The 7 Emotional But Ultimately Body Positive Stages Of Recognizing Your Cellulite

Despite the fact that nearly every woman under the sun experiences cellulite development at some point in her life, for some women, the recognition that they have it can be daunting enough to send them online, frantically searching for ways to deal with cellulite. And, like any newly discovered, life changing information, the news of these often less loved lady lumps making an appearance in and around your dermis may make some psychological waves.

If the thought of cellulite sends shivers up your spine, you can experiment with creams, salves, and massages as much as you'd like, but unless you cope with the emotional stages of recognizing your cellulite, you'll never truly conquer your fear of the dreaded cottage cheese demon. Because let's face it — cellulite is not a negative. We just live in a society that often frames it to be, so the battle is entirely a mental one.

While it's true that 90 percent of women develop cellulite, some of us are more likely to experience the fat phenomenon, due to genetic predisposition. And in my family, that certainly seems to be the case. My grandmother, although active throughout her entire life, as a dancer, teacher, mother of 10, and golf enthusiast, was blessed with an abundance of thigh. She in turn passed on what our family fondly refers to as thunder thighs to her six daughters, and as it turns out, all of the matriarchs on my mother's side of the family sport varying degrees of cellulite — again, in spite of regular activity. And, when I say regular activity, I don't just mean a few minutes of cardio here and there. We are a family of water skiers, marathon runners, dancers, and caregivers. Which only goes to show that cellulite strikes women of all shapes, sizes, and levels of activity. And that can be explained by the basics of fat production in a woman's body.

As anyone who has come to find cellulite dimpling their previously smooth skin can attest, most bubbles and dents tend to form in specific areas below the breast line (tummy, bum, and thighs), or around the upper arms. The scientific reason for this is that the alpha receptors, which are responsible for fat production, far outnumber the beta receptors, which are responsible for breaking down fat, in those specific areas. Incredibly, in a woman's thigh, there are nine alpha receptors for every beta receptor. Those odds, my friends, have much to do with why the cottage cheese seems most prone to appearances just below our derrieres and above our knees. Not to mention the fact that our collagen structure apparently has an entirely different form from that seen in men, theirs being a more crossed, trellis-like shape, where ours is more banded, and allows for more bulging.

Of course, there are a handful of other contributing factors, including hormonal changes, decreases in exercise (since blood flow does increase collagen production, and exercise increases blood flow), and wearing constricting clothing (underwear with tight elastic, and arguably even bras, can restrict blood flow and the distribution of fat beneath collagen layers — suddenly going commando doesn't seem so bad, does it?).

But all that science doesn't change the fact that our society is pretty harsh when it comes to considering cellulite unsightly. Hence all of these derogatory terms, like cottage cheese. And, for a girl like me, who watched the women of her family make fun of their thighs for years, the knowledge that impending cellulite was a real possibility still wasn't enough to prepare me for coping with the reality of seeing it on my on body, even though I've never found it unattractive on anyone else's. So, I'll share with you the (rather over dramatized) seven emotional stages of discovering cellulite, in hopes that we can all have a good laugh, and maybe come to terms on a cultural level with the fact that women have cellulite, which doesn't and shouldn't equate to instant doom.

1. Panic

One day, you're standing in front of the mirror, examining how your favorite skirt looks, when all of the sudden...

Wait. Hold on... What the? What the crap is that? Is that? No... Oh my god. Oh my god! Oh, MY, GOD! Cellulite. Cellulite. Cellulite. Cellulite! Celllllllulite!

Unlike most emotional journeys, which tend to begin with denial, the first stage of recognizing you've begun your cellulite journey is sheer panic. Your mind blanks, your heart races, and you easily spend 45 minutes in the mirror, anxiously scrutinizing and pinching various parts of your body, barely processing the fact that you'll never, never, look the same as you did before today. Never. Oh, my god, where's that paper bag, I need it again.

