Is Your Hair Making You Fat?

Mannequin heads on display with wigs.

In August, 2011, the former Surgeon General, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, attended the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show with a very specific platform related to health. She arrived at the event with a very specific agenda: to draw attention to the fact that many women, particularly, African American women, were foregoing exercise in order to preserve their hairstyles, and, thus, prioritizing convenience over health. Her message had some urgency and her concerns were backed by facts. According to the most recent data released by the National Center for Health Statistics (2011-2014), 56.9% of African American women over 20 are obese and 44.8% of women suffer from hypertension. Dr. Benjamin was criticized by some health professionals at the time for focusing on what they considered an issue that was far too hyper-focused in the global scheme of things, and only applicable to a very narrow audience. What her critics failed to realize then, which can be argued to a greater degree now, is that this wasn’t just a vanity health issue relegated to a small segment of the population. The hair vs. health issue has been raging within the Black community since the beginning of time; but given the fact that its ethnic dialogue had “inside baseball” status, few people outside of the Black community were aware of this global health challenge, nor could they personally relate, if they were. There are many reasons why this issue needs to resurface, and I’ll tell you why, but first, let me relay my own culturally insensitive hair nightmare, my dear readers. In Middle School, I was one of a handful of African American girls who attended a small, elite private school on the West Coast. I remember vividly dreading going to school, because I was forced to swim every day during second period P.E. class. I would get up in the morning and neatly prepare my clothes and hair for school, only to look a mess by the end of second period, because after I emerged like a wet dog from the pool I was given an insufficient 15 minutes to dry, dress and style my hair. Let’s add to the pressure the ubiquitously obnoxious drill sergeant whistle favored by gym teachers everywhere, to instill a sense of urgency and fear in students worldwide. I’m sorry, but fifteen minutes was not enough time for me to do my hair with any acceptable results, and it further marginalized me from my white classmates (at least in my mind), by highlighting a grooming and beauty reality that differed from their own. To further compound the situation was the fact that Middle School is often a time defined by rampant social insecurity. Add 1 part black girl to 10 parts white school + swimming pool + 15 minutes to dress, groom and go; and you have a problem. I could tell you then, as I can relay now in hindsight, that those years did not positively contribute to my sense of confidence or beauty.

How does this relate to weaves, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin or a Bronner’s International Hair Show that occurred over seven years ago? In my particular situation, I was just a child and had no control over my school’s rigid curriculum*. I didn’t hate swimming, in fact, I loved it, but it was a pain for the aforementioned reasons and time constraints. The problem that we currently face isn’t related to one kid’s horror story related to daily water sports. It’s the popularity and proliferation of weaves that have swept through African American culture and been adopted by a significant number of Black women. Weaves are semi-permanent installations, meaning that they’re not clip-ins that you take in and out at will. They are expensive, labor-intensive to install, and, are thus, not replaced frequently (months vs. weeks or days). They retain moisture (for the uninitiated, imagine a wig placed, and securely attached, over your real hair), and can cause health issues if not properly maintained. By now, most people who have an interest in African-American hair have seen the weave mold and maggot videos that have served as cautionary tales of extreme haircare neglect. I can imagine weave and wig wearers watching those YouTube videos and writing in the comments section, “SMH. That’s nasty…She waited too long to take that thing out!….Ugh…that would never be me!” That may be true, but Black women are doing something altogether more undermining and sinister to themselves. They’re elevating their hair and vanity well above that of their personal health. That’s a damaging position to take and the health stats for African American women don’t lie. I’m sorry, but we, as a community, aren’t in the position to play Russian Roulette with our health. There are many African American women who provide the sole financial support for their entire families, so their health and longevity is critical for the stability of their entire families. I’m not going to delve into stats regarding the Black hair care industry or the weave industry, specifically. I certainly have my own opinions, but the one thing that should be shared and encouraged is the message of health and wellness for women of color. Health isn’t determined by how you look in clothes, but, rather, how healthy and efficiently your body operates from the inside out; head to toe. Please  live your values and take stock of what really matters, because in the end, our health and families are the things we should cherish, because no matter how much we love them, as with all things in life, nothing lasts forever.

