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Surgeon General Calls for Health over Hair

mg1979

Well-Known Member
Thought I'd share this article from the New York Times as it emphasizes black women, hair, and health.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/surgeon-general-calls-for-health-over-hair/?ref=health

Surgeon General Calls for Health Over Hair
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR

The United States surgeon general has a new message for American women: It’s O.K. to have a bad hair day.

As the country’s leading spokespeople on public health, surgeon generals often weigh in on issues of national importance like tobacco smoke and disease prevention. But when the current surgeon general, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, visited a trade show in Atlanta this month, it was to talk about what has become something of a pet cause: Too many women forgo exercise because they’re worried it will ruin their hair.

“Often times you get women saying, ‘I can’t exercise today because I don’t want to sweat my hair back or get my hair wet,’ ” she said in an interview. “When you’re starting to exercise, you look for reasons not to, and sometimes the hair is one of those reasons.”

The problem, said Dr. Benjamin, is that many women — particularly black women, like herself — invest considerable amounts of time and money in chemical relaxers and other treatments that transform naturally tight curls into silky, straight locks. Moisture and motion can quickly undo the efforts, with the result that many women end up avoiding physical activity altogether.

The trade show where she spoke, the Bronner Brothers International Hair Show, draws 60,000 hair stylists, including those who specialize in the unique styling needs of black women.

“I hate to use the word ‘excuse,’ but that’s one of them,” said Dr. Benjamin, the founder of a rural health clinic in Bayou La Batre, Ala., on the Gulf Coast. “We want to encourage people, and also give women the ability to look good and feel good and to be empowered about their own health.”

As the titular head of the Public Health Service, the surgeon general holds a largely ceremonial post, but the job is not without its outspoken leaders and controversies. Dr. C. Everett Koop helped shift the debate over AIDS in the 1980s to respect for infected patients, and a decade later Dr. Joycelyn Elders came under fire for broaching the topic of teaching about masturbation.

Today, some question Dr. Benjamin’s focus on such a “niche” issue as putting health before hair.

“The role of the surgeon general is traditionally, and appropriately, to take on big issues,” said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. “I don’t know whether the surgeon general’s role is to engage in smaller issues like this. It strikes me as bizarre.”

Medical experts also note that grooming is only one of the many obstacles that can stand in the way of the treadmill. Juggling the demands of family, children and work — an issue that transcends race — can make an hour of cardio seem like a luxury, and by the end of the day, “many women are just plain exhausted,” said Dr. Pamela Peeke, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and a spokeswoman for the American College of Sports Medicine. “I hear it from my patients all the time.”

But Dr. Benjamin and other researchers who study the issue say that removing any barrier to physical activity is crucial to the health of American women, and in particular black women, a group that has a higher rate of obesity than any other demographic. According to government figures, nearly 50 percent of black women over age 20 are overweight or obese, compared with 33 percent of white women and 43 percent of Hispanic women.

When researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina sampled 103 black women from the area, they found that about a third exercised less because they were concerned it would jeopardize their hair. Of those women, 88 percent did not meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for physical activity, which is 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week, or about 20 minutes a day.

Dr. Amy McMichael, a professor of dermatology who led the study, said she had noticed over the years that some of her overweight patients would mention their hair when explaining why the gym was off-limits.
“Being an African-American woman myself,” she said, “I have to go through those same trials and tribulations when I exercise, so I started to realize that this is probably a barrier for many women.”

Dr. Benjamin, whose mother was a hairstylist, has visited the Bronner Brothers show two years in a row. She notes that studies have shown that black men and women are more likely to see a doctor and pay attention to their health when prodded by their barbers and hairdressers, and she sees hair stylists as health ambassadors of sorts.

“When they have that customer in their chair they build up a rapport with them, they build up a trust,” she said. “We want them talking about health issues.”

As surgeon general, Dr. Benjamin has introduced new fitness initiatives, released a report on tobacco smoke and unveiled a new icon to replace the old food pyramid. But it’s her unusual stance on hair and health that is likely to garner the most attention.

