"My thighs got bigger overnight": 10 causes for a sudden increase in cellulite - LipoTherapeia | London's cellulite experts (2023)

Sudden cellulite everywhere: when cellulite on legs appears overnight

Imagine the following scenario, something which I hear about all too often from my clients: you wake up one morning and suddenly realise that someone has "painted cellulite" all over your thighs, calves, arms and sometimes even stomach.

“Why do i have cellulite on my thighs suddenly? I mean, cellulite on stomach too? Cellulite on arms? On the calves? How is this possible?”

You swear that cellulite wasn't there last night, or last month for that matter, and are freaking out. "I used to have such great legs, my thighs got bigger overnight, what happened?", you wonder and turn to Google for answers. Apparently, "sudden cellulite" is an all too common Google query, as evidenced by the Google search auto-complete function.

Where does cellulite come from? What makes cellulite worse? What causes cellulite in the legs to appear suddenly?

The fact is that cellulite does not develop overnight or in a few weeks.

It usually develops slowly and insipidly under the surface over many years (this aesthetic condition is aptly called "pre-cellulite"). You only realise cellulite’s existence when it is already fully established ("cellulite-proper").

I see this every day at the clinic, when clients with decades’ old cellulite (I have seen 3000+ people with cellulite and can instantly tell what is old and what is new) say that “it only appeared the last two months”. Fair enough, most people don’t notice and/or are not experts in cellulite and that’s absolutely fine. But most cellulite takes years to develop.

However, in some cases, cellulite can indeed develop - or if it is already there, it can become significantly worse - in just a few short months. There are 10 common scenarios when this happens, which are analysed below.

1/ Why do I have so much cellulite: sudden inactivity

This is a very common scenario with clients at my clinic. Clients quite often say that...

  • "For the last few months I had to study very hard for my master's diploma and I was literally stuck on my chair all day for months on end"

  • "I used to exercise a lot but since I moved to my new job this year I am bound to my desk for fourteen hours a day"

  • "I had a skiing accident and had to be in bed for three months"

  • "I suffered from chronic fatigue and I was very inactive for years".

What is common in all those scenarios is "severe inactivity".

Inactivity favours the proliferation of adipocytes (fat cells) at the expense of fibroblasts (collagen- and elastin-producing cells), so you effectively swap firmness for fat and skin looseness.

This is a simple case of "if you don't use it, you lose it": if you don't need muscles / firm skin because you don't move much, you will lose some muscle / skin.

And since not moving usually implies excess calorie balance (i.e. excess fat looking to be stored somewhere), fat cells will take the place of collagen cells.

Furthermore, inactivity also weakens blood vessel, lymphatic vessel and capillary function, which means less blood circulation, less lymphatic drainage and consequently more water retention.

More fat, more water retention and less skin firmness are three of the main hallmarks of cellulite.

Inactivity is a major cause of cellulite, so don't blame the extra cup of coffee you have been having at your new job or during your master thesis. It is the inactivity that caused the cellulite, not the coffee.

2/ Why is my cellulite getting worse: starting on the contraceptive pill

No doctor will tell you - either because they don't care or because they don't know - but is is a fact: the pill causes cellulite. Period (excuse the pan).

Hormonal contraceptives, including pills, patches, medicated coils and injections, contain high amounts of artificial estrogens. Estrogen, on the other hand, is a major cause of cellulite, due to its stimulating effect on adipocytes that are found in the deeper layer of your skin (hypodermis), around the thigh, buttock, hip and other areas. Oestrogen is also the reason why women develop cellulite and men generally don't.

I have seen countless clients who suddenly - in the course of a few months - developed cellulite after going on the "pill". In some cases the change is very evident, so the client can visibly see the difference.

In some others, though, the effect is more gradual and the person blames the cellulite on diet, lack of exercise, coffee, not drinking enough water etc.

Of course the latter do contribute to cellulite, but the main triggering factor is excess estrogen, not lack of water etc.

3/ Why are my thighs getting bigger overnight: pregnancy

Another case where estrogen levels in the body soar is pregnancy, especially the last few months of it.

As described above, estrogen boosts the creation of cellulite, always in combination with an excess of calorie consumption and inactivity, both of which occur during pregnancy in most cases.

