Cellulite is just plain old fat. It looks different from the outside -- characterized by a dimpled, cottage-cheese appearance -- because the connective tissue surrounding the fat in those areas has a different pattern than the connective tissue in other areas of the body.
Men tend to have horizontal or crisscross connective tissue pattern, whereas women tend to have a honeycombed pattern. As fat cells grow in size, there is a greater chance they will protrude through the honeycombed pattern tissue than the horizontal or crisscross pattern. This explains why cellulite is more often found in women than in men. Because women often gain weight around their hips and thighs, cellulite is most often seen in those areas, and the appearance can become more noticeable with age (because skin gets thinner as we get older).
It is tempting to look for a quick fix to cellulite, especially when so many advertisements claim to provide a solution. Unfortunately, there is no overnight cure. Nothing can get below the surface of the skin and rearrange the connective tissue or fat cells underneath. Because fat is compressible, some procedures, such as body wraps, may appear to provide a solution to smoothing the skin. But any visible effects will be temporary -- unlikely to last more than 24 hours.
Not everyone develops cellulite. Genetics plays a big role, determining where most of your fat cells are and how many fat cells you have. Even celebrities with expensive personal trainers and monitored diets can have cellulite.
You can diminish the appearance of cellulite or reduce the chances you will get it with regular exercise, especially strength training. A good strength-training program will increase your chances of maintaining lean muscle as you get older, and this in turn reduces your chances of increasing the size of your fat cells.
A good diet plays a role as well -- not because certain foods cause or reduce cellulite but because a diet that is making you fatter increases the chance that fat will protrude through the honeycombed connective tissue. A registered dietitian or a physician can help you analyze your diet to determine if you are getting not only the right types of food for good health, but also the right amount of food to stay lean.
A good exercise and nutrition program does not need to be complicated or cumbersome. Small changes in activity and diet can make a big difference in your body weight, how lean you are and the appearance of cellulite.
Jay Blahnik, a Laguna Beach-based personal trainer and IDEA Health & Fitness Assn. spokesman, has appeared in more than 25 videos and is the author of "Full-Body Flexibility." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.