“It’s not just African-American women,” she said. ” I’ve talked to a number of people, and I saw it with my older white patients too. They would say, ‘I get my hair done every week and I don’t want to mess up my hair.’”
Dr. Rebecca Alleyne, a breast cancer surgeon in Los Angeles, said she ran, cycled or swam six days a week until a year and a half ago, when she stopped wearing hair extensions, which required little maintenance, and began pressing her hair.

“I noticed I would stop for two or three days when I got it pressed,” she said. “The barrier for me was the $60 and two-and-a-half-hour investment in a hair salon that kept me wanting to preserve my hairstyle.”
Within six weeks, she said, she had gained five pounds. She eventually switched to wearing her hair naturally.

Jackie Gordon, 47, an executive secretary at a predominantly white law firm in Columbus, Ohio, started relaxing her hair as a teenager. Her firm grants longer breaks to those who visit the building gym, but Ms. Gordon does not join her colleagues for their lunchtime spin classes.

“It’s just too much of an effort to take care of my hair afterward,” she said. “When I tell them, I see the underlying look: ‘You’re just making excuses, you’re lazy,’” she said.

“I have to blow-dry my hair and then curl it. At a minimum that’s another good hour,” she said. “Other women at the office can wash and let their hair dry naturally. If I do that without a relaxer in my hair, it will look like an Afro.”
 

MissDarcei

New Member
“I have to blow-dry my hair and then curl it. At a minimum that’s another good hour,” she said. “Other women at the office can wash and let their hair dry naturally. If I do that without a relaxer in my hair, it will look like an Afro.”

*side eye*
 

greenandchic

Well-Known Member
“I have to blow-dry my hair and then curl it. At a minimum that’s another good hour,” she said. “Other women at the office can wash and let their hair dry naturally. If I do that without a relaxer in my hair, it will look like an Afro.”

*side eye*

I can't side eye because I felt that way for years.

I never relaxed so I felt I didn't have the freedom to get my hair wet, steamed and sweaty. Exercising on my lunch breaks at work was especially out of the question - I would look like a different person by the time I came back from the gym. I constantly used heat on my hair to the point I may as well been relaxed. I'm so glad I saw the light...

ETA: I still exercised, ran, swam, etc, but it was a burden. My hair was always on my mind. I swallowed it and put up with looking HAM the next day (so I though). I decided to stop using heat on my hair and be natural 24/7 mainly because I wanted more freedom.
 
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sunnieb

Well-Known Member
Meh...

I've always had the will to work out. My hair never stood in my way. It was my busy schedule (and sometimes just pure laziness) that got the best of me and threw me off track, not my hair.

Even before LHCF, I'd do cardio on my wash days, and strength training on my non-wash days. Now that I've found LHCF, I do cardio 5x a week because I know how to care for my sweaty hair.

I think some use hair as an excuse. I'm overweight now and I know that exercising and eating right (still working on this one!) are what I have to do to get back in shape. I'd take an in-shape body over WL hair any day! :yep:
 

Charla

New Member
Meh...

Now that I've found LHCF, I do cardio 5x a week because I know how to care for my sweaty hair.

sunnieb

Can you elaborate on how you care for sweaty hair? I'm a new regular exerciser so I really need this. Do you mean you wash/cowash each exercise day now or do something to protect your style, etc?
Thanks.
 

sunnieb

Well-Known Member
@sunnieb

Can you elaborate on how you care for sweaty hair? I'm a new regular exerciser so I really need this. Do you mean you wash/cowash each exercise day now or do something to protect your style, etc?
Thanks.


@Charla - I wash/cowash every other day as part of my regular regimen. However, sweaty hair was never an issue because I worked out at night and would do my hair before bed.

Now my schedule is too busy for afternoon workouts so I joined the "Early Morning/Before Work" challenge here. I workout on the treadmill and I sweat alot! Here's what I've learned through trial and error:

*I clip up my hair with the ends exposed. This prevents my ends from getting soaking wet during my workout. Soaking wet ends are a no go for trying to style my hair for work.

*I tie a satin scarf around my edges only. My head gets too hot to have a scarf over my whole head, but I want to keep my edges in check.

*When I'm done, I apply Carrot Oil and NTM and slick back into a loose bun. I shower and then let my hair airdry while I get ready for work. Sometimes it's not always dry by the time I get to work (I'll try to attach a pic), but it works for me.

