I remember when sweating was a four letter word. It was something that I tried to avoid at all cost. It came second only to rain. Why? Well, it was all about the hair. Sweating or getting my hair wet, meant ruining whatever hair style I was rocking at the time. And as an African American woman, that equaled money. So I avoided anything that would make me sweat, including strenuous activities like exercise. Not surprisingly, I was not alone in my decision. On average, 2 out of 5 African American women tend to exercise less or not at all because of our hair. However, life has a way of putting things into perspective.
In 2000, I had my beautiful baby boy. It was both joyous and depressing at the same time. I had gained over 60 pounds during the course of my pregnancy due to overeating and no activity. By my son’s 6 week visit, I had lost about 15 pounds leaving 45 pounds of extra weight on my size 5’2 frame. My hair still looked good but I did not feel good. I wanted the weight off and that decision forced me to reevaluate what was important. I knew that the only way I would lose the weight is through exercise and I struggled with trying to figure out how I would manage my hair. Regardless of my reservations, I made the decision that would forever change my life.
I admit that in the beginning I didn’t put much effort into it. I exercised but nothing too strenuous as to break too much of a sweat. Over time I realized that I needed more if I wanted to see real change so I pushed myself. But it came with making some concessions. First, I had to let go of the idea that my hair would always look like I just left the salon.
I had to ask myself, “What is the point of looking good from the neck up if you felt bad from the neck down?”
Second, I had to focus on what was important and that was being healthy. I realized that weight was just a small part of it. Being healthy was the real goal. And it was worth it. I lost about 50 pounds and I felt better than ever. What I gave up in perfect hair did not come close to what I gained in self-confidence, energy and life. Sweat and I became best friends and for me, it signifies a job well done.
Now, almost 15 years later, I can’t imagine not wanting to work out. I correlate taking care of my body in the same way as taking care of my hair. I provide both with good conditioning, a healthy regime and proper nutrients. And when I look in the mirror each day, I see all of me and I love what I see.
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