Why can't we love our cellulite like we love the little chub rolls on babies? At what point is it no longer adorable, and when does it become a source of shame?
I joined a weightlifting class at school the summer before my freshman year in high school. It was kind of a joke of a class since the program was really set up to get the football team prepped for the upcoming season.
The guys would go in the room that had all the racks, benches, and plates. The girls (basically my friend Lee and me), would be pushed out into the room with a few machines and abs benches.
I was busting out some heavy leg extensions when one of the football players walked into the room. My immediate reaction was to stop as soon as his head popped in the door. I didn’t want him to see the cellulite that appeared on my legs when I lifted the weight.
For the few years that I did bodybuilding, my posing coach taught me to arch my back and stick out my butt so the crease between my butt and legs would smooth out and my cellulite wouldn’t show as much.
Posing was called the art of the illusion. Hiding what you didn’t want the judges to see by getting into a completely unnatural posture that established bad habits over time. I mean, wrenching into an anterior pelvic tilt so hard you compressed your paraspinals isn’t exactly cool. But who wants to be judged for having cellulite (AKA normal legs).
Funny that the men never had to stick out their rears in any of their poses. They didn’t have to hide any normal parts of their bodies. Even the men who did have visible fat on their hamstrings.
We’ve been taught our entire lives that cellulite is ugly. We hide it because we don’t want anyone to see that we have perfectly normal, healthy legs.
Why do we become so cellulite obsessed from a young age?
Because fit women don’t have it, right?
At least 85% of post-pubescent women have cellulite. Fit women may have it regardless of how lean they are. Cellulite doesn't determine your level of fitness at all. It doesn't decide how healthy your body is or how well you take care of yourself.
The thing we struggle with the most is we never saw it on fit women. Really not on any healthy women in the media, for that matter. Not on television. Not in magazines or ads. It’s hidden on stage in the bodybuilding world. It’s photoshopped off of all the pretty legs we desperately want to have.
It isn’t any wonder that we all feel embarrassed for having it. the expectation bar for our bodies has been set impossibly high. So high that as few as 2% of women can exceed it.
We avoid things like shorts, swimsuits, and above-the-knee skirts. We wear things like Spanx to hide it under our clothes.
We are taught it’s shameful to have this stuff that nearly all women have. We are told it’s unhealthy, and if we workout we shouldn’t have it.
But we do.
Almost all of us do.
Cellulite is nothing more than your skin’s structure. That’s really it. It doesn’t mean you don’t take care of your body or that all your hard work in the gym is void.
It’s simply the arrangement of your connective tissue. It’s your first layer of subcutaneous fat protruding into your dermis. Everyone has this layer of fat.
It’s most prevalent on the thighs and butts of women because we tend to store fat there. In this area your connective tissue has formed chambers that encourage fat to bulge through.
It’s nothing you’ve done. It’s not because your body hates you. You may be more genetically predisposed to have it (darn you, DNA!), but it doesn’t determine how healthy or fit you are.
It’s just skin. That’s it.
Men don’t typically get cellulite because their connective tissue encourages fat to expand laterally and not upward through the skin.
It doesn’t mean they don’t have fat. It means their fat shows up differently.
The same goes for women who do not have cellulite. Same tissue, different way of showing up in the world.
These structural differences have been seen in all sorts of medical imaging, which means the scientific community 100% proves your body is perfectly normal.
Sure, by telling you this it might not make you love your cellulite. It won't undo years of beliefs ingrained in our minds about what cellulite is and isn't.
But when I think of mine, I think of bad ass women like Serena Williams. When I look at Serena I don’t see cellulite. I see an incredible athlete, someone who is setting the stage for women in sports, and someone who is role model, amazing mother (seriously, have you seen her daughter?), and incredible sister and daughter.
I don’t see cellulite ever when I look at her.
So why should I see it when I look at me, or any other woman?
Why is our lens zoomed in on this one particular thing?
Why do we not zoom out and see the whole picture of who we are and what we are accomplishing?
Why do we skip life experiences like days at the beach with our friends, trips down the slide at the pool with our kids, summer nights in shorts when it’s 95 degrees out?
Why do we give up so much simply because we zoom in on this one thing?
I encourage you to zoom out. Go full panoramic view on your life, not just your legs and butt.
See the vastness of possibility and the beauty life has to offer. See that we are sitting on the sidelines simply because society has conditioned us to feel flawed, unworthy, and ashamed of our bodies.
All 85% of us (that number can actually be as high as 98%. Yes, all but 2% of women have been told their bodies are not acceptable).
When you look through that lens, you realize that sweating the small stuff (even if it comes in the form of dimples all over our butts) mean we are missing out on big opportunities and experiences. Is your fear of being judged worth missing moments in your life? You give up making memories for not only you, but the people in your life who matter.
One thing I’ve learned about judgment, is it’s none of our business what other people think about us. As Byron Katie so beautifully states, “There is other people’s business, God’s business, and my business.” And the only business that we should be in is our own.
(photo courtesy of Fallinpets.com)
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