The Jealous vegan is raising The dialogue about plant-based lifestyles while being honest about the benefits and challenges of sustainably changing the way that we eat & how we think about food.

Hair or Health? A Woman of Color's Conundrum

How many times have you contemplated these next questions?: I want to maintain a fitness regimen and simultaneously try to keep my hairstyle together, is that possible?  If so, how do I do it? These questions irritate me.

See, my hair is naturally curly and pretty dense. I’ve tried wearing it in its natural glory a few different times in my adult life, but it just doesn’t suit me. Over the years I have found that my straight, short hairstyle is much easier to manage on a daily basis and presents to the world the image that floats around in my head.

Often times I have had to choose between working out today to look good later or skipping the workout and looking good right now. It’s a terrible conundrum for today’s working woman of color: Do I want to invest in looking good tomorrow or preserve looking good this day?

Why can’t I have both?  The daily culprit: Perspiration and Humidity.

It frustrates me that I’ve declined walking around the Tidal Basin on a summer evening because it’s super humid and I just got my hair done. A few mornings ago I turned back from a jog because it started sprinkling. The only reprieve was that I was able to do a workout in the house that got my heart pumping and my muscles moving.

How my hair looks today is how I will be judged.  No one is thinking, ‘Oh, she’s a little unraveled hair-wise because of those push-ups, squats, and burpees she just knocked out."

For my lighter skinned sisters with wash and go hair, this topic may be confusing. But for anyone with kinks, curls, waves, and naps, this dilemma is all too familiar.   It’s insane to me that we often sacrifice our health, our longevity and our greater happiness because we have subscribed to a picture of beauty that requires smooth, slicked down follicles.  

I have read about and actually experienced all the things that make an active lifestyle an asset in this modern world: the euphoria of crushing workouts and reaching a fitness goal, the endorphins that make me feel instantly stronger, the good burn of muscles put to work.  Do I really care that much about how people look at me because of my hair, while forfeiting a happier life and healthier body?

When I think about what’s happening inside my body: how my heart is working so hard, how my joints are carrying excess material under strain, that my lungs are not at capacity, I’m almost afraid of how my future could be cut short. All because I care how my hair looks? When I consider the unbalanced trade off I’m making, it seems ridiculous to even ponder. No sane individual would make the compromise I’ve willingly but unconsciously made many, many times.  

So, I’m using my Nicole Ari Parker designed Gymwrap and it seems to keep things under control most days. On the other days, I have just accepted the fact that I'm not always going to be happy about how my hair looks for the day BUT I know that long-term, I’m making the right and the smart investment.  

So, I’ll turn on some India.Arie and remind myself that “I Am NOT My Hair”.

I just hope others know that same tune and will sing along with me.


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