Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Happy Tuesday Y'all!
So as everyone knows by now, I've been on this "try to eat healthier, work out with Monica" kick since she started training for her triathlon in September. The day is fast approaching, and Momo has been doing an awesome job! She inspires me everyday; and when I feel like I don't want to go to the gym or I want to eat some ice cream, she reminds me that our health is more important than a double scoop of heaven from our favorite spot up the street.
And it's been working! In the short time I've joined her crusade, I've lost 8 lbs by just watching certain things I eat and working out with her twice a week. On the days we don't work out together, I feel obligated to go to the gym because I know she's at her training...running, biking and swimming it up! At her last doctor's appointment, she was informed that her blood pressure was lower and that her cholesterol levels where down. She was in good health to begin with, but her conditioning has made her that much healthier. Something as simple as exercising 3-5 times a week makes a huge difference.
As Black women, we are more at risk of developing serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension/high blood pressure. Some of these conditions are hereditary - but can be controlled - while most times they can be prevented altogether. We are more likely to die from complications from any of those conditions compared to our white counterparts. It's simply a matter of caring enough to want to take better care of ourselves.
We should work out to feel good, feel strong, relieve stress and to be healthier. But we make excuses as to why we can't do it or find the time. We work long hours, have husbands and children to tend to, we can't afford a gym membership - all seemingly valid reasons why exercising may be at the bottom of our priority list.
But the one reason that shouldn't be an excuse as to why we can't work out is our hair. Yes, you read correctly...our HAIR.
According to a study conducted by the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, N.C., 31% of African-American women surveyed said that they exercise less because it might harm their hairstyles. While all the women agreed that exercise is important, fewer than 25% actually met the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended exercise rates.
I am one of those women who sweats her hair out. But we also know that I'm one of those women who could care less about hair. It gets wet, I wash and blow-dry it. No big deal. I pull it back into a little ponytail and keep it moving. But I also have to get more treatments because my hair breaks off from washing it and drying it over and over again. That's why braiding my hair works best for me, because I can work out and not have to worry about my hair not looking "done" after I rinse the sweat out.
But I also realize I'm not like most sista girls either. Few African-American women would head straight to the gym from the hair salon - even I wouldn't do that. We get our hair "did" on Friday or Saturday, and don't work out til Monday or Tuesday. We tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time AND money on professional hair care, so the LAST thing we're gonna do is sweat out that perm and blow-out we just spent all day getting and throw money on the treadmill. I can hear all my girls now..."hell naw!"
But now, the problem is raised to the level of a public health concern because as a group, African-American women are in greater need of exercise. Seventy-eight percent of Black women are overweight and 50% can be categorized as obese, according to the American Obesity Association.
The biggest concern about our hair is trying to maintain a hairstyles that isn't natural. Now, I've already written the blog on "good and bad hair" - so we're not going to go there. If you want it pressed and relaxed or if you're "happy to be nappy" - that's on you. I pass judgment on no one. But Black women’s hair is more delicate, even though it's coarser, because the chemicals we often use to straighten it break our hair down - something to consider when deciding on how to rock your "do."
The average African-American woman gets her hair done every two weeks, though some go more often. Some styles, like long weaves, are expensive and can be destroyed by sweat or water, so women who opt for those styles may decide to forgo a sweaty workout.
And even those women who DO work out regularly may be reluctant to work up a REAL sweat for fear of ruining their hair. I've seen women at the gym who are barely moving, just so they won't bust a sweat. They aren't pushing themselves as much as they could because they're worried about their hair. They're thinking, "this style has to last me til next Friday girl!"
I asked my hair stylist what I could do to keep my hair healthy and STILL work out often. Her response?
"Nothing girl...you just have to decide which is more important to you -cute and fat, or thin and in shape with jacked up hair."
I'll take the jacked up hair for $200 Alex.
She DID offer up some advice though. She said that short hairstyles, braids and locks are the best styles for African-American women who regularly exercise, because they're easiest to care for. She also offered up these little tips:
- To prevent sweat damage by controlling moisture and salt buildup, use a mild, pH-balanced shampoo and a moisturizing protein conditioner a couple times a week.
-Wear a swim cap in the pool to protect hair from chlorine damage.
- For natural styles, treat hair and scalp with a light conditioning oil daily.
- Blunt cuts and bobs can be easily styled after workouts.
- Style chemically relaxed hair with a wide-toothed comb.
- After a workout, dry-set hair with rollers and use a leave-in conditioner on the tips.
Now, I'm not one to worry about my hair after I break a sweat, no matter WHAT type of exercising I'm doing (after all, there are MANY ways to break a sweat!). But I get it. We don't like to go to work looking all crazy and we DO want to take care of our hair as much as possible. For most Black women, our crown is our glory...and there's nothing wrong with that.
But would you rather have diabetes and high blood pressure with a fly-ass weave, or would you rather live to see your grandchildren with your hair a knotty mess or in a ponytail?
If you even have to think about the answer...shame on you.