Seeing Cellulite from a Cellular Perspective

Cellulite seems to be the bane of many women’s existence. The idea of putting on a bathing suit brings on a chorus of “I should have gone on a diet sooner” every spring. (What ever came of your New Year’s resolutions?)

There’s true cultural anxiety about cellulite. There’s even a proclaimed fasciologist (whatever that is) promising you that by digging and scratching away at every square inch of your body – calling the end result “good bruising” – it will pop and destroy the lumpy shape of your fascial anatomy that shows through to the skin’s surface. I’m sorry to say, that’s just not so. As world renowned anatomist Gil Hedley says, “You can get rid of cellulite as easily as you can get rid of your tibia.”

We know cellulite is not just a fat thing, by the way. Even athletes and people who engage in active living have cellulite and believe me; they are more pissed off about seeing cellulite on the backs of their thighs than those who blame their sedentary lifestyle for their texturized backside.

Cellulite is now called a “condition” that affects over 90 percent of women and about 10 percent of men. A condition you say? Just so we are clear here, you aren’t diagnosed with cellulite. It’s not a disease, illness, injury, or any physiological, mental, or psychological disorder (unless you go insane scratching away at your skin with a belief you are going to improve the tissue quality rather than damage it). Regarding the small percentage of women who apparently “don’t have cellulite” – perhaps there’s some condition they have that we don’t know about? Could it be that cellulite is normal?

So let’s talk about fat

Now, if you have too much fatty deposition overall (especially in the belly region), you have an increased tendency toward type II diabetes, which IS a condition, but cellulite isn’t even an issue of too many fat cells or fat cells getting bigger. It’s a form of fascial anatomy, a connective tissue adaptation that causes what you see. Yes, fat cells getting bigger is part of the cause but again, you can see the same signs of fascial anatomy through the lean thighs of fit people.

There’s so much confusion about this issue. I even saw an article in Scientific America that stated, “The structure of collagen, the main protein of connective tissue, in women has the appearance of a picket fence, whereas in men it looks more like a cross-linked fence. So you can see the cross-linked structure is much stronger .” Okay, that’s so entirely incorrect a statement I’m beside myself. The microscopic design of collagen is the same in all living matter. My fascia is the same fascia that my husband has.

Seriously, let’s take a second to think about how women’s bodies are different than men’s. A lot of it has to do with our body’s design to have babies, which for one thing means our hormones are different. But the structure of collagen? No.

What, exactly, IS Cellulite?

Cellulite is scientifically called adiposis edematosa, dermopanniculosis deformans, status protrusus cutis, gynoid lipodystrophy, and “orange peel syndrome.” That last one always kills me – once again, cellulite is not a syndrome nor a condition needing medical intervention. The reality is through fatty deposition and dehydration caused by the repetition of daily living, there’s simply a breakdown in the multimicrovacular compartments within the collagen matrix of your superficial fascia.

Fatty deposition within the superficial areolar connective tissue, which adheres on its top side to your skin, causes excessive pull and compression to the fibrillar architecture of the collagen matrix below.

Think of fascia like a three-dimensional mesh fabric. If you stuffed a bunch of marshmallows into a mesh bag and squeezed it, the marshmallows would pop through the spaces of the mesh. The same principle occurs in the fascia. Those microvascular spaces are what hold the interstitial fluids of this tissue stable. If the walls of the spaces (the collagen) break down, they thin, wither, and lose their elastic, bouncy resilience, thus fat cells win out and damage the walls of the spaces they live in.

As women go into perimenopause, estrogen decreases which in turn reduces the quantity of blood vessel receptors and ultimately decreases circulation to your skin. (That’s one reason wrinkles occur.) When circulation decreases, you get less collagen synthesis and it’s also shown that less circulation causes fat cells to get bigger – not necessarily multiply, but that happens too.

Add to that the fact that on a neurological and cellular level, women have more beta receptors than alpha receptors – close to a 10 to 1 ratio, yet men have a 1 to 1 ratio. If the alpha receptors are stimulated, the body produces more fat cells, constricts blood vessels, damages collagen synthesis, and releases sugar into the bloodstream and the vicious cycle continues.

Estrogen itself helps the production of fat; so really, women are genetically designed to have it. I mean, if cellulite is a condition that affects 90 percent of us, can’t we just call it normal? Granted, if we ate a better diet and moved more and actively engaged in self-care, it might be less noticeable, but if you squeeze the back of your thigh, no matter your age or activity level, no matter what you eat, your fascial anatomy still exists under your skin.

I’ll note here that there’s no reliable clinical evidence to support the idea that estrogen has anything to do with cellulite, but really, do we need a scientific research paper to support this idea? Maybe we don’t have research because men do more research than women, it’s hard to fund a research study, and heck, we are talking about cellulite – it’s not a disease or a condition that medicine can cure.

How to Reduce the Appearance of Cellulite

The objective should be around how to keep your collagen hydrated, stable, and resilient. To do that, you want to do three things:

  1. reduce the volume of stored fat in your body (that’s a movement, diet, and daily activity thing)
  2. increase circulation
  3. support collagen synthesis (that’s a MELT thing)

Back of Thigh Shear

Below is a quick video where I demonstrate Back of Thigh Shear, a simple technique to gently twist and compress the back of your legs to improve both fascial responsiveness and blood flow – both altered by the daily posture of sitting. You can spend up to 10 minutes working on 4 different spots from your upper thigh to the knee. The secret is gaining a sense of twisting your tissue like using your thigh bone as a rolling pin. Don’t think of rubbing your leg against the roller, rather you are twisting the tissues between your bone and the flesh remaining on the roller. Give this one a try – you can do it daily. I do this move while watching TV instead of sitting on the couch.

Regular Movement

Another thing to consider is getting out of your chair at least once an hour and moving around. Even if it’s for 60 seconds, just stand up and you will boost blood flow to your backside.

Massaging your Legs

Can creams help? I don’t believe so, but what I really think helps is massaging your legs. You can do this anywhere with your hands, utilizing the Grab and Twist Technique.

Custom MELT On Demand Maps & Sequences

There are so many custom maps and sequences designed to reduce the appearance of cellulite- we even hosted a challenge this summer focused on this! You can challenge yourself by following the same 3-week program through MELT On Demand. Below are videos you can find on MELT On Demand:

A Few Words of Inspiration

One final note to all the women out there; it would be pretty amazing to hear about women embracing their womanly form. Our texture, shape, scent, smile, and inner beauty and wisdom is also shaped by our fascial systems. It’s the intuitive aspect of your being, so love it because it’s YOU. And YOU are amazing. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you see cellulite from a cellular perspective.

Learn more about the science behind the method, the creator Sue Hitzmann, and MELT On Demand’s streaming classes at


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