and become firmer. But the bottom line is: there is a lack of evidence to show that any of these ingredients can reach the fat through the skin. It has been difficult to measure the results of cellulite creams without standardized testing, but the general consensus among doctors is that even if the creams do work, the results are very temporary, lasting from minutes to hours, and at $25 to $75 a bottle, uncertain results can be are a waste of money.

Another option for cellulite reduction is Velasmooth, which – in cellulite’s continual quest for the limelight – was recently performed on famewhore Kim Kardashian in her reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” after comments made by Paris Hilton (aka Wonky McValtrex) surfaced comparing KK’s behind to a trash bag full of cottage cheese.  Velasmooth combines gentle light and radio frequency energies with mechanical rollers and vacuum suction. The heat and light shrinks the size of the fat cells, while the rollers and vacuum stimulate blood vessels to increase circulation to the local area and increase the metabolic process. The downside? An initial treatment package costs just under $3000, with monthly follow-up sessions priced at around $150 a pop. But according to Cindy Simonelli from Dermal Laser Centre: “it does work.” Having administered the treatment to clientele ranging from women in their mid-twenties to women in their sixties, Simonelli has seen many happy clients leave her clinic. “I have seen patients lose several inches,” she remarks. Velasmooth is not painful, but may leave the skin feeling slightly warm and red for a short time. It is often used in preference to the more controversial cellulite treatment on the market – Lipodissolve (otherwise known as mesotherapy.)

Evolving in France in the 1950s, Lipodissolve is now available in North America, though it is not yet adequately tested or approved. Using a series of medicated injections, Lipodissolve is thought to melt away localized areas of fat. The ingredients in the injections vary, but usually include: PCDC (a soybean extract and bile derivative – um… yuck!), alpha lipid acid, enzymes, plant extracts, and multivitamins. Some injections also include anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, and hormones. The need for regulation within these ingredients is one reason why the American Society of Plastic Surgeons is concerned. The other cause for concern: where does the fat go? A question that 100 000 North American patients have been willing to overlook as long as the fat is gone. But at $375 to $1500 per treatment session, and four to eight treatments to notice results, Lipodissolve is not only expensive, but can be uncomfortable for those squeamish about needles, and can leave bruising for up to three weeks. Not to mention the horror stories that have been linked to the process – infections similar to flesh-eating disease, tissue death, and allergic reactions, making a little junk in the trunk seem not so bad. “I looked like I was eight months pregnant,” Annette Clark told ABC news after a Lipodissolve session on her stomach provoked an allergic reaction that left her waking up in an ambulance.

For those seeking a more natural cellulite treatment, there is lymphatic drainage massage. Lymph is a clear, slightly yellow fluid that circulates the body carrying white blood cells and antibodies to tissue and organs to help maintain the immune system. Lymphatic drainage massage is a technique that uses light pressure and gentle rhythmic strokes to increase lymphatic flow and help rid the body of toxins and fat by drawing fluid to the capillaries and causing the puckering of the skin to subside.

But maybe the most effective treatment in fighting cellulite is simply building muscle. We all saw the toned female athletes in the Olympics last summer wearing tiny  bodysuits, so it’s safe to say that the swimmers, volleyball players, runners, and gymnasts are keeping their cellulite in check. Muscle creates a firm base that makes fat lie flat, and also increases metabolism, burning more calories than fat. Squats and lunges are especially good cellulite-busting techniques as they activate larger muscle groups.

With all the recent obsession with cellulite, if perfection and imperfection are  equally as fascinating, then perhaps one is not better than the other.

Update: Veganism is great for the badunk-a-dunk.

And that is the first time I have ever typed that word!

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