‘Orange peel skin’ – all those dimply, lumpy parts of our bodies – command a great deal of attention and angst in many women, not to mention expenditure. Cellulite, as the orange peel look is more properly known, affects as many as 90 per cent of women, yet it is still regarded as a major horror, which some women spend a great deal of money trying to get rid of. Remember the day when newspapers showed close-up, encircled part’s of Princess Diana’s legs ‘exposing’ that she had the dreaded cellulite, and – surprise, surprise – was not the supposedly flawless woman many portrayed her to be.

Yet, even though the rich and famous have cellulite, it is still something most of us would go to great lengths to smooth out – even though some doctors say it is simply the perfectly normal storage of fat. Unfortunately, there is no magic answer, and indeed, it is not entirely clear why and how it forms in the first place. What is known, however, is that it is not just found in overweight women and that it hardly effects men. Cellulite most commonly affects the thighs and buttocks, but can appear on the upper arms, the back of the neck and the abdomen. If it is extensive, it can actually make the affected areas feel heavy and tight. It must not be confused with cellulitis, which is an inflammation of the connective tissue of the skin.

So, what is cellulite?

Scientists have examined cellulite tissue in great detail to understand what it is and presumably, to work out how to get rid of it so they can develop the ‘cure’ in order to make their millions. The cells involved are in the subcutaneous tissue, the layer just under the surface of the skin, where there are fat cells. In women this layer of fat chambers is larger and more vertical and the connective tissue is thinner than in men. Having said that, the differences are body-wide, and not just in the areas in women most likely to be affected by cellulite.

As women age, their layer of elastic connective tissue in the dermis and the layers between the fat chambers get even thinner and less flexible. When this happens, the fat chambers are not so well supported and easily become enlarged and misshapen. The actual dimpling of the skin comes about because of the distortion of the shape of the fat cells and the weakened connective tissue which is normally more elastic, between each one. Examining cellulite areas of skin under a microscope, scientists found that the fat cells protruded up into the dermis in affected areas, but not in normal areas1. They also found that the connective tissue was not as smooth and regular in cellulite. The lymphatic system, which permeates all parts of our bodies also becomes weaker and less efficient.

The lymphatic system

The lymphatic system is an extensive network of vessels which run between all our cells and act as a waste dump – fluids pass into the lymph vessels and are filtered at various points in the lymph called lymph nodes (the ‘glands’ in your armpits, groin, neck etc.). The way in which the fluids enter the lymph and move along its vessels is by movement of the body, they do not have a pump like the blood system. The cells of the lymph vessels are attached to the surrounding cells by collagen and elastin fibres, so movement opens up the gaps to allow fluid in and move it along. Saggy collagen and elastin therefore contribute to a sluggish lymph system, which is, in turn, associated with the development of cellulite.

What causes cellulite?

Cellulite is actually more of a cosmetic issue than a health condition, although its presence usually indicates some sort of congestion in the body. Simply rubbing on creams or other potions from the outside will not make much difference at all – cellulite needs to be seen from the perspective of the whole body i.e. from the inside.

The exchange of substances – nutrients, waste products and all sorts of others – between cells depends on the efficiency of the cell membranes at selecting what goes through them as well as the efficiency of the blood flow and lymph circulation. When the body is sluggish or overloaded – through poor diet or lack of exercise – none of these work well which results in a build-up of toxins. Imagine a sludgy muck stacking up in between your cells.

The healthier and more vital your body is, the better it can clear toxins and burn up fat. The fluid in between your cells drains into the lymphatic system, which filters it at lymph nodes. The lymph can become overburdened with the toxins and this is a significant contributor to the development of cellulite. Women who have persistent cellulite usually have a tendency to be constipated too – another sign of congestion and poor clearance of waste products from the body. Following a particularly toxin-free diet intermittently, such as my 9 Day Liver Detox significantly reduces the load on your body and allows it to carry out its internal cleansing routine more efficiently.

It’s not just fat

Cellulite is not a build-up of fat. Even thin people can have it. The link between fat and cellulite is mainly that enlarged fat cells do put pressure on the connective tissue between the fat chambers, which will have an effect on the smoothness and taughtness of the skin. Also, if a person is overweight, with large fat deposits, the chances are that that person’s metabolism is sluggish, not to mention the other health risks with being overweight such as diabetes and heart disease. Keeping the connective tissue strong is also a goal of minimising or reducing cellulite, so that it is able to keep its shape, even if any build-up of fat does take place.

