Home BeautyBlack Hair Black Women Too Vain To Work Out And That’s Why They’re Fat… Or Something

Black Women Too Vain To Work Out And That’s Why They’re Fat… Or Something

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Here, I sit.

My desk.

Shoulders slouched.

Tired.

Of reading crap like this:

Researchers found about two of every five African-American women said they avoid exercise because of concerns about their hair, and researchers say that is concerning given the United States’ obesity epidemic.

“As an African-American woman, I have that problem, and my friends have that problem. So I wondered if my patients had that problem,” said Dr. Amy McMichael, the study’s senior researcher and a dermatologist at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Sad.

McMichael and her colleagues, who published their findings in the Archives of Dermatology on Monday, said hair care can be tedious and costly for African-American women.

Rochelle Mosley, who owns Salon 804 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, told Reuters Health some of her African-American clients come in once per week to get their hair straightened at a cost of about $40.

They may not want to wash their hair more than once a week to keep their hairstyle, and may avoid sweating because of that.

To find out if women were putting hair above their health, the researchers surveyed 103 African-American women who came to the dermatology clinic at Wake Forest University in October 2007.

They found that more than half of the women were exercising for less than 75 minutes per week, which is less than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

That’s also less than U.S. women on average, according to a 2007 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found about half of all U.S. women were exercising close to 150 minutes per week.

More than a quarter of the women in the new study said they didn’t exercise at all.

About a third of the women said they exercise less than they’d like because of their hair, and half said they have considered changing their hair for exercise.

McMichael and her colleagues found that women who avoided exercise because of their hair were almost three times less likely to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. That finding, however, could have been due to chance.

Also, scalp issues, such as itching and dandruff, played a role in the women’s decision-making process. [source]

I’m going to be honest. I’m struggling with the input of a “salon owner” in this, but not a single registered dietician, a sociologist, a personal trainer, a nutritionist, or any of that. An epidemiologist, a physician, a public health official, someone on a government health committee.

Nooo.

The root cause of obesity… is being discussed publicly, on major national platforms… by a dermatologist… and a salon owner. No one could wait and get the input of anyone with any real, legitimate, input to this situation?

This leads me to my next question.

This counts as legitimate research, worthy of being published in a journal somewhere?

Look at it: a dermatologist – with no visible credentials in studying either obesity, its causes, nutrition, exercise science or even sociology – and her interns asked a bunch of Black women – pardon me, exactly one hundred three Black women – about their exercise habits and found that approximately 40% of them said they don’t work out because of their hair.

This counts as legitimate research? This is worthy of media attention? Publishing? Is the standard so low for research into the lives of minorities that this counts as “study?” The only credential you need to study obesity as it pertains to minorities is actually being a minority?

Let’s say that there really and truly is a national average of approximately 40% of Black women who don’t work out because of their hair. Let’s say that.

Where does the conversation go from there?

Do we discuss what compels so many women to prioritize their hair over physical fitness? Do we discuss corporate American culture that says you have to look like a wh– er, something you’re not, in order to succeed? Do we discuss media standards and fashion industries that imply that looking the way we do is unacceptable, and we must change? Does anyone in the media ever feel complicit in contributing to an environment where women sacrifice their health for vanity’s sake? Does anyone ever express any guilt? Shame?

Do we actually listen when women say “Well, the men in my area don’t like women with natural hair?” Do we ever challenge the men and tell them they need to consider how they’re contributing to women making what society considers to be “silly” decisions? Do we ever shame men for saying negative things about natural hair?

Do we ever have any public outcry against any of this, to the point where it grows legs and walks from office to office and man to man and actually changes things?

Or does it just result in another opportunity to shit on Black women for being stupid, prioritizing poorly and being, ironically, vain?

There’s also an obvious question, here, that I think says more about the researcher than it does anything else. I think back to high school, with all the girls who would admit to waking up at 5AM every morning just so that they could straighten their long, naturally curly hair. Girls who were not, in fact, Black. What about all women, race notwithstanding, who have hyper-curly hair? Do these women get a pass for not working out because, well, they’re not Black… or something? Or is it because they don’t have the high blood pressure, high rate of diabetes, high rate of obesity and high rate of goodness knows what else??

