Can Diet or Exercise Reduce Stomach Cellulite? Experts Explain

In a world of social media filters, Photoshop, and perfect lighting and angles, we can forget one very important fact: most people have cellulite. It's totally normal! Some have cellulite on their stomach or on their thighs, tush, or on the backs of their arms. Of course, cellulite is nothing to be ashamed of and is a totally normal part of the human body.

That being said, we understand that carrying excess fat in your belly can be a cause for concern since this type of fat can be dangerous to your health, putting you at risk for issues such as heart attacks and strokes, type 2 diabetes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Sleep apnea, hypertension, arthritis, fatty liver disease, depression, and dementia have also been linked to high levels of visceral fat in the stomach.

If you're concerned about belly fat and looking to reduce the cellulite in your tummy area, doctors and personal trainers shared these tips to help diminish your stomach cellulite.

— Additional reporting by Maggie Ryan

What Causes Cellulite on the Stomach?
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What Causes Cellulite on the Stomach?

"Cellulite occurs when fat deposits push through the connective tissue beneath the skin, giving it a lumpy, dimpled appearance. It usually affects the buttocks and thighs but can affect other areas as well, including the abdomen and upper arms," NYC dermatologist Hadley King, MD, told POPSUGAR.

Cellulite can affect both men and women, but it's more common in women due to the different distributions of fat, muscle, and connective tissue. She said, "Between 80 and 90 percent of women may experience cellulite at some point in their lives, which tells us that cellulite is very normal!"

So why might you get cellulite on your stomach, in particular?

  • Hormones: Hormones likely play an important role in cellulite development, Dr. King explained. "Estrogen, insulin, noradrenaline, thyroid hormones, and prolactin all play a part in the formation of cellulite," which is another reason it's more prevalent in women.
  • Your genes: Genetics are also a key factor in where you have cellulite, explained Bruce Katz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and director of JUVA Skin & Laser Center in NYC. Some people are just more predisposed to it than others (you can thank your parents for that).
How to Reduce Stomach Cellulite
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How to Reduce Stomach Cellulite

"The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has reviewed a number of techniques that may be successful in reducing the appearance of cellulite by breaking up the bands of connective tissue under the skin's surface," Dr. King said. She said the techniques "most likely to produce results" are:

  • Laser treatment
  • Subcision
  • Vacuum-assisted precise tissue release

The AAD also recommends these techniques, but they tend to be invasive and expensive so may not be an option for most people.

Dr. Katz reiterated that cellulite is nothing to be ashamed of, but if you're self-conscious about it, there are are a few simple lifestyle choices you can make to help reduce the appearance of cellulite. Losing weight is one way to reduce stomach cellulite. Although you can't spot reduce fat from your belly, lowering your overall body-fat percentage will help you get leaner, including in your belly.

How to Lose Stomach Cellulite With Diet
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How to Lose Stomach Cellulite With Diet

Experts agree that in order to reduce your overall body-fat percentage, diet is key and will help to diminish belly fat. While you don't need to give up eating your favorite foods like pizza and ice cream entirely, it's essential to focus on eating a nutritious diet. Registered dietitian Jessica Levings from Balanced Pantry said your diet should include:

  • Whole foods
  • Complex carbs like whole grains
  • Adequate protein
  • Healthy fats

Creating a moderate calorie deficit is also important. Levings recommends making an appointment with a registered dietitian so they can help you design an individualized eating plan based on your calorie needs and weight goals. If you're unable to meet with an RD, use this formula to calculate your daily calories.

Cut Back on Sugar and Processed Foods to Lose Stomach Cellulite
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Cut Back on Sugar and Processed Foods to Lose Stomach Cellulite

"One of the biggest culprits for causing cellulite is sugary sweet snacks and processed foods," explained Manish Shah, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Denver. "Sugar is stored in our fat cells, and having too much will cause them to expand, thus creating the appearance of cellulite."

Sugar and refined carbs also have an effect on your insulin levels. Jason Fung, MD, a nephrologist, explained in a previous interview that foods such as doughnuts, cookies, candy, pasta, and white bread spike your insulin levels, which can cause weight gain. Keeping your insulin levels low will help reduce your overall body-fat percentage, and that means belly fat.

Cut Back on Alcohol to Lose Stomach Cellulite
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Cut Back on Alcohol to Lose Stomach Cellulite

Alcohol tends to have high amounts of sugar, which may only make cellulite more noticeable. Also, alcohol consumption has been linked to abdominal fat, registered dietitian Whitney English, MS, of Whitney E. RD shared in a previous interview. One reason is that when you drink alcohol — which your body can't store like it can fat, protein, and carbs — your liver prioritizes processing the alcohol, which interferes with your metabolism. This leads to the storage of more fat in your body, so limit the glasses of wine, beer, and cocktails.

Lose Stomach Cellulite With HIIT Cardio
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Lose Stomach Cellulite With HIIT Cardio

Although you can't completely get rid of cellulite, you can diminish it by losing weight with exercise in combination with a healthy diet. Some workouts are more effective than others, and ISSA-certified trainer Jamie Hickey recommended high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. HIIT workouts are the most effective type of cardio proven to target belly fat. It not only works but also saves you time at the gym.

"The whole workout, including warmup, doesn't need to be more than 45 minutes to be effective," ACE-certified fitness instructor John Kersbergen said in a previous interview. He added that three to four times a week is enough. Here are some HIIT workouts you can try:

Lose Stomach Cellulite With Strength Training
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Lose Stomach Cellulite With Strength Training

Skip the endless hours of cardio (HIIT is more efficient anyway) and make sure you incorporate strength training into your fitness plan, said NASM-certified trainer and exercise physiologist Krissi Williford. You can lift weights like dumbbells or barbells or use bodyweight movements. Building muscle through strength training will encourage your body to burn more calories at rest and speed up your metabolism, explained Nicole Aurigemma, a physiologist at the Penn State Muscle Biology Lab, in a previous interview.

Aim for at least three strength-training sessions a week, include all parts of your body, incorporate different exercises, and use a variety of equipment. Try these strength-training workouts:

Embrace Your Body!
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Embrace Your Body!

Almost 90 percent of women have cellulite, although it's treated like a major flaw that needs to be fixed. ACE-certified trainer Rachel MacPherson with Radial Strength said that angling cellulite as undesirable is a lucrative marketing trick because when you feel like you shouldn't have something on your body that 90 percent of us have, you're more likely to buy the lotions, pills, or workout plans to get rid of it.

The best thing you can do is embrace the body you have and love yourself, especially the unfiltered version. "If we travel to other countries, we notice women are much more proud of their bodies and don't fuss about cellulite but love the way they look just as they are. Once you get over the cellulite on your body and live your best life, nobody else will notice. It's all in the attitude you have about your body that speaks volumes to others," said NASM- and ACE-certified trainer Holly Roser.

Remember that the goal of eating right and exercising is to be healthy and strong in body, mind, and spirit. Focus on how nourishing yourself with food makes you feel energized. Revel in the fact that working out regularly has made you stronger and more confident. Keep in mind that taking care of yourself allows you to live life to the fullest, to spend time doing the things you love with the people you love most. It's so important to show yourself love and compassion and to embrace all you are, inside and out.