I'm still tweaking this, but I'm not giving up my morning workouts just because I'm worried about my hair.

Hope that helps!
 

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JJamiah

Well-Known Member
I clean my hair every 6 days, I work out 5 days a week. I don't care too much about my hair when comparing to keeping my heart healthy :)
 

Twinspired

New Member
As much as I hear or read about the excuse black women don't exercise because of their hair I have yet to hear someone irl say so.

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Spin

Well-Known Member
“I have to blow-dry my hair and then curl it. At a minimum that’s another good hour,” she said. “Other women at the office can wash and let their hair dry naturally. If I do that without a relaxer in my hair, it will look like an Afro.”

*side eye*

ITA. She could walk on the treadmill. Anyway, she has a relaxer so what is she talking about?
 

Raspberry

New Member
@Charla - I wash/cowash every other day as part of my regular regimen. However, sweaty hair was never an issue because I worked out at night and would do my hair before bed.

Now my schedule is too busy for afternoon workouts so I joined the "Early Morning/Before Work" challenge here. I workout on the treadmill and I sweat alot! Here's what I've learned through trial and error:

*I clip up my hair with the ends exposed. This prevents my ends from getting soaking wet during my workout. Soaking wet ends are a no go for trying to style my hair for work.

*I tie a satin scarf around my edges only. My head gets too hot to have a scarf over my whole head, but I want to keep my edges in check.

*When I'm done, I apply Carrot Oil and NTM and slick back into a loose bun. I shower and then let my hair airdry while I get ready for work. Sometimes it's not always dry by the time I get to work (I'll try to attach a pic), but it works for me.

I'm still tweaking this, but I'm not giving up my morning workouts just because I'm worried about my hair.

Hope that helps!

Thanks this is very helpful :yep:.

Practical advice about maintaining hair with frequent workouts, like what @sunnieb gave is really what black women need IMO. You can spit out all the platitudes in the world about hair not meaning more than health but a realistic regimen is all most women need.

Question: Many women on LHCF have longer hair on average than most black women so it may be easier for us to work with air-drying and bunning. What about black women with short relaxed hair? How can they incorporate frequent exercise with daily hair styling that won't look a mess for the workplace? The bigger issue may be that most women don't know how to style their hair after a wash without the use of heat.. if flatirons, blow dryers, and curling irons weren't seen as a necessity, frequent washing would be more normalized IMO.

ETA: What about women with sew-in weaves? Micros? There needs to be more information disseminated about washing the scalp more frequently with these styles for the average black woman wearing them.
 
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Raspberry

New Member
I know several women who use this excuse.

As much as I hear or read about the excuse black women don't exercise because of their hair I have yet to hear someone irl say so.

Sent from my PC36100 using PC36100


They may not say it out loud but hair is usually at the back of our mind when it comes to hardcore exercise.. at least for for me a game plan for washing and styling always has to be in place because I sweat buckets from my scalp and can't stand the itch if it's not washed out.

A lot of people also suggest that going natural means you don't have to worry about sweat in the hair but that wasn't the case for me unless I was wearing twists or mini-braids and didn't mind washing them a lot. A wash and go on loose hair is out of the question and a shrunken fro isn't cute on me..
 

sunnieb

Well-Known Member
Thanks this is very helpful :yep:.

Practical advice about maintaining hair with frequent workouts, like what @sunnieb gave is really what black women need IMO. You can spit out all the platitudes in the world about hair not meaning more than health but a realistic regimen is all most women need.

Question: Many women on LHCF have longer hair on average than most black women so it may be easier for us to work with air-drying and bunning. What about black women with short relaxed hair? How can they incorporate frequent exercise with daily hair styling that won't look a mess for the workplace?

ETA: What about women with sew-in weaves? Micros? There needs to be more information disseminated about washing the scalp more frequently with these styles for the average black woman wearing them.

Honestly, I feel like they are grown women and when grown folk want something bad enough, they make it happen.

They can workout, moisturize and throw on wig or phony pony. They can slick it back and put on a decorative scarf or headband. Do something! :drunk:
 

Raspberry

New Member
Honestly, I feel like they are grown women and when grown folk want something bad enough, they make it happen.

