You might have her smile, her charm and some of her talents, but you might also have inherited much of her body chemistry. ‘Look at the mother to learn about the daughter,’ as they say. Cellulite can be an unwelcome legacy.
It has taken years for the importance of hereditary factors to be recognized. Nowadays, with our ailments identified and recorded, our grandchildren will know the family illnesses that may await them, and even at what time in their lives they might strike. Our own grandparents’ physical condition might not have been so well catalogued, but family photos are enlightening. See if you can find photos of your grandmother on her summer holidays, in a bathing suit at the beach. It may seem as though you are looking into a mirror, because genetic factors play a highly significant role in the onset of cellulite, as they do in your propensity to put on weight.
How healthy were your ancestors?
‘Cellulite is often linked to circulatory and/or hormonal problems, so at the first interview I find it useful to ask my patients about their family history’, explains dermatologist Catherine Laverdet. Everyone can do a little personal research before a consultation. When asked, your mother will perhaps remember that she had thicker ankles after puberty, that her grandmother had varicose veins and so on. Quiz her some more and you might learn that, for example, artichokes have always made her retain water, while dandelions seem to help her lose weight. There’s a good chance that your body will react in exactly the same way to both plants.
Did you know?
Genetics is the study of hereditary elements and of the mechanism of their transmission. Blue eyes, the shape of the nose- much of our physical appearance and the way we develop is down to genetics.
Don’t confuse cellulite and fatty tissue: the term cellulite describes an increase in the thickness of the subcutaneous tissues. It is possible to inherit a tendency towards plumpness, but not to suffer from cellulite.
If you have a predisposition to cellulite, physical exercise is highly recommended.
If your mother had cellulite, that doesn’t mean you have to accept it too. Fight back.
Listen to your hormones
From puberty to the menopause, women’s lives are influenced by their sex hormones. Oestrogen plays a role in the formation of cellulite. Can anything be done to minimise its effect?
A female preserve
Fatty cells (adipocytes) are equipped with receptors that are governed by hormones. ‘We know’, says gynaecologist Dr M. Lachowsky, ‘that endogenous oestrogens [produced naturally by the body], like those of the pill [exogenous], favour the formation of cellulite ”balls”. At the different stages of female hormonal activity [including pre-menstrual syndrome], water retention can cause the tissues to swell, favouring or aggravating the appearance of cellulite dimpling.
The pill, pregnancy and the menopause
An unwise choice of contraceptive pill can also lead to cellulite. But nowadays, with the advent of the micro-dose pill, cellulite is rarely a side effect. One of the latest pills even combats water retention. However, regular visits to the doctor are important if you are on the pill.
Pregnancy often triggers cellulite; and after birth, the body retains the adipocytes stored during the pregnancy. This can be overcome with regular physical exercise, relaxation and a careful diet. During the menopause, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can have a negative impact on your figure (the heavy legs effect), but weight gain can be restricted if the correct dosage is prescribed.
Our fat cells (adipocytes) are equipped with receptors that respond to our hormones. These require monitoring during puberty and pregnancy as oestrogen peaks trigger swelling. During the menopause, the base metabolism is reduced. Without regular physical exercise, energy expenditure decreases and the body tends to grow heavier. Women on HRT may put on a little weight, but without treatment the weight gain could be even greater, and it might follow the male pattern by being most pronounced on the stomach. There is also an increased cardiovascular risk.
Cellulite that occurs in puberty or pregnancy is the easiest to treat. In the case of weight gain or bloating, consult your gynaecologist.