Thursday, August 4, 2011

African American Hair and Staying Fit. (My story)

For many African American women working out is just not feasible when it comes to their hair. Some women would rather be unhealthy or over weight than to sacrifice a 100 dollar hair do, or 200 dollar sew in. How would I know? I was one of those women. You couldn't pay me to sweat out my hair!  My husband would beg me to come to our local high school track and run with him, I remember saying to him " Are you crazy?! I just spent 200 dollars getting my hair done! I'll sit in the bleachers and watch you run." For years I would rather have "nice hair "  over a healthy body.  Shameful ,I know.  I was so clueless about how to take care of my hair. I grew up getting press and curls, and my grandmother would literally whoop me if I got my hair wet in between appointments. I grew up thinking African American hair was the ugliest and hardest to deal with. I had huge misconceptions about my hair, I thought that you should only wash it twice a month, and I didn't think African American hair could grow past shoulder length. When I was in grade school I would go to gym class by the end of gym period my hair  was a  big puffy mess, and just unmanageable until my next hair appointment. Needless to say as the years went by, my physical activity was limited to walking (very slowly). I began to gain weight too, I went from a slim 135lbs to nice round and plump 215lbs. Don't get me wrong my hair wasn't the only reason why I didn't workout, but it was one of the major ones.

Before long my body began to betray me, I felt young, but my body didn't look young, I often got mistaken for my husbands mother! (yikes) I couldn't even walk up a flight of stairs without  thinking I was going to have a stroke. I couldn't go to sleep unless I was propped up on 3 pillows cause the heartburn was unbearable, I had two pre-mature babies due to my ever climbing blood pressure. Going shopping was hell, I would avoid it as much as possible, because by the time I left the mall, I was either in tears, or very depressed.  I was fed up with feeling so weak and out of control. I decided one day enough is enough! I was taking back control and If I had to walk around rocking a fro so be it. I rather have a healthy heart.

 I started doing research about hair and fitness, some of the things I read shocked me. A government study showed that African American women are 70% more likely to be obese than white women. As intriguing as this statistic seems, the reasons for it are equally as interesting. Factors including time, money and even hair contribute to keeping some black women out of the gym.  A 2008 survey conducted by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center found that 31% of 103 Black women said that they exercised less than they should because it might harm their hairstyles.  After reading all the excuses, It made me realize just how petty and ignorant I seemed. I was spending thousands of dollars a year on my hair, and doing absolutely nothing for my health. I couldn't afford a gym membership, but I found a way to get my hair done faithfully every two weeks.

I've been on my weight loss journey for 2 years now, I'm back down to 135 and I figured out how to keep my hair manageable. One of my favorite ways is the nice simple bun. Here's a video on it    Another one is the twist out, you can rock this so many way's and it works well on natural or relaxed hair and requires not heat here's a link to a video featuring a twist out: .

  Researchers at Harvard University created a pamphlet for active Black women called "Hair Care Tips for Sisters on the Move," that offered advice for maintaining both a healthy lifestyle and hairstyle. This pamphlet can still be found online at:

Obesity is an epidemic amongst the black community, we must drop the excuse of our hair, and learn that healthy and beauty goes hand in hand. I urge you all to research the ways to take care of your hair while getting fit. African American women are disproportionately overweight compared to other races, we are the leading race when it comes to heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Please don't let something as minuscule as hair stand in the way of being healthy and happy. You owe it to yourself, take care of you!