The solution to this is simple: keep exercising and keep eating healthily and not excessively, in order to minimise cellulite during pregnancy.

And afterwards, have a course of strong anti-cellulite treatments and apply a quality anti-cellulite cream, to reduce the little cellulite created.

4/ I have cellulite everywhere: excessive sugar consumption

Sugar, in all its forms (white sugar, brown sugar, sweet juices, honey, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup etc.), is the number one cause of cellulite today.

Women consume several times more sugar today than just a few decades ago and the results are visible: cellulite has increased as fast as sugar consumption did, and now even girls as young as 14 or 15 have cellulite.

Sugar creates insulin spikes and lows in the bloodstream which encourage fat deposition (basically sugar becomes fat in the body). This leads to cravings, which lead to further sugar or other food consumption. Excessive fat accumulation is the main aspect of cellulite.

Sugar also damages proteins in the body via a process called glycation,including proteins such as collagen and elastin that keep the skin and blood vessels firm and elastic. This leads to skin and blood vessel ageing and overall deterioration. Skin deterioration, skin looseness and poor circulation are three important aspects of cellulite.

Sugar also creates a state of low grade inflammation in the body and chronic, sub-clinical inflammation is one of the aspects of cellulite.

Developing a habit of regularly eating sugary foods (such as muffins, cakes, chocolates, ice cream, fizzy drinks, sweetened coffee and tea, croissants etc.), in very little time can create cellulite where there used to be nice, firm skin: just a few months are enough.

5/ Why am i getting cellulite: excessive alcohol consumption

About two decades ago, when I wasn't yet involved with cellulite reduction, I used to see a client, who had the perfect body. She used to exercise a lot and her legs were toned, both inside (muscles) and out (skin).

She was my client for about a year (I used to do bodywork and nutrition back then) and then at some point she stopped coming for treatments, as her life became very unsettled, due to marital problems.

Then, more than a year later, she started coming again for treatments. Luckily her marriage went back on track, but in the process, during the tough times, she developed a habit of drinking wine - a little bit, but several times a day - for several months. I suppose, she was self-medicating with a bit of wine throughout the day.

She did not develop any alcohol addiction or anything similarly serious, but when I looked at her body I could not believe my eyes: her once perfectly toned legs were covered with cellulite, which was also evident all over the body.

Clearly, the excessive calories from alcohol combined with the toxic effect of alcohol on the liver had a pronounced effect on her body.

Fortunately, she went back on track and started exercising intensively again and several months later she managed to get rid most of her cellulite, but not all of it. This is because, once cellulite gets established, it can not be completely eliminated with ANY method -even the apparently "miracle" ones - due to the permanent damage caused on the connective tissues under the skin.

However, with the right treatments and creams and a good dose of healthy living cellulite can be reduced to a large extent.

Drinking alcohol - especially binge-drinking - is a major cause of "sudden cellulite" creation.

6/ Sudden weight gain in thighs: fast weight gain

Gradually putting on weight may not lead to the creation of significant amounts of cellulite, especially if you follow a relatively healthy lifestyle. I use the word "relatively" here because the fact that you put on weight means that your lifestyle is not that healthy.

However, suddenly putting on a lot of weight, will almost certainly lead to the appearance of cellulite. This is because with excessive calorie consumption there is an excessive stimulation of fat cell proliferation (creation of new fat cells) and some of them will proliferate in the deeper (hypodermal) layer of your skin (cellulite) to accommodate the excess fat.

“Also, fast weight gain almost certainly implies inactivity combined with carb consumption and possibly fat, sugar and/or alcohol consumption and too much estrogen - more reasons to develop cellulite suddenly."

7/ Sudden increase in cellulite: it’s just your period

It is well known that before each period starts water starts to accumulate in tissues, especially on the calf, thigh, butt areas. So it is not a surprise that cellulite looks worse before menstruation.

One of the main aspects of cellulite is reduced circulation / increased water retention, which makes the hypodermis and dermis swell and therefore worsen the appearance of cellulite.

However, there is something that very few people know: with each period, protein-breakdown enzymes, called metalloproteinases (MMPs), break down some of your skin proteins: collagen and elastin.