So exercising and minimising fat build-up do come into any anti-cellulite programme. Exercise is also important because it stimulates lymph flow as well as blood circulation. Good blood flow will enhance the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells, thereby optimising the way they work and the way they get rid of waste products. Any attempt to lose fat, however, must be done gradually, as any rapid weight loss will leave skin saggy, especially in older women, whose connective tissue is already thinning due to hormonal changes. The best way to achieve steady weight loss is with my Low GL diet.

How to beat cellulite

Ideally, you avoid getting too much cellulite in the first place. That said, let’s get real! A programme to reduce cellulite must involve various factors: minimising toxin build-up, improving circulation, maintaining an ideal weight and amount of fat and strengthening the connective tissue. As far as weight loss goes, eating a healthy diet and correcting any other body imbalances you may have with the help of a health practitioner can go a long way to helping your body reach its ideal weight. You could also read The Low GL Diet Bible which gives you detailed guidelines on effective, healthy weight loss.

Stimulating your lymph flow is essential, in order to keep what is, in effect, your body’s waste disposal system, running smoothly. Exercise helps this, as does skin brushing and lymphatic drainage massage, which must be carried out by a trained professional. To skin brush, get a natural bristle brush, ideally with a long handle, from your health food shop or chemist. Brush your entire body when it is dry, using a dry brush. Go more gently where the skin is more delicate such as on the chest, neck and belly. Start with your feet and work your way up your legs, then brush up your arms towards your chest and across your back. Do this before your morning shower. Turning the shower to cold at the end, if you can face it, is another way of stimulating circulation. And if you have access to a sauna, a few short bouts (5-10 minutes) with a cold shower in between are very stimulating and invigorating.

Clean eating

The obvious way to avoid a build-up of toxins is to minimise the amount you are exposed to. Diet-wise, this means eating fresh, unprocessed foods, and organic as much as possible. For people who can digest them, plenty of raw vegetables is very rejuvenating and cleansing. Avoid all refined, commercially processed foods which are generally low in nutrients and high in additives and fats. Most of us know which foods are ‘clogging’ – heavy, rich, fatty and stodgy foods should be off the menu.

Eating foods rich in nutrients which support the connective tissue can be helpful such as vitamin C – peppers, kiwi fruit, broccoli, citrus fruits, tomatoes, blackcurrants, strawberries and peas; and bioflavonoids – cherries, blueberries, blackberries, red grapes and buckwheat. In addition to these, certain herbs have been shown to be effective in helping reduce cellulite, probably because of their properties which strengthen connective tissue. Flavonoids in these foods may help.

Several research studies have shown taking Gotu kola (Centalla asiatica) orally significantly improves cellulite2. The way in which it works is by helping to stimulate the basic structures deep in the skin which support collagen, thereby strengthening the connective tissue. The active ingredients in Gotu kola are asiatic acid and asiaticoside. For best results use a source that is standardised so that 70 per cent are these acids and take 30mg of these three times daily.

There are certain ingredients used in skin creams that appear to help to shrink fat cells. Myriceline (bayberry extract) which is thought to help the three metabolic processes of fat storage – Adipogenesis, Lipolysis and Lipogenesis. Environ’s Body Profile product is an example, also containing transdermal vitamins.

There is no easy answer to cellulite once it has developed. Exercising regularly to keep fit and boost your circulation, minimising your exposure to toxins, maintaining your ideal body weight, daily skin brushing and eating vitality-laden foods will minimise the development of cellulite, and, with persistence, go some of the way to reducing it.


  • eat plenty of fresh, colourful vegetables and fruits
  • avoid foods containing additives and chemicals
  • avoid foods containing sugar and animal fats
  • exercise at least three times a week
  • skin brush daily
  • take a supplement of Gotu kola – 30mg of three times daily
  • use a skin care product containing myriceline (bayberry extract)

Further Information

You can find my books on the science of Low GL as well as cookery books at HOLFORDirect.


  1. Rosenbaum, M. et al., ‘An exploratory investigation of the morphology and biochemistry of cellulite.’ Plast Reconstr Surg vol101(7), pp1934-9 (1998)
  2. Bourguignon, D., ‘Study of the action of titrated extract of Centella asiatica.’ Gazette Med Fr;vol 82, pp4579 (1982)

Image by dion gillard (view license)