Debate: An anti-cellulite drug, hailed as a cure by its makers, was launched here last week. Should we be taking it? Hand it over, says Sam Taylor; I'm desperate. Cellulite is just fat, says Dr Judy Buttriss; go on a diet instead

SAM TAYLOR

Typical woman (has cellulite)

DON'T CROSS your legs. Don't eat avocado. Don't drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or wear unsuitable shoes. Don't wear tight fitting clothing or stay for too long in a sedentary position.

There probably isn't a single woman in the country who doesn't know that this is the anti-cellulite mantra. It's almost a race memory thing. It's also a how-to-not-pull-a-bloke thing. After all, if we're not allowed to totter around, half cut, in low plunging, circulation-stopping mini- dresses how else are we supposed to distract them away from the blobby thighs?

Personally I think it's like stains on the lounge carpet: nobody notices them if you keep the lights turned down low. And as long as you only go out with men who wear glasses, and insist they take them off during sex, things usually go swimmingly.

When was the last time any sane 35-year-old stood bare-legged in front of a changing room mirror and uttered the words: "Umm, my legs look lovely today"? Never.

Where cellulite comes from is a mystery. Bouncy babies' bottoms are covered in the stuff. But, some time between our fifth birthday and our early teens, cellulite retreats - only to surface just in time for us to spend large parts of our first wage packets on plastic nobbly derriere massagers that look like sex toys and raise more eyebrows than a dimpled bottom.

In short, cellulite is big business. Most of us patrol the magazine racks and book stores, constantly on the look out for The Solution. And short of literally ironing our backsides, we'll try anything.

Liz Earle, the fitness guru, suggests in her book, Quick Guide To Beating Cellulite that fasting is the key. And in a way, she's right. After all, one of the side effects of fasting for a couple of weeks is a constant headache - so nobody sees your cellulite anyway. Cindy Crawford claims to keep hers at bay by rubbing coffee beans into her thighs every morning.

Yep, I've tried it. And all I can say is a jar of Nescafe might make Gareth Hunt miraculously appear in your kitchen, but it won't save you from the marbled monster.

Bizarrely, men, often keen collectors of pointless facts, prefer to keep the cellulite issue on a need-to-know basis. If you ask one of them what it is, they go all shifty and say things like: "I don't know." Or, if it's early on in the relationship: "You don't have any, darling." Unless you're daft enough to actually grab a handful of flesh, pucker it up under a spotlight and say "Look!", they seem happy to ignore it.

I don't know anybody who's been ditched because she had too much cellulite, but I do know lots of women who've been traded in for younger models. Not that the two things are necessarily related, but I think I'll start taking the pills anyway.

DR JUDITH BUTTRISS

Scientist, British Nutrition Foundation

CELLULITE IS nothing more than a trendy name for fat that becomes dimpled because of where it is deposited. I'm often asked whether there is a magical diet that will selectively slim the hips or thighs. The answer is no:the body doesn't work that way. But you can tackle these problem areas by being selective in the physical activity you use to keep trim.

Even the slimmest of people have some fat; healthy, slim women typically have about 20 to 25 per cent of their body weight as fat. For men, the figure is a little lower. This fat is usually stored around the hips or the waist, a distribution which is largely genetically determined and varies with gender. These stores serve a variety of useful purposes. The fat cushions body organs such as the kidneys, it helps us to keep warm and it acts as an energy store.

Nevertheless, you can have too much of a good thing and over half the adult population is overweight. Some people will go to any lengths to find a quick and painless solution to those unwanted pounds. But there are no supplements or wonder foods that can cause the pounds to fall off by themselves. Neither can slimming diets cause weight loss from a particular part of the body.

The only way to lose excess fat - including cellulite - is to ensure that your body expends more energy (calories) than you consume in foods and drinks. There are no ways of getting round the basic laws of physics.

There are two main ways of achieving this - eating less or exercising more - or a combination of both.

For people with just a few pounds to lose, probably the best approach is to be more physically active. This will help you to relax and will benefit your heart, bones and digestive system too. It doesn't have to mean taking up a sport or religiously attending aerobics classes - though these are good ideas. It can be as simple as walking to the shops rather than driving, using stairs rather than the lift, or going for a walk or cycle ride at the weekend. By choosing types of activity that focus on the muscles in the area where the unwanted fat is deposited, you can help tone them and improve the appearance of the target region.

Frequent dieting can take the enjoyment out of eating and crash diets may do more harm than good. A sensible weight loss is 1lb-2lbs per week. This should be achievable if you stick to a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, some lean meat, chicken, fish, pulses and low- fat dairy products, and plenty of starchy foods such as pasta, rice, potatoes and brown bread. Yes, these are an important part of a healthy slimming diet, provided you don't add lots of spread, oil or rich sauces. The easiest way to eat fewer calories is to cut down on fatty foods, as dietary fat provides more calories, weight for weight, than starch, sugar or protein. Another is to cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink.

To keep trim, rather than spend money on miracle cures, invest in an annual membership in your local leisure centre or gym, or buy a second- hand bicycle and use it.

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