The Lost Art of Subtle Seduction

dorothy-dandridge

I don’t know where it went…Maybe it’s a generational thing or just a sign of the times, but I’m talking about subtle sensuality and the art of seduction. Make no mistake, there are still many women for whom “skilled” does not seem an apt adjective, and, for whom, masters of the “dark arts” of seduction is more accurate. I’m wondering, though, where it went for the most women? There was a time when women had less freedom in society, yet we managed to wield our power and influence over the men we found desirable in much more subtle, persuasive and effective ways. We couldn’t be too overt in our sexuality, or too aggressive in the workplace, but our power was unmistakable, and we knew how and when to leverage it. What is it, you ask? It is femme fatale in a bottle, that secret sauce, that smelled faintly of sex, but was far more suggestive and entirely more allusive. If Tribe Called Quest’s famous lyric, “Hot Sex on a Platter” applied to women, we were serving it up hot and fresh daily; even in our knee-length A line cocktail dresses. Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Lena Horne and Sophia Loren (including, contemporary actress, Diane Lane), all exhibited a self-assured, feminine sexiness about them, that many women today seem to lack. I’ll always contemplated Diane Von Furstenburg’s deep set, sultry gaze when she looked unapologetically into a camera to promote her iconic wrap skirt or latest collection. She’s no longer a young woman, be she still has it. It defies age and keeps you hot at 60, 70 and beyond. It’s the sometimes unspeakable appeal that both men and women find sensually appealing. As the world changed, what happened to subtle come hither looks or mildly suggestive body language that could be misconstrued to a man’s embarrassment, unless he sifted through a woman’s mystery, in order to unlock the keys to her heart, mind or body?

Somewhere along the way, we’ve given up our feigned modesty for naked Instagram photos, twerk videos and “belfies”. Oh, I should probably mention, that I could happily live the rest of my life without ever being forced again, to lay my weary eyeballs on someone’s butt selfies as a camera-facing portrait. Whatever happened to the power of suggestion? The mind is the most erotically sensitive place in the human body. Tapping into one’s personal fantasy, is far more alluring and powerful than appealing to one’s immediate carnal desires. Psychologists have supported the notion that men and women would be much more likely to work themselves into a hot lather imagining what someone had hidden under their trench coat; then be titillated by them walking down the street naked with their coat wide open. Today’s women need to embrace the allure of femininity and suggestion; not sex. Anticipation should be #goalsetting, as it’s the direct bi-product of seduction. Will someone please listen to Carly Simon? She wailed in frustration, “Anticipation is making me wait,” over and over again on the radio, for goodness sake, and, she was right! Sorry, JT, we don’t need to bring “sexy back”, we need to bring back the age old tradition of seduction.

Mindfulness & Planting the Seeds of Compassion

woman-yoga
Prayer Position

Spring traditionally represents the season of birth and renewal. Although, this is usually associated with nature, you’ll find that life also operates in similar cycles. It turns out that Spring isn’t just a great time to reorganize and clean, but to also take inventory of one’s spiritual life. No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs, Run Stella Run wanted to share The Five Mindfulness Trainings observed and practiced in Buddhism, which operates on the basic precept that it’s critical that one lives in a state of compassion and self-awareness, given that all life is inextricably “intra-connected” or as expressed in Buddhism, a state of “interbeing.” The Five Mindfulness Trainings represent the Buddhist’s vision of spiritual and ethical behavior, and to cultivate a level of self-awareness about oneself and others is believed to help remove the presence of discrimination, fear, anger, intolerance, pain and despair.  Perhaps, you’ll find something in these teachings that resonates with you, your belief system, or religion. Whatever the case, no one has claimed that acting with compassion and love for others has ever hurt anyone. These five principals have been condensed in complexity, but they provide great guidelines for a healthy physical and spiritual life. Upon reading the five teachings, what are some of the ways that you can apply these teachings to your every day life? Perhaps, volunteer with an environmental organization? Behave with greater love, patience and understanding with a spouse or loved one? Refrain from gossipy, demeaning or mean-spirited behavior? Sorry, that means anonymous online trolling, too! Feel free to share practical ways that people can apply these principals in the comments section below, and good luck on your personal, spiritual journey this Spring and beyond.