Except… they do. And then some. Besides, if Black women only make up maybe 7-8% of the entire US population, and even if 2/3rds of us are overweight, there’s still a good 65% of the rest of the overweight population that needs to be accounted for… where are the specialty studies on them?

So, I ask… what’s the point of the unnecessary attention? Let me rephrase.

What’s the point of the unnecessary attention if it’s not going to culminate into something worthy of being called “a solution?” You put people into a system that demands they look a certain way, mock them for complying, then demand they put their livelihoods at stake so their bodies can look like they’re not “costing us billions in health care.” What do you suggest these women do? Cut their hair and go natural, even if their industry is hostile towards natural hair? Learn a completely new way of styling their hair just to please you? You don’t complain about the system, you don’t publicly fight the system, you just fuss at Black women for being “silly.” Because it’s just easier to do that than actually affect change.

Listen. I think we are all acutely aware of the obesity epidemic in this country. All it takes is looking at your group of girlfriends (boyfriends?) and you can see that things are changing.

The urgency doesn’t change the need to be realistic in our analysis. Mocking the decisions people make without critiquing the influences on those decisions does nothing but pigeonhole the ones we’re trying to help. It is not “tough love,” because there are no solutions. It is not “bitter truth” because there’s no truth being doled out to anyone else in terms of how they’ve contributed to this problem, only messages to Black women in how they are the problem. It is not “helpful” because, when Black women tell you what’s affecting their ability to “do what they need to do,” you ignore their cries for help and guidance. It is nothing.

Nothing.

What do I think? I think we should worry far less about these 103 women, and worry more about the women we laugh with, love with, cry with, watch movies and fuss about work with. Talk to them, one on one, and find out what’s going on in their lives. Tell them you love them, and that when they’re ready to talk about their health with you, you’re there. And, when they come to you, do some real and legitimate problem solving. Do some listening. Do less mocking. In fact, do no mocking. Do all the loving. And, if you’re not capable of loving her through it, you’re not capable of the conversation with her, and you should leave her alone.

Period.

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46 comments

Olivia December 20, 2012 - 12:56 PM

Ok, this message is getting OLD in the media. And it’s not 100% correct. The black women in my family don’t exercise for reasons that have nothing to do with their hair. They don’t exercise because of lack of information and education. They don’t know what to start with, how much to do, how important it is to their bodies for other than weight loss. Not once have they mentioned their hair. They see that this year when I started to really exercise I wore braids but that was really because I had a new baby and I didn’t want to be bothered with my hair and exercise. Now that my son is older I have finally permed it and it is going into a bun and probably will stay there until I feel like taking it out. I thought of going natural because I thought it would be easier but I read online so many women said it’s actually harder to take care of so I scratched that (and I personally like straight hair on me-I went natural once and couldn’t take the twists so paid $45 every 2 weeks to get it blown out which is way too much money and hassle so I permed it.) An-t-way… it’s time for the media to focus on something else. So if Black women don’t exercise because of their hair then why don’t women of other races? I REALLY want to see a “study” on that!

Jon February 6, 2015 - 3:32 PM

This is nothing…unfortunately new coming from yet another Black Woman that’s in “denial” about hearing the truths about Black Women continuing to fail, or even caring to engage in taking care of themselves…as usual! What we’re tired of always hearing from the majority of Black Women is the same sad song about why they can either find the time, or put forth the effort, or for that matter any effort to take care of themselves. Nothing new here at at all! You want another study, okay then do it yourself! That way everybody then knows that we’ll “NEVER”

Erika Nicole Kendall February 6, 2015 - 8:30 PM

I’m so, so terribly sorry that anything other than outright passionate refusal to do anything less than working out twice a day for two hours a day reads as black women accepting a “continuation of failure.” I’m even MORE sorry that you’re so eager to disrespect and dismiss the concerns of black women just because they aren’t saying what you think they should be saying – who are YOU, anyway? – and doing what you think they should be doing.

