American women spend millions on creams, lotions, and other topical treatments in the hopes of getting rid of cellulite from their thighs and butts. We’re going to make a wild guess that very few of those products worked as well as you’d hoped. That’s because, despite its infamy, cellulite is just plain old fat (albeit dressed up in slightly more offensive attire), and a key to minimizing it is to drop pounds, according to research.
But how you lose weight matters: Crash dieting can actually make cellulite worse by reducing skin’s elasticity, making more of those little puckers noticeable. Gradual weight loss (to better preserve skin’s suppleness and reduce fat) accompanied by targeted muscle development, which firms and smooths underlying tissue, is the most effective cellulite solution, says Glynis Ablon, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at UCLA.
When Wayne Westcott, PhD, coauthor of No More Cellulite, tested such a strategy on 115 women, all of them reported a reduction in cellulite appearance at the end of 8 weeks, and ultrasound measurements confirmed a higher proportion of muscle to fat in their thigh areas.
Now, it’s your turn. This comprehensive exercise plan—based on Westcott’s findings—will burn fat, build muscle, and shed pounds safely. We know it’s not as easy as applying a cream. But it’s more effective. See for yourself.
A science-based, fat-blasting plan for a firmer butt and slim thighs: This two-pronged exercise program helps minimize the lumpy, bumpy appearance of cellulite. Aerobic exercise like walking and running burns fat, while toning exercises and lower-body moves such as squats and lunges build muscle.
To maximize fat loss, you’ll do 200 minutes of cardio exercise a week—the amount found to produce the greatest weight loss—including high-intensity exercise to rev your calorie burn for up to 19 hours after a workout. You should see the slimming, smoothing results in 4 weeks!
Chris Freytag, contributing fitness editor and creator of Prevention’s Fight Cellulite Fast! DVD, designed these workouts and models the moves.
Are you ready to get started?
Your Plan At A Glance
Part 1: Burn Off Cellulite (5 days a week)
Blast fat with two types of cardio routines: Intense Workouts (an interval program that builds from fitness walks to calorie-blasting runs) and Moderate Workouts (any aerobic activity you enjoy).
Part 2: Tone, Smooth, and Firm (3 days a week)
Tone your muscles by doing six strengthening moves. (Take a day off between these workouts.)
Weeks 1 & 2: Do 1 set of 12 repetitions of each exercise.
Weeks 3 & 4: Repeat the circuit twice so you’re doing 2 sets of each exercise.
Weeks 5–8: Repeat the circuit 3 times, so you’re doing 3 sets of each exercise. On the third set, instead of holding each move, pulse for 3 counts by lifting and lowering a few inches before returning to the start position.
Part 1: Burn Off Cellulite
Part 2: Tone, Smooth, and Firm
These 6 moves tone your hips, butt, and thighs—the most common sites for cellulite. For each move we offer an easier option, in case the main move is too difficult. If it’s too easy, increase the intensity of the standing exercises by holding dumbbells. To avoid injury, warm up with 5 minutes of marching in place or do these moves directly after your cardio workout when muscles are already warmed.
1. Squat Kickback
Make it easier: Don’t squat as deeply, and keep toes on floor when pressing back.
2. Curtsy and Kick
Stand with feet together, hands on hips. Step right foot behind left leg and bend knees until left thigh is almost parallel to floor (A). Keep left knee over ankle. Hold for 3 counts. As you stand back up, kick right leg out to side before doing another curtsy (B). Switch legs after each set.
Make it easier: Skip the kick and bring feet together between each curtsy.
3. Plié Sweep
Make it easier: Eliminate the leg sweep.
4. Glute Squeeze
Make it easier: Lower hips to floor between reps.
5. Bun Burner
Make it easier: Place forearms on floor.
6. Pass Through Lunges
Stand with feet together, hands on hips. Step right foot forward 2 to 3 feet and bend knees, lowering until right thigh is parallel to floor. Keep right knee over ankle. Hold for 1 count. In one swift movement, press off right foot and bring it behind you. (Left foot doesn’t move.) Lower into another lunge so left thigh is parallel to floor, holding for 1 count. Continue passing right foot through into a front then a back lunge without bringing feet together. Switch legs after each set.
Make it easier: Rather than pushing through from front to back in one swift movement, bring feet together before going into back lunge.
The Eating Plan
1. Cue your portions: These are what healthy serving sizes look like—or you can use your hand: Your palm is about the size of a 3-ounce serving of meat, and your fist is good for a half cup, perfect for pasta. Your thumb is about an ounce (cheese is 1½ thumbs), and the tip measures 1 teaspoon, which counts for one serving of oil.
2. Graze, don’t gorge: Plan on three small meals and two or three snacks a day, spaced no more than 4 hours apart. Women who follow this mini-meal plan are leaner and have less body fat than women who eat the same number of calories packed into two or three big meals, found researchers at the University of Michigan. Eating small portions often also helps keep your metabolism revved and stomach full so you don’t overeat.
3. Cut 100 calories per meal: It’s a lot easier than you may think, and it adds up fast: With 300 to 500 calories cut plus 400 more burned with our exercise plan, you’ll lose slow and steady. Skip the croutons in your salad and use 1 less tablespoon of butter on bread; both are good for saving 100.
4. Choose extrafilling foods: That means those that are high in fiber and water, such as broth-based soups and raw veggies, which are particularly talented at quelling appetite, so you’ll want to stop eating sooner. A study of 150 overweight people found that those who ate soup every day for a year lost 50% more weight than people who didn’t. And munching on a salad with fat-free dressing before your meal may cut your calorie intake by 12%, according to another study.
5. Pass on processed junk: Cookies, crackers, chips—they’re all packed with a lot of calories and not nearly enough nutrients per ounce as healthier options. A recent CDC survey of more than 7,000 adults confirmed that women who ate a calorie-dense diet had a higher BMI and weighed more.
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