Some scientists believe that this action of MMPs is a major cause of cellulite and skin looseness in women with the progression of age. This effect does not occur in men and it’s one of the reasons between the sexual difference in skin tightness between men and women - and the lack of cellulite in men.

Furthermore, the action of estrogen every month tends to stimulate the growth of new fat cells and therefore cellulite.

Less firmness and more fat means more cellulite. The solution to this effect of hormone-stimulated MMPs on your body is to exercise, have enough protein in your diet and avoid excess calories (especially sugar) before your period and in general.

8/ Fast increase in cellulite due to medication

Certain drugs can cause sudden weight gain (e.g. some psychiatric drugs) while others can cause both sudden and significant water retention and weight gain (e.g. steroids or IVF).

Both weight gain and water retention also cause cellulite, so there is no wonder medication can lead to cellulite development.

Once I saw a client who was taking diuretic pills for several months “to lose weight” (I know, it’s stupid) and when stopped taking the medication she suffered from water retention and cellulite, despite being a slim and attractive 25-year old model.

9/ Why is my cellulite so bad suddenly: too much London / New York / Milano / Paris...

It is a common theme at my practice to see clients who complain that their cellulite developed or became significantly worse after coming to live in London.

London is a very international city and hundreds of thousands of people from the UK, the EU and all over the world come here to study and work every year. Of course, it is not that there is something in the air or the water of London that causes women to develop cellulite or put on weight.

It is the reduced exercise levels, either because of the weather or due to starting a demanding new job or demanding new year at university, which does not allow them to exercise as much as they want to.

Add to that the beer culture after work (granted, it is usually wine or cocktails for the ladies, but it's still alcohol), the generally fattening, unhealthy food found at work/school cafeterias,pubs, coffee shops and restaurants and the sugary snacks to cope with the moody weather, and you have a recipe for weight gain and cellulite.

Starting on the contraceptive pill for acne, for unsettled periods or just for good old contraception after finding love, adds the icing on the cake...

10/ Does cellulite get worse with age? It was always there, you just didn’t notice.

Cellulite does indeed get worse with age and there are studies that prove that - in addition to common experience.

As the skin ages it loses collagen and accumulates fat more easily, while circulation declines and tissue inflammation, glycation, oxidative damage and fibrosis increase. The combination of these factors is the recipe for cellulite.

The problem is that most of us do not see any physical changes until they become very pronounced. I see many clients of, say, 50 years of age, who state that their cellulite appeared just a few months ago, when it is obvious that that cellulite is decades old.

So yes, age is a contributing factor to cellulite, slowly increasing it in the body until we care to notice it.

Does cellulite get worse before it gets better?

Nope it doesn’t. There is no scenario where cellulite needs to get worse first in order to get better. If cellulite gets worse, it won’t get better unless you do something about it.

And if cellulite gets better, that means that you have made an effort, either by improving your diet, increased your physical activity, got rid of the contraceptive pill, quit smoking/vaping or perhaps stopped some medication that caused you inflammation/water retention/fat accumulation (always after doctor advice).

Cellulite all over the body

Most women do not develop cellulite all over the body. Usually it is found on the thighs and buttocks. In some cases it is seen on the calves, stomach and arms. And more rarely on the waist/back too.

If cellulite is visible all over the body it is usually when it has progressed for a few years, typically starting from the thighs/buttocks and gradually appearing on other areas.

Number one cause of cellulite: excess

I don't know if you've noticed but the main theme in all the above cases is EXCESS.

Cellulite is a condition of EXCESS.

Normally, it takes years of relatively poor diet and relatively sedentary living for cellulite to appear - with the speed of it's appearance depending on every woman's genetic make-up.

However, it can only take just a few months of excess estrogen, sugar, alcohol, inactivity or food in general for cellulite to appear.

Number two cause of cellulite: unnatural living

There is also another word that comes to mind: UNNATURAL.

Being so sedentary is totally UNNATURAL and a feature of modern life in the west. Sugar is an UNNATURAL food, whose consumption only sky-rocketed the last few years. Alcohol is equally UNNATURAL and the same applies to putting UNNATURAL, artificial hormones in our bodies.

