Saturday, July 12, 2014

Published 9:30 AM by StilettoLova with 8 comments

Our Hair, Our Health, Our Headache?

Yes, We Rise| Our hair, Our health, Our headache? FLOTUS
First Lady Michelle Obama makes exercise and good nutrition a priority.

I'll admit it.  I like food.  No, I LOVE food!  I love the way it looks, the way it's prepared, the smell, and (insert salivation here) the taste.  I'm one of those folks that relishes every blessed bite.  I taste the saltiness, the sweetness, the overall flavors of everything I eat. 

One day, a colleague handed me a picture from a Veterans Day balloon launch we held last year.  In the picture was a woman dressed in a pair of denim Capri pants, a red top, a matching denim jacket, and red wedges.  Her natural hair had been brushed into an upswept bush ball.  I thought to myself, "Hmm.  I have an outfit just like that".  Then I studied the picture again, looking at every detail.  The woman in the picture had a cute, yet "cheeky" face.  She was a bit chubby, though she was suitably dressed for her shape.  Her pants were a bit snug, but I didn't think much of it, since fitted pants seemed to be the norm these days.  If you'd ask me what size she was, I would bet she was a size 14.

"Girl, that was a beautiful poem you read that day", my coworker replied.  It was only at THAT moment that I realized that the chubby woman in that picture was ME, and I didn't even recognize myself!

I thought to myself, "How could this be?"  I'd always been an active person.  I'd taken ballet, modern, and jazz dance from age nine through adulthood.  I taught modern and jazz dance at local recreation centers.  In my twenties and thirties, I partied in clubs and cabarets.  I believed in exercise and its health benefits, but I also had the ability to eat and drink what I wanted as often as I desired.    

As time progressed, and the demands of the single motherhood/career balance increased, so did my need for convenience in hair care.  Previously, whether exercising or partying, I never worried about sweating out my permed tresses. I figured I'd, as my sister would say, "slap a touch-up on that head" and keep moving.  However, professionally, my appearance was paramount.  I was an Asset Manager and met with our Corporate personnel and owners often. My naturally curly/frizzy/wiry hair simply would not be prisoner to bobby pins or butterfly clips.  Braids, though becoming more and more acceptable in the Corporate arena, were still on the curve.  Wigs were hell in the summer months, and weaves, though beautiful and convenient, were too expensive.  The pressure was on for me to maintain a polished appearance to suit the status quo.

It was because of this, and after reaching my highest weight, 208 lbs., that I had to admit one obvious and painful truth....I'd let myself go.

I mean, like I said, I LOVE food.  However, I don't like styling my hair.  No, I HATE styling my hair!  I especially hate it since I transitioned from wearing permed to natural hair over five years ago.  Honestly, I, like many of today's professional women, settled into the idea that hair mattered more.  I needed to maintain a professional image, and the bills had to be paid.  Meanwhile, the size 11 that I'd maintained for years had abandoned me like a bad boyfriend.  Size 12 came and went like a one-night stand, and size 13/14 showed up promising the world, but delivering heartache.

It all seemed so unfair.

Why couldn't I have it all?  I knew what it took to get fit and lose weight - a lot of sweat.  Why couldn't I get fit AND maintain a decent and versatile hairstyle?  I foolishly rationalized in my mind that not working out was actually good for my career.  There I was, with the CDC (Center for Disease Control) statistics in my hands, indicating that Cardiovascular Disease is the #1 killer of African American and Hispanic women.  My knees and ankles hurt, my back ached, sleep apnea was suspected, and yet, I thought not working out was a good thing. 

However, pictures don't lie.  It was only when I saw myself in all my fluffy glory that I decided my health mattered more than any hairstyle I could ever wear. 

I'd decided to change my diet and exercise 5 days per week, no matter what.  During my fitness journey, I searched for natural hair care products that would supply my hair the moisture and styling options I would need.  Until recently, it seemed that if a Black woman wanted to get fit and maintain her hairstyle, she had to braid it, wig it, cut it off, or just put in the daily work (wash, condition, blow dry and/or wrap, or curl) EVERY day.  Now, the barber and beauty supply stores are flooded with "natural" hair care products, such as Mixed Chicks, Curls Unleashed, and Carol's Daughter, that are designed for women who no longer desire to chemically relax or texturize their hair.  The options are now endless.

Yes, We Rise| Our hair, Our health, Our headache? Nicole Ari Parker - Save your do
Nicole Ari Parker, Save Your Do

As women battle images of video vixens with 38-24-48 measurements, and long, flowing strands floating on a fan-induced breeze, they struggle between self-acceptance and self-improvement.  I see my fellow sisters running on treadmills, working it out on stairclimbers, and saturating themselves on the elliptical trainers.  I see my sisters with satin scarves, satin bonnets, wrap rags, do rags, plastic caps, you name it.  Even celebrities are getting on the fitness/hair care bandwagon.  Nicole Ari Parker, of Soul Food fame, launched Save Your Do, a Gym wrap designed to absorb perspiration during workouts (  I think it's a beautiful thing. 

Was it vanity that drove them to the gym?  Was it was a health scare?  Did both issues compel them to start their health and fitness journey?  Who knows, really?  Those reasons are real to the person who holds them.  However, somewhere in the grand scheme, they figured out like I did that the weight is not going to just fall off.  They learned that nothing worth having comes without sacrifice.  Whatever the reason, the end justifies the means.



  1. You're so right. I need to dream BIGGER!!

  2. I LOVE this! I don't know why we are so afraid to dream? Maybe because we're scared of the work that comes with making our dreams a reality? But, we got this! And I'm glad you know that YOU GOT THIS!

  3. Thanks Brandi! Yes, pushing past the fear.

  4. We all can dream BIGGER, Joyce. Me included. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. Ooooh Now that's a whole other topic. Thanks for sharing and making me think on that.

  6. @singlelif I think this is part of what you were saying..Thanks for this comment and adding to the conversation.

  7. This should be a must read. Proper undergarments are life changing.

  8. Sometimes I'm just afraid my dreams will come true...then what ?