  1. Reverence for Life –  Acknowledge the suffering caused by the destruction of life and commit to expressing compassion by being a loving and responsible steward and protector of people, animals, plants and living things. Understand that harmful and damaging behavior arises out of  greed, anger, intolerance and fear-based emotions, so try to be open-minded and unattached to ideas in order to live without the cloud of bias and discrimination.
  2. True Happiness – Commit to practicing generosity in thought and deed and understand that true happiness is only possible with understanding and compassion. Suffering is universally shared, and not separate from your own, so reducing other peoples’ pain, also reduces yours. Live in mindfulness that pursuing wealth, fame, power and physical pleasure can lead to negative, unintended consequences and suffering. Also, understand that true happiness is a state of mind and can be achieved in one’s current state of being, and is not dependent on external conditions and material possessions.
  3. Loving Speech and Deep Listening – Listen to others with respect and compassion to help eliminate division, suffering and pain, and to help promote healing and reconciliation. Words can create happiness or suffering, so be conscious of the words that that you use and refrain from speaking in anger, pain and untruth. Words have the ability to spread happiness, joy, encouragement and inclusiveness, and, also create the opposite; so refrain from using words as weapons of individual or mass destruction. If you feel that you’re tempted to speak in anger; breathe, take stock of your emotions and refrain from speaking until you’re in a more positive frame of mind.
  4. Nourishment & Healing – Commit to cultivating good physical and spiritual health for yourself, your family and society; and be conscious of engaging in needless consumption, which can cause pain and suffering. Seek and consume mentally and physically nourishing things and eliminate those things that are toxic to the body, mind or spirit (food, drinks, drugs, websites, electronic games, magazines, etc…). Establishing a greater level of mental and physical peace, happiness and joy, will have a positive impact on oneself, other individuals and society at large.

Seriously….Relax

Smiling African American woman enjoying in sauna.

When people think of spa experiences images of peaceful settings, luxurious surroundings and pampered service come to mind. If you think that restorative trips to the spa are only reserved for ladies who lunch, then think again. Spa services are surprisingly within financial reach of most people, and with a little research, can be more affordable than one might think. According, to research commissioned by the Global Wellness Institute, the global spa market grew from $94 billion in 2013 to $98.6 billion in 2015 and the global wellness economy, which includes alternative medicine, workplace health, preventative medicine and other aspects of personal health and wellness, grew 10.6% in 2013-2015 3.36 trillion to a 3.72 trillion market. With little evidence that the spa market is slowing down, the key to uncovering great deals is to forego the typical trappings that you think your spa experience should entail, and find a professional spa with helpful services that are kind to your wallet.

The great thing is that many spa facilities have changed their marketing and business models to accommodate a broader and more diverse consumer audience. Destination spa resorts and day spas still exist, but the market has expanded to include hour-long, no frills services that are oftentimes performed in modest surroundings with an emphasis on their wellness related services, as opposed to pampering and indulgence. This is not to say that the treatments, themselves, are any less relaxing or effective.

Facilities are popping up all over the country that specialize in these spas, in what’s now commonly marketed as “foot spas,” even though services extend well beyond massaging just the feet. They’re typically known for offering fully-clothed body massages on soft reclining chairs in non-private treatment rooms for as low as $20.00 per hour. Often, for just a slightly higher fee, these same spas offer traditional full body oil massages in private rooms for as low as $30-40 per hour. Why are these foot spas becoming increasingly popular? Price and convenience are two reasons. Another reason is that more and more people are hacking their healthcare by taking it into their own hands, researching alternative treatment options and comparing prices. Whatever the reason, the benefits are indisputable. It’s been clinically proven that massage can dramatically improve emotional and physical health. Massage has been linked to the reduction of stress, anxiety, headaches, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, soft tissue injuries and joint pain. So, if you still think that spa treatments are only special occasion splurges, then simply consider that for the cost of a weekly latte, you could be receiving a well-earned, hour long deep tissue massage. Now, that’s a relaxing thought.