No one cares what some strange person on the Internet is tired of hearing. Each woman has her own life she must lead, her own responsibilities she must guide herself through, and YES her hygiene and appearance plays a role in that. She has to find those answers on her own, and it doesn’t happen overnight, nor does it happen because someone decided to be an asshole to her on the Internet.

There are lots of reasons why women can’t “take care of themselves” in this way, starting with the fact that they’re still learning the formula that will fit into their daily lives. And I PROMISE you, they’ll be better served by your compassion and not your contempt. Real shit.

Courtney December 20, 2012 - 1:01 PM

We have 42 kids (from various backgrounds) complete a 39-item diary card (essentially a survey) daily for 3 months. We have over 2541 days worth of data and still need more before we can even make a general statement with respect to the study question. So, for a survey study, 130 people providing data at one point in time isn’t an impressive data set. Another question I would have: Why didn’t she collaborate with other derm physicians outside of Wake? I doubt she would meet resistance from Wake’s IRB since it’s simply a survey – it doesn’t sound like they asked much that would be considered protected health info [I haven’t read the actual journal article yet because PubMed is acting funky, so I’m going to be making a few broad stroke assumptions in my comment]. Why not round out your sample by including women of other races/ethnic backgrounds? Also, I know the journalist trying to round things out by asking the salon owner, but they could have at least asked a salon owner in Wake Forest, NC – everyone has a telephone. They can’t say that they “found that women” were avoiding exercise for hair reasons because they didn’t talk to nearly enough women [You can’t tell me that data from 130 women is anywhere near statistically significant] – they can only say that they found that it was a factor in their practice [which MIGHT bring it closer to being statistically significant]. I also would like to see the items on that survey; I wonder how many other adverse influences (finances, family, other health problems, etc.) were represented. If anything this should only serve as base to obtain grant funding for a better designed study/survey with the necessary baseline measurements and demographic information taken, questionnaires administered and the recruitment of a larger (and more inclusive) study population.

Lorrie December 20, 2012 - 2:23 PM

Erika, I want to say I did not read this entire post but like you , I have read many others like it and I agree it is crap coming from a source that does not seek real solutions however, I will say it is the truth and the truth hurts. Black women have a plethora of resources available to them to care for natural hair. New products galore, YouTube tutorials, books…the possibilities are endless! The bottom line is many black women hate their own hair and I am sick of it – this is the real issue that needs to be addressed. I have been a natural hair advocate since high school (and that was a looong time ago 1980s and I went to an all white high school) for the simple fact that black women I grew up with DID in fact put their hair before everything else. Omg if someone would see a nap! They would rather fail P.E than jump in the pool. I am being funny but it is our own responsiblity to not perpetuate the hair ignorance and pass those diginerative practices to our children. At church the other day I saw a baby girl with a perm in her head and she is barely one. I was happy when the attorney general – that black lady whoever she was who worked for the federal government said that first a couple of years ago. Black women do need to wake the hell up and decide to be the change and we have to start in our own communities first. The black sororities sometimes are the worst perpetuators of this. This is an opportunity to take advantage of a negative stereotype and turn it into political policy (I will explain in another post if you ask). We have to be strategists, NOT reactivitists. Understand?

Janine January 17, 2013 - 11:07 PM

Lorrie, you might be interested in @KolaBoof on Twitter, if you don’t already know of her. She tweets a lot about hair as a vehicle of oppression.

J Wilson December 20, 2012 - 2:40 PM

You hit the nail on the head; as a Black woman, it’s tiring to constantly hear some variation of the message that something is wrong with us and we are a drain on society. You’d think that we were the only people who were obese, sick, etc. No one tells smokers or alcoholics how much they are a drain on healthcare; at least not as often as overweight Black women are told that they are costing the system too much money.

” Besides, if Black women only make up maybe 7-8% of the entire US population, and even if 2/3rds of us are overweight, there’s still a good 65% of the rest of the overweight population that needs to be accounted for… where are the specialty studies on them?”

Excerpted from Black Women Too Vain To Work Out And That’s Why They’re Fat… Or Something | A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

Unfortunately, no one’s going to answer that question because it’s more profitable to sell the story that Black women are the problem.

