Five years ago this September I was running the stairs out at our local natural amphitheater, Red Rocks, when I asked a woman to take a photo of me as I ran. She did, and did a nice job of capturing the unfortunate ripple of looseness and cellulite that wiggled on the backs of my thighs.
I was mortified. You really cannot see what those who are running behind you can, and it nearly sent me home for good.
However, I was in training for Kilimanjaro that year, and I pushed past my vanity and just kept right on running. Thousands and thousands of steps. I was punching out untold hours of exercise of all kinds, and then rather blessedly forgot about the grapefruit peel I was wearing on my legs. I figured that there wasn’t a whole lot to be done, and it was way too hot to wear long pants. Tough. Don’t like it?
Then don’t bloody well look.
At sixty, which is the age I was when the photos were taken, my mother was nothing but cellulite. She was tightly contained in a seriously ancient girdle held together by safety pins (my mother, a child of the Depression, was not one to let go of a garment just because it had a little age on it). As her girth increased, I remember witnessing large stress fractures form along the fault lines of the elastic casing that kept her hard and snug like a sausage. Once home, she would release the captive flesh and it would leap out in relief from its solitary confinement.
As an aside, my family was big on making things last. My father famously kept repairing a pair of my mother’s favorite flats with Shoe Goo so that, after a while, it looked like she was walking around in a puddle of solid mucous.
It did an impressive job, that girdle, even in its dotage. The problem was that like all soft matter crammed into a container that is just too small, parts of her mushed out here and there, almost always in remarkably startling places, leaving the viewer to wonder if she had developed tumors all over her lower body. If she pressed in over here, then something would pop out over there. Her body was in constant motion in that regard.
Nope. Just Dad’s freshly-baked bread with a whole lot of butter.
My mother had spent her youth as mere stick, wailing over the lack of boobs and curves. Then after two kids she began to expand. That girdle, a relic from the Forties when they were a perfectly acceptable part of the female wardrobe, was on its last legs. She managed to nurse a few of them along until 2001, for which she should have received a medal. (Any undergarment that makes it seventy years after nearly daily use should be bronzed) Meanwhile, they did yeoman’s duty, denying the world a look at how my mother’s body had deteriorated with age and a lack of exercise into a gelatinous wobbly mass.
The inherent problem with girdles, as with butt padding and boob padding and every other optical foolery is that eventually you’re going to have to take that stuff off, and, as they say, the truth will out. In Mom’s case, all over the damned place.
Let’s just say I didn’t plan to go that route. At sixty, I was still very slim, and far more active. But yet, there was proof. I had photos.
The Genes Have It, Or Do They?
I am constantly besieged with arguments that we cannot possibly deny our genetics. That they determine our destiny, and well, we just can’t help it, so why even try?
Well, here’s the thing. There’s far too much research out now about how intention, hard work, mental focus and a great many other factors can significantly influence the Universe of US, and to not even try smacks to me of being a victim. Genes suggest. They aren’t necessarily a guarantee of anything, although there are certain things that we are handed such as eye color or hair color or male pattern baldness (thanks DAD) that plague us all.
Two books that explore this notion include Super Genes: Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your Optimum Health and Well Being by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi, and The Biology of Belief, Unleashing the Power o f Consciousness, Matter and Miracles, by Dr. Bruce H. Lipton. I prefer to believe that there is a great deal I can do to influence what I got handed, and I’ve been pretty successful at it. But that doesn’t apply to everyone, because that success begins with belief. Faith. Without either, well then. I guess you’re stuck.
If I were made of money I could have invested in something called Cellulaze, which runs about $3500 a leg but only lasts a year or two. Um, NO. First, I can’t speak for anyone else but I don’t possess that kind of dime, and I’d rather put in the time to do the workouts. It’s cheaper and a hell of a lot longer lasting. Besides, I get all the side health benefits of working out.
Here’s what I heartily believe: Genetics is (sic) only one small part of the cellulite puzzle; factors like diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight also play a role. https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20735356,00.html#cellulite-may-be-in-your-genes-0
So I did.
About a week ago I was in the gym, and doing a forward bend. I was in front of a mirror, and was able to see my butt.
At first I thought I was looking at someone else’s ass. However, that ass had my shorts on.
The cellulite had disappeared. Not a trick of the lighting. To the amusement of my lifting buddies, I inspected my rear with the kind of interest usually reserved for choosing a Porterhouse steak for dinner. One of them asked me if I had lost something, and by the way, could I use some assistance?
When I explained what I was searching for his enthusiasm waned somewhat. I was left to my inspection. Gone. All of it.
No creams, lotions, potions. No magic pills. Nada. Just steady, unending, consistent work.
What was once an ocean of moving waves was now replaced by muscle. There’s still fat back there- thank heaven- but it’s smooth.
Look, this isn’t necessarily what I expected. In my thirties when I was 205 pounds I bought every kind of cream you can imagine. A few times I even went to one of those women-only gyms that had bumpy rollers that you leaned your offending parts against, in the ultimately hopeless effort to break up the cottage cheese on the butt or thighs or everything else. Didn’t work. Unwilling to wear a girdle (with the exception of Halloween, for which I borrowed one of Mom’s battered versions) I chose the path of exercise, and with that, a very intelligent diet.
I now sported better-looking thighs than I’d ever had in my youth. I hardly recognized them. Unfortunately you can’t bottle five years’ worth of very hard work, diet discipline and leg work at the gym. If we could I’d have bought a lifetime supply on the QVC Channel back when I was twenty.
Here’s the thing. As far as I’m concerned- as well as what I know about Mother Nature’s wicked sense of humor- my cellulite has only gone on what we called in the military call TDY or “Temporary Duty.” This is not a permanent assignment, wherever that particular body part has migrated. They may be in Siberia for all I know, or hanging out happily on someone else’s unfortunate ass. They are simply waiting for any opportunity to come back home and set up pup tents all over again. The very moment I slow down, stop exercising and start munching donuts again an immediate call goes out to the troops to head back home.
As Tom Bodette says in the Motel Six ads, “We left the light on for ya.” Unfortunately for my butt, the light will always be on. I just need to make sure there’s a permanent “No Vacancy” light flashing.
So, if I want a smooth pair of legs, I have to keep moving. Damn it all anyway. Good thing I happen to enjoy it. Truth is I have no clue if this would work for anyone else. There’s just no saying. I can say that if you smoke, don’t exercise, are sedentary and adore sugar, you are vastly more likely to have very obvious cellulite that those who don’t. The bane of our existence is that some 90% of all of us women will have cellulite at some point in our lives, and if we want to banish it to another part of the Universe, well, that’s gonna take some work. The even worse news is that liposuction, which a great many of us opt for when we have so-called “trouble spots,” doesn’t remove cellulite. It removes fat cells, and mass, but not the appearance of ripples. That, m’dear, is one of those gifts that just keeps right on giving unless we are willing to invest in hard daily work. And even then, there’s no guarantee that Mother Nature’s nasty joke won’t depart, however unwillingly, and leave us the hell alone.
All I have is my own experience. For now, at least, those bad boys are in remission. At 65 I don’t look anything like my mother except in the face. She was a pretty woman, and I hope that at least that part of her genetic gift set sticks around. The rest of it, well, let’s just say I hope my cellulite likes the weather in Siberia.