They can workout, moisturize and throw on wig or phony pony. They can slick it back and put on a decorative scarf or headband. Do something! :drunk:
Hey.. you definitely have a point there. Maybe I would rock braids until my hair got long enough to do something else. Phony ponies, half wigs, etc could also do the job.

I guess the real message is to arrange your hair for your lifestyle, not the other way around..
 

Charla

New Member
sunnieb

Thanks so much for your help! You've given me a lot of ideas of how I can keep my hair in shape while shaping up my body!
Happy Weekend!
 

NikkiGirl

New Member
That is why I am still a fan of co-washing and buns. I workout often and I really prefer a nice body over hair that is "done" everyday. I have other loves such as fashion, makeup, nicely done nails, etc. My hair is not the "end all be all" for me to feel beautiful and feminine.
 

Dommo

New Member
These, "Black women are fat because of their hair" stories are getting a bit redundant. Me and all my friends work out and stay fly at the same time. It's about knowing how to do your hair. I don't get how people have had the same hair on their head since birth and have not learned how to deal with it some kind of way relaxed or natural.

Second,whats the excuse for all the obese White and Hispanic women. They're not worrying about their hair when choosing not to work out. There are definitely other and more prominent reasons for people not working out. Lazy is the main one, whether it's being lazy with your hair or in general.
 

missjones

Well-Known Member
Um, I don't know if the Surgeon General needed to say anything about it, but that excuse is lame. You can find plenty of info on YouTube and hair boards on how to take care of your hair when working out :ohwell:
 

levette

Well-Known Member
Braidouts and Co-washing is what has helped me to maintain some type of exercise regimen. I have been slack lately because of pain in my knee but I try to work out at least 1x a week
 

ericajoy

Active Member
I'm kind of glad this article came out, actually. I definitely know people who don't work out b/c they don't want to sweat and mess up their hair. I think a lot of women have never really thought about finding a way to manage their hair AND exercise -- I think a lot of people are just used to accepting that you can't do both. If this gets someone to think, 'oh, maybe I can figure out a way to wear my hair so I can exercise, hm,' then it's a success. It at least plants a seed.
 

Solitude

Well-Known Member
This quote from the article sums up my thoughts:

“The role of the surgeon general is traditionally, and appropriately, to take on big issues,” said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. “I don’t know whether the surgeon general’s role is to engage in smaller issues like this. It strikes me as bizarre.”

I'm surprised she even went there, considering the fact that so many opposed her becoming surgeon general due to the fact that she appears to be overweight herself. In case some of y'all haven't seen her...



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ericajoy

Active Member
“The role of the surgeon general is traditionally, and appropriately, to take on big issues,” said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. “I don’t know whether the surgeon general’s role is to engage in smaller issues like this. It strikes me as bizarre.”

But it's not a small issue, it's a very big issue. This is a real health disparity, that a much larger proportion of Black women are overweight than women of other ethnicities. It's exactly the surgeon general's job to address things like this. If she has some access to the Black community by virtue of being a Black woman herself, and if she can speak to a barrier to exercise - like hair - that's fairly unique to our people, I think it's a good thing that she speaks up.
 

LadyRaider

Well-Known Member
“The role of the surgeon general is traditionally, and appropriately, to take on big issues,” said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. “I don’t know whether the surgeon general’s role is to engage in smaller issues like this. It strikes me as bizarre.”

But it's not a small issue, it's a very big issue. This is a real health disparity, that a much larger proportion of Black women are overweight than women of other ethnicities. It's exactly the surgeon general's job to address things like this. If she has some access to the Black community by virtue of being a Black woman herself, and if she can speak to a barrier to exercise - like hair - that's fairly unique to our people, I think it's a good thing that she speaks up.

Those people (NC for PPR) wouldn't have something nice to say about an Obama appointee if she saved their grandmother from a burning building.
 

Solitude

Well-Known Member
“The role of the surgeon general is traditionally, and appropriately, to take on big issues,” said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank. “I don’t know whether the surgeon general’s role is to engage in smaller issues like this. It strikes me as bizarre.”

