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Many women tell me that every stray calorie seems to migrate to their hips and thighs.
This is not a figment of their imaginations.
Before menopause, many women's bodies store excess fat predominantly in this area, creating what's come to be known as the "pear-shaped" body. For thousands of years, fat storage in these areas greatly helped cave-dwelling women survive during times of drought and famine. And women who could easily store fat in their hips and thighs tended to be able to give birth and feed a baby during a drought--during pregnancy and breastfeeding, the body needs as many as 1,000 extra calories a day--thus passing on their thigh-fat-storing genetics to future generations.
This is one reason why thigh fat is so difficult to get rid of. Genes left over from your cave-dwelling ancestors cause hormones and enzymes in your body to direct every extra calorie into waiting fat cells in your hips and thighs. For example, your levels of the female sex hormone estrogen may be a tad higher than other women whose bodies don't store excess fat in these areas (or as much of it).
But there are ways to coax these fat cells in your thighs to release their contents, and to coax your muscle cells into burning it up! So don't despair.
What Causes Cellulite?
Besides excess fat in their thighs, many women complain to me about a certain type of fat known as cellulite. They tell me that no matter how much weight they lose, they can't seem to smooth out the tiny lumps of fat on their thighs. Indeed, some of the most slender women have cellulite.
Cellulite is created when fat manages to push its way through tiny holes in your connective tissue, the thick web of interwoven fibers just underneath your skin. Strong and healthy connective tissue forms a tighter web of interwoven fibers, preventing fat from pressing its way through. Weak, unhealthy connective tissue, on the other hand, more easily stretches apart, allowing tiny fat pockets to poke through. Many factors can weaken your connective tissue, setting the stage for cellulite. They include:
High hormone levels
Women with higher-than-normal levels of the female hormone estrogen tend to suffer more often from cellulite. Other than directing extra calories to fat cells in your thighs, estrogen also weakens connective tissue. When estrogen softens connective tissue around the womb, it makes childbirth possible. Unfortunately, estrogen softens all of the connective tissue in your body, not just that around your womb.
Poor blood circulation
Usually, high estrogen levels alone won't trigger cellulite to form. Many experts believe that you must also have poor blood circulation to your connective tissue, which tends to cause swelling. The swelling stretches the connective tissue apart, allowing the fat to bulge through.
Many people think that fluid retention takes place only in the abdomen. That's not true. It actually occurs all over your body, including your thighs. If you've ever pulled on a favorite pair of pants and found them tight in the thighs one day and loose the next, you've experienced the ebb and flow of fluid retention. Any type of swelling in your thighs--particularly on a chronic basis--will stretch out and weaken connective tissue.
A frenzied lifestyle
Emotional stress has also been shown to weaken connective tissue.
What You Can Do
First, daily exercise will help to normalize your hormonal levels. This not only helps prevent cellulite, it will also help to prevent mood swings. Second, exercising will increase blood circulation to your thighs, helping to keep the connective tissue healthy. Better blood circulation will, in turn, help to remove excess fluid. Finally, as you shed fat in your hips and thighs, you'll have less of it to press against your connective tissue.
Good News/Bad News
Genetically speaking, there are two predominant body types. Some people gain fat in their lower bodies, creating the pear shape mentioned earlier. Others tend to gain fat in their abdomens, creating what's known as an apple shape.
Though you may have come to despise the fat on your hips and thighs, you should know that you have a major advantage over people who tend to gain it elsewhere. Research has shown over and over again that abdominal fat--and not hip and thigh fat--is particularly dangerous to your health. Abdominal fat more easily makes its way into your bloodstream, clogging your arteries. Thigh fat is much less likely to do so.
Now for the bad news. Thigh fat is a little harder to burn off than belly fat. You probably know this already. If you and a boyfriend, guy friend, or husband have ever resolved to lose weight at the same time, you probably noticed that he had a much easier time dropping the weight in his belly than you did in your thighs.
Regardless, that doesn't mean you can't burn it off. I know that women who have excess thigh fat are generally the most motivated to get rid of it. So I probably don't have to give you much of a pep talk to help motivate you toward your goal.
Abdominal fat is easy to hide with a big sweater. Thigh fat, on the other hand, is almost impossible to hide. And summer can be a very difficult time for women. My female friends and online clients tell me that they hate wearing shorts and swimsuits because they hate revealing their legs. And they tell me that their pants tend to hug too tightly in the thighs.
But you can change all of that! Not only can you slim down your thighs and hips and smooth away that cellulite, but you can also build the muscles in your legs, which are some of the largest and strongest muscles in your body. Stronger leg muscles make your overall life feel so much more effortless. You'll walk with more confidence and with a spring in your step. You'll be able to climb stairs without getting tired. And you'll be able to go on strenuous hikes--all because of your strong legs! You will feel better about yourself from the inside out.
MOVE 1: Seated Pillow Squeeze (works on inner thighs)
Sit on a sturdy chair (one without wheels). Rest your feet on the floor with your knees bent at 90-degree angles. Place a pillow between your thighs. Exhale as you squeeze the pillow between your thighs, as if you were trying to squeeze the stuffing out of the pillow. Hold for 1 minute as you breathe normally. Release and proceed to Move 2.
MOVE 2: Seated Hand Push (works outer thighs and hips)
Sit on a sturdy chair. Rest your feet on the floor with your knees bent at 90-degree angles. Place your palms on the outsides of your knees. While keeping your palms and arms stationary, push your knees outward against your palms, as if you were trying to push your palms away. At the same time, press inward with your hands, preventing your thighs from pushing them outward. Hold this isometric contraction for 1 minute, breathing normally. Release and proceed to Move 3.
MOVE 3: Seated Leg Raise (works fronts of the thighs)
Sit on a sturdy chair. Rest your feet on the floor with your knees bent at 90-degree angles. Rest your hands on the chair at your sides. Exhale as you lift and extend your right leg. Hold for 30 seconds as you breathe normally. Then inhale as you lower your right leg and exhale as you repeat with your left leg. Hold for 30 seconds while breathing normally. Release and proceed to Move 4.
MOVE 4: Seated Bridge (works the backs of the thigh and rear end)
Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair. Rest your feet on the floor with your knees bent at 90-degree angles. Rest your palms on the chair at your sides. Exhale as you lift your hips, allowing your palms and feet to support your body weight. Continue to lift your hips until your body resembles the shape of a bridge. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds while breathing normally. Release and return to Move 1. Repeat Moves 1-4 once more, and you're done.
Article courtesy of Prevention Magazine and Jorge Cruise.
Best-selling author Jorge Cruise's latest book is 8 Minutes in the Morning to Lean Hips and Thin Thighs (Rodale Inc. 2004).
Regards, Suni ...
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