The media and society as a whole are both complicit in urging Black women to have straightened hair. We were (and still are) told directly and indirectly that straight hair was better way before it was acceptable for women (of any color) to exercise. Some might ask, is it that serious? For many, it is. Fortunately, many Black women are now beginning to choose health over straight hair.

Belinda December 20, 2012 - 3:48 PM

I cut mine off and wear it natural. I don’t miss it at all. I had several excuses for not working out, my hair was just one of many. Now you can’t keep me out of the gym! I decided I wanted to live a full healthy life!!

Goldeelocks December 20, 2012 - 3:55 PM

Very interesting! I’m starting to wonder if it’s more generational at this point. Right now, we have the whole “natural hair revolution”, lace fronts, wigs, and weaves galore to where you can sweat it out and still be fly, why not work out and be healthy?

My parents generation more so had the mentality of you’re sort of “born naturally skinny” and you don’t really have to work for it as opposed to now, we all are aware it’s about how you’re taking care of yourself (eating right and exercising.)

I’m wondering what age group was used in this or perhaps that needs to be looked into more as this generation seems to be more accepting of natural hair than not.

seejanesweat December 20, 2012 - 4:25 PM

I am a black woman 44, years old. I’m vain, very vain, I’m 100% natural and I workout 7 days a week. To me, health is more important than vanity. Last year, July 5th, my mother passed away from cancer. She was a beautiful woman with long beautiful hair. But when she was lying in the hospital, fighting for her life, it didn’t matter how beautiful her hair once was. She had lost most of it due to brain surgery and chemotherapy. When she was dying, it didn’t matter how fly she use to be all that matter was her health. It breaks my heart to see people, not just women, not just blacks, but people put their health on the back burner for whatever reason, vanity, lack of knowledge, laziness, busy schedule. We need to take care of ourselves. Make time for health and fitness now or make time for illness later.

S Brooks March 25, 2014 - 2:08 PM

Well said.

Dr Dolores Ensley_Hawkins August 28, 2014 - 11:07 AM

Good for you!!..We gotta start some where. You sound awesome!!
Keep you testimony going..BC we make time for health/fitness or our body will surly make time for sickness…Love your comment!!..Muuaah!

CurvyCEO December 20, 2012 - 7:35 PM

As you’ve lamented often on this site, it’s just more of the “What’s-Wrong-With-Black-Women” meme that has been circulating the interwebs for at least the last four or five years. Now, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that now that I’m natural I worry *less* about my hair when it comes to exercise. But the truth is if you want to workout, you will workout . . . whatever that means for you. I think that one important point that we (not just as African Americans, but everyone really) need to embrace is that exercise isn’t just what happens in a gym. I think so many of us are trained to think that unless it happens on a machine or in front of a wall of mirrors, it “doesn’t count.” But, indeed, walking to the drugstore (instead of driving or taking the bus) counts. Using the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator counts. We have to rewire our thinking about what it is/means to be healthy. Doing so will help folks embrace a healthier lifestyle overall…instead of coming up with nonsense excuses like, “I can’t…I just got my hair done.”

Beth December 20, 2012 - 10:24 PM

I honestly feel like this is an issue that shouldn’t be that hard to understand for any race. I’m pretty sure that if Caucasian women could not maintain their hair if they were to work out and wash it daily, they would stray from the gym as well. Black women don’t have to do much to look naturally beautiful (in my opinion), but the lengths that I’ve seen Caucasian women go through to look young and beautiful… it really saddens me. Working out just happens to be something they seldom have to worry about.

I’m natural, and I love it. My sister, who also works out, isn’t natural, but she gets about four relaxers a year. Hair shouldn’t be, and really isn’t, a factor.

Imani Driskell December 21, 2012 - 1:05 AM

Thanks for this! You definitely hit the nail on head – 103 people does not make a research study! What was this “Family Feud” asking 100 people why Black women do not work out?! Smh
I am getting tired of the “Black women need to get it together” articles. Often, let’s talk instead about economic disadvantage which places many women in a bind as they try to manage work ( sometimes with 2 jobs) and child-rearing. If you are struggling to make ends meet and finish work at 8PM, it might be difficult to go to the gym or exercise outdoors in your community. Also, I glad you discussed corporate culture – where there are pressures to fit some Eurocentric ideal. Yes, I’m Black, I’m proud and I understand that we can do better. Stop with the articles that offer no solutions.