But it's not a small issue, it's a very big issue. This is a real health disparity, that a much larger proportion of Black women are overweight than women of other ethnicities. It's exactly the surgeon general's job to address things like this. If she has some access to the Black community by virtue of being a Black woman herself, and if she can speak to a barrier to exercise - like hair - that's fairly unique to our people, I think it's a good thing that she speaks up.

Obesity is a big issue. Black women's hair in relation to working out, in my opinion, is not. I exercise and I don't think there are that many great excuses not to, including hair. It annoys me to no end that this is presented as the reason why black women supposedly don't work out. For one, people of all races and both sexes are obese, so black hair isn't the issue.

Second, she can be a better example for black women by practicing what she preaches. She has been in office for 2 years and apparently hasn't lost a pound.

I also think there was a specific focus on, once again, blaming relaxers. I would have appreciated the article more if it was, at the very least, race and hair texture neutral. Although white women were mentioned, the focus was black women and I can't see how, if hair is an issue, it isn't an issue for all races. We aren't the only ones with curly hair and we aren't the only ones with relaxers. Just my take on it.

The problem, Dr. Benjamin said, is that many women — particularly black women, like herself — invest considerable amounts of time and money in chemical relaxers and other treatments that transform naturally tight curls into silky, straight locks. Moisture and motion can quickly undo those efforts, with the result that many women end up avoiding physical activity altogether.

Dr. Rebecca Alleyne, a breast cancer surgeon in Los Angeles, said she ran, cycled or swam six days a week until a year and a half ago, when she stopped wearing hair extensions, which required little maintenance, and began pressing her hair.

“I noticed I would stop for two or three days when I got it pressed,” she said. “The barrier for me was the $60 and two-and-a-half-hour investment in a hair salon that kept me wanting to preserve my hairstyle.”

Within six weeks, she said, she had gained five pounds. She eventually switched to wearing her hair naturally.
 

loved

Well-Known Member
I know plenty of women who avoid breaking a sweat if they are a couple days out from a fresh salon do. I guess LHCF is different.
 

fivetimestwo

New Member
Honestly, I feel like they are grown women and when grown folk want something bad enough, they make it happen.

They can workout, moisturize and throw on wig or phony pony. They can slick it back and put on a decorative scarf or headband. Do something! :drunk:

This is what I do. Either that or a bun-I tie up my edges with a scarf while I shower to get them to lay flat. I do this if I workout in the morning before work and by the time I get ready, my hair is practically dry and I don't look crazy. The beauty of wigs/phony ponys/half wigs is that your "hair" will still look perfect after a tough workout :yep:

I used to make excuses about working out ruining my hair and I guess that's why I was 235 lbs. then. :ohwell:
 

ericajoy

Active Member
Obesity is a big issue. Black women's hair in relation to working out, in my opinion, is not. I exercise and I don't think there are that many great excuses not to, including hair. It annoys me to no end that this is presented as the reason why black women supposedly don't work out. For one, people of all races and both sexes are obese, so black hair isn't the issue.

Second, she can be a better example for black women by practicing what she preaches. She has been in office for 2 years and apparently hasn't lost a pound.

I also think there was a specific focus on, once again, blaming relaxers. I would have appreciated the article more if it was, at the very least, race and hair texture neutral. Although white women were mentioned, the focus was black women and I can't see how, if hair is an issue, it isn't an issue for all races. We aren't the only ones with curly hair and we aren't the only ones with relaxers. Just my take on it.

I hear you, there are a lot of reasons people don't work out, but if we assume everyone who doesn't is lazy or unmotivated or making excuses, that stops us from seeing the other reasons and maybe finding solutions. I really think that, outside of lhcf, many Black women still are very limited in their hair care repertoire. (Maybe they don't have the hours to spend on here that we do lol.)

And yeah, it did seem like Black women were being called out somewhat (as usual) so I see what you mean that the article could have been more neutral. But there's a fine line between making the comment neutral and watering it down so much that it doesn't reach the intended audience.

Bottom line, this is one of those things that was very likely meant to be helpful, but can be interpreted and used all kinds of ways, including to stereotype us. But I don't think that was her intention.

Also, yes, she (the surgeon general) is larger, but not everybody who works out is thin. Everybody has a different natural weight range.
 
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