2. Denial

If you were concerned that you would be stuck in the panic loop forever (and it sure feels like it for that first 45), don't worry, it passes. Within a few hours, you'll have moved on to denial. This is the stage during which you usually end up throwing on your best pair of jeans, or wearing the cutest sweaters for anywhere from a week to a few months, convincing your brain not to register any visible divots in your skin if you so happen to spot them, because really, you? No, that's silly. You don't have cellulite. You simply didn't see what you thought you saw, everything is fine, and you'll deal with it... hmm, maybe next year. Or, in another 25 years. Or never. Because nothing happened!

3. Obsession

Eventually, the unthinkable will happen, and you'll be faced, yet again, with the obvious existence of said cellulite. 

Sunday morning: "OK, so there it is. It is there, right? Jillian, come here, look at this. Is this cellulite? Like, really, here, lemme pinch it again. See?  See that? It's gotta be, right? I'm gonna get my camera, let's see if we can see it in a picture."

Later that night: "Honey, are you sure this skirt looks good? Yes, I know you love my curves, thank you. That's not it. I'm just... I'm just worried about... Well, never mind. But you're sure, right?"

Monday: During your lunch break, as you frantically search the Internet for terms like,"How to remove cellulite," and "Preventing cellulite," you find yourself thinking, "Will I ever feel the same way about my legs again?"

4. Depression

Once your mind stops spinning, and hyper-focusing on all of those newly apparent pockets of fat, it may occur to you that you should hide your arms and legs away forever. I mean, you're only doing society a favor (no, you're not, but this is depression, it doesn't know how to make sense). No one wants to see that (sure they do, and most people don't care, or even notice).

Melancholy, and full of regret, you climb tiredly into your comfiest pair of sweatpants, and that big, baggy t-shirt that neither makes you look attractive, nor unattractive, simply nondescript, and crawl into bed to sleep for the next week.

5. Investigation/Curiosity 

Luckily, after a weekend of hiding beneath the covers, romancing the majority of Ben&Jerry's greatest flavor hits, and singing sad songs in long, hot showers, you remember your plans for a long overdue girls night, and don a maxi skirt and cute blouse in an effort to resemble a semi-confident person. Sure, it might be a ruse at the moment, but then, there's that bit about faking it and making it, and whatnot.

With the encouragement of your besties, later that evening you begin to examine the details of your physique, cataloging the ways in which your body has changed, seemingly overnight, and making non-judgmental notes on the new landscape of the wonderland which (as you now remember — thanks, ladies!) is your body.

6. Acceptance

Phew, strong words, Nicki Minaj, but you know, you're right. Finally, after an emotionally trying few weeks (or few months, in some cases), you come to grips with the reality that you are a woman, and cellulite is, for most of us, just part of that packaged deal. While it may not be the most exciting part of the package, it's certainly no worse than coping with having your period for the first time (or, any of the subsequent times, really), or menopause, and in the end, it probably doesn't matter much to anyone other than adolescents who haven't yet been kindly reminded that they should be respectful in regard to the appearances and differences of others. (AKA bratty little boys or snarky teenage girls who oughta know their role.) So, you begin to breathe easily again, and start looking at your thighs and arms with the same respect you did before the discovery of cellulite.

7. Celebration

For some women, the cellulite journey ends with acceptance, and that's perfectly fine. But learning to love the form and function of your body is an ongoing process, and for those who are lucky enough to get there, the last stage of emotionally recognizing your friendly little fat deposits is celebration. For a few tips on how to reach this level of self-esteem success, you may want to follow up with Bustle's own Jodie Layne's article, "9 Reasons To Love Your Cellulite Right Now."

In the meantime, it's important to remember that your body is a pretty miraculous wonder. You have most of the tools necessary to encourage healthy function, and the best way to ensure it is to work with your body's natural rhythms, not against them. This means reducing stress, staying away from diets, eating as many raw, unprocessed foods as possible, and getting at least enough exercise to stimulate your circulation so that all of your organs and systems are working correctly. Once you've done those things, you can relax, and feel confident in the fact that whatever your shape or personal body landscape is, you look just as you should — you're a radiant, lovely creature, who happens to have some very unique fatty patterns on her body. You know, like fun, full body finger prints.

Images: Fotolia; Giphy (8)

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