Clearly, cellulite is a combination of EXCESS and UNNATURAL living and that's where we should start if we want to avoid it.

Eating healthily and exercising a lot, i.e. doing the two most important NATURAL things for the human body, is a good start.

Applying a good, highly concentrated cellulite cream with NATURAL active ingredients is another step. And having a quality cellulite treatment which stimulates NATURAL processes in the body is yet another.

And of course, avoiding UNNATURAL things, such as hormonal contraception, smoking or drinking will also help a lot too.

How to get rid of cellulite overnight?

Cellulite never appears overnight (we just happen to only notice it overnight) and absolutely, definitely it can NOT be reduced overnight.

It is so sad that there are so many ‘cowboys’ around who promise overnight miracles to the naive and the gullible, but what is even sadder is that there are so many people who believe those ‘cowboys’.

Cellulite takes years/decades to develop so it would take at least some weeks/months to be reduced. Furthermore, in most cases it cannot be eliminated. And in all cases it cannot be rid of forever.

For proper, responsible, science-based advice on cellulite reduction, please check the links below.

For the fastest possible results, have an intensive course of 6-12 treatments combining…

deep-acting, high-power radiofrequency with high-power, deep-acting ultrasound cavitation, the most effective SAFE anti-cellulite / skin tightening technologies available today. Deep, strong RF/cavitation treatments work very well for lipolysis, collagen/elastin synthesis and circulation enhancement (much more than creams).

For the best value for money and to maximise the results of your exercise, diet and treatment…

…apply a real cellulite cream, i.e. one with multiple, high-purity anti-cellulite actives in high concentrations (caffeine, forskolin, centella asiatica triterpenes are indispensable as anti-cellulite active ingredients - plus more, if possible), for 6-12 weeks. Concentrated cellulite creams act less fast but they offer far better value for money than treatments. Concentrated cellulite creams act on aspects of cellulite that treatments can’t: free radical damage, fibrosis, glycation and inflammation. They also do work for circulation enhancement, lipolysis and collagen/elastin synthesis, but to a lesser extent than treatments.

For maintenance, prevention and to reduce cellulite at home at no cost, albeit more slowly…

…than with treatments and creams, check out our epic guide with 100+ expert tips. Healthy nutrition and exercise are absolutely essential for both cellulite prevention and reduction and to make the most of your treatments and creams.

Do not fall for misleading claims about ONE-OFF, forever results (😂)…

…with 1-4 very unsafe, very expensive, very painful, “miracle” skin tightening / cellulite treatments, which are based on deliberately first burning the skin at 65-85º C now in order to heal it later. Not surprisingly this quite often results in permanent damage (the latest such fad is microneedling radiofrequency). The reality is that even with the best technology in the world, your skin needs 5, 10, 15 regular (ie weekly), strong, deep-acting, never painful treatments, for good, long-term results, produced naturally by stimulating the connective and adipose tissues, rather than burning them.


Why do I have so much cellulite on my thighs all of a sudden? ›

Weight gain can make cellulite more noticeable, but some lean people have cellulite, as well. It tends to run in families, so genetics might play the biggest role in whether you develop cellulite. An inactive lifestyle also can increase your chances of having cellulite, as can pregnancy.

Why has my cellulite suddenly got worse? ›

Genetics, sex, age, the amount of fat on your body and your skin's thickness determine how much cellulite you have and how visible it is. As you age, your skin loses elasticity and can make the appearance of cellulite more evident. Gaining weight can also make the appearance of cellulite more prominent.

Why am I gaining cellulite so fast? ›

While the appearance of cellulite tends to worsen as you gain weight, it can also affect those who are thin. This is because the fat itself is not the primary cause. 3 The basic contributing factors of cellulite are things you can't control, including skin structure, hormones, genetics, and age.

Why did my thighs get fat overnight? ›

6/ Sudden weight gain in thighs: fast weight gain

This is because with excessive calorie consumption there is an excessive stimulation of fat cell proliferation (creation of new fat cells) and some of them will proliferate in the deeper (hypodermal) layer of your skin (cellulite) to accommodate the excess fat.

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