The Difference Between Fat and Cellulite? Interview with Dr. Bruno Chikly (Part Two)

[Continued from Part One: The Lymphatic System, It’s Not What You Think]

The Condition Formerly Known as Cellulitis

“What does cellulite mean?” Dr. Chikly asks.  The question catches me off guard. Aren’t I supposed to be interviewing him?  I stumble through an answer. Thankfully, Dr. Chikly jumps in before I make any cliché cottage cheese references.

As Dr. Chikly explains, the term cellulite comes from the word cell. It is a spelling of cellulitis, which means inflammation of the cells. Cellulitis is a serious medical condition caused by a bacterial infection in the subcutaneous layers of the skin. Early cellulite researchers believed there might be a stage in cellulitis where the tissue inflammation caused scarring, leading to cellulite. This is not the case. As Dr. Chikly explains, cellulite is not the proper name for the condition we commonly recognize as cellulite.

“It’s not the proper term, but there’s no better term so we have to use it,” he states, “unless you prefer edemato-fibro-sclerotic dermopanniculopathy” which he explains is a more fitting name for the condition we call cellulite.

Will the Real Cellulite Please Stand Up?

The difference between fat and cellulite is a sticky subject (not a fat pun, I promise!). Throughout our cellulite investigation, we often run into fitness fanatics and weight loss gurus who fail to differentiate between the two.  “This is not a very clear field of medicine,” Dr. Chikly states.

His explanation is simple but instructive. “If you start with an extreme fast, fat is something that will disappear,” he explains. “You will still have some pockets of fat that will not dissolve. Those are the pockets of cellulite.” (Did you hear that, ladies? Do not fast to get rid of your cellulite.)

Cellulite is fat trapped within fibers; Dr. Chikly describes them as scar tissue fibers. “What causes it? We’re not sure. But if there is inflammation, there is something there that makes it inflamed.”

In Part Three,  we’ll pick Dr. Chikly’s brain about the possible causes of cellulite-related inflammation.


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Bruno Chikly, MD, DO, is the author of Silent Waves: Theory and Practice of Lymph Drainage Therapy. His book is the first comprehensive text on the lymphatic system and lymphedema in North America. Dr. Chikly is also the developer of Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT), a hands-on method of lymphatic manipulation now used by thousands of health care professional throughout the world. Learn more at www.ChiklyInstitute.org.

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