Is Sweat It Out Syndrome (SOS) ruining your life? The Surgeon General seems to think so! In an article posted in the Health section of the New York Times’s “wellness blog,” U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin urges women to choose health over hair. When I first read the statistic that nearly 50% of Black women are overweight or obese, it seemed outrageous, but rather than challenge the validity of the statistic, I figured, even if the real number is 30%, that’s still too high.
I was surprised to learn that SOS plagues women of all races with all types and textures of hair. Although it is comforting to know we are not alone in skipping the gym to try to preserve our ‘dos, the underlying issue just isn’t the same.
Women of other races, who have invested large amounts of time and money in either straightening, coloring, perming, or cutting their hair refrain from exercise for economic reasons; whereas, Black women are foregoing exercise for psychological reasons. SOS is, I’m sure, more prevalent in the Black community, and has effectually caused higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure among us. While I don’t entirely blame SOS for the disparaging number of Black women who are overweight in comparison to women of other races, it is definitely among the top 5 reasons. Other reasons, I would imagine include, a poor diet, pure laziness, and time management. So what’s the answer?
For me, the answer was simple, go natural. But, going natural for us isn’t as easy as it sounds. Going natural, for Black women, is like coming out of the closet. Yes, it’s that serious. Historically, our hair was not embraced by society, and to be honest, it still isn’t. Therefore, much like that man or woman who struggles to be truthful about their sexuality, Black women are equally resistant to reveal their natural hair for fear that they will not be accepted by their loved ones, peers, and society in general. So, many women risk their lives every day, by foregoing physical activity, that may cause them to ‘sweat their hair out’ simply to conform to a narrow-minded and eurocentric ideal of beauty. Many of them avoid swimming and just having plain old fun because they don’t want to show the world who they really are. When I try to explain the concept of “good hair” to my non-Black friends, they simply cannot understand how this came to be. They LOVE our hair, but WE don’t.
If you’re one of those women who are resistant to the idea of going natural, another alternative would be to engage in physical activity that doesn’t cause you to sweat. When I want to maintain a straight hairstyle, I do yoga or pilates. I sweat less, if at all, and I can still feel and see results as though I’ve done a full hour of cardio. Also, outdoor activities like bike riding and hiking are wonderful alternatives to running and working up a major sweat. I personally don’t run because I have knee problems (no, seriously I do), but perspiration is minimal when I engage in these types of activities, especially if it’s cool outside.
The bottom line is, whether you go natural or wear a weave, it is essential that you exercise and stay active. I am not trying to convince you to grow out your perms or trash your pressing combs (I haven’t even done that), or try to take you to a level of consciousness that you aren’t ready for, but I beg you, whatever you do, please choose HEALTH.