Joy Weese Moll December 21, 2012 - 12:48 PM

Sigh. What crappy research. Where’s the white women survey? I know many white women, especially as another commenter said, in an older generation, who would definitely use their hair as an excuse.

I’m curious how the question was phrased. If you’re not working out and someone asks you why, is it your hair? You might say “yes” because it’s easier than going into all the many reasons that women don’t exercise.

Anyway, I wanted to make sure that you know about the book Instant Recess by Toni Yancey. She talks about black women and hair and exercise (along with many other issues that apply to all ethnic backgrounds and genders) and she does it in a way that is loving. Even better, she talks about solutions. I wrote about the book here: http://www.joyweesemoll.com/2012/04/29/book-review-instant-recess-by-toni-yancey/
It’s a book that I wish had a much larger audience.

junglebabe January 17, 2013 - 10:18 PM

most white people i know do wash their hair every day in the shower. the only time i didnt wash my hair every day was after i did more processing on it and it didnt get as oily. before that, if i didn’t wash my hair every day, it felt nasty and looked nasty. it can be annoying to have to deal with hair at the gym, but i’ve never heard of people not working out because of it. people put leave-in conditioner on their hair dry while they are doing spinning classes, etc. and then go shower and wash it out and thus have worked in an extra hair treatment. i do know people don’t like to walk out in the heat and get sweaty if they are dressed and have to go in and look and smell nice for a meeting of course.

junglebabe January 17, 2013 - 10:21 PM

now there are more products that are “dry shampoo” that are supposed to dry the oil from your hair so that you can skip a day of shampoo, so maybe more people are using them.

Janine January 17, 2013 - 10:41 PM

I love your commentary on this article. I have long since grown desensitized to the ridiculous **** the media outlets choose to publicize as “science” just to boost their site traffic, but this is seriously shame-worthy. They just published a bunch of facts about haircare and a bunch of facts about exercise in the same paragraph and decided the haircare caused the exercise patterns without bothering to establish causation. Oh, wait, why? BECAUSE THEY CAN’T. Because human behavior is never, ever a one-to-one cause and effect, especially when it is groups of humans.
And the “researchers” take the cake. You said it right, Erika: “The only credential you need to study obesity as it pertains to minorities is actually being a minority?”
I really think they felt the need to toss in that this “science” was conducted by a Black woman to try to dodge the fact that it is obviously racist victim-blaming.
This reeks of “I have a Black friend who thinks XYZ, and DUH! They’re not racist, they’re Black! So I can say the same thing too!”
I time my haircare around my exercise ALL THE TIME, btw. Pretty sure most ladies do.

Janine January 17, 2013 - 11:09 PM

also, I should clarify- I haven’t read the original research, what I am complaining about here is how the study is being sensationalized and reported on and the tone the media outlets are taking about this.

Courtney January 18, 2013 - 3:49 AM

I wish we could get away from considering it vanity to not want to get your hair messed up. Hair is so much more complicated than what others (outside of Black America) can even understand. I am kind of natural (I perm my edges only), But that works for me. I know many people that are not able to even go there. I’m not saying it’s not a problem but I’m saying we need to work better at meeting people where they are and natural is not for everyone. We have a tendency to think all or nothing either your natural or you subject your hair to harmful chemicals. If we could learn to meet people where they are we can help with real solutions instead of telling people “Oh just go natural so you don’t have to worry about your hair when you exercise”. Unfortunately that is not going to work for every one. What about the people not on the extremes who are in the middle.

Vanessa February 8, 2013 - 2:31 AM

I don’t work out because I damn well don’t feel like it! How ’bout that…….stupid researches. Stop worrying about someone being obese and worry more about getting those obese people to work. I find that when I am working my weight drops tremendously. I eat better, sleep better and plan for more things to do, because I have INCOME. It has nothing to do with my hair which is totally natural. Whoever you are mistress/sir dermatologist and salon owner get more facts before you find false findings for an issue that does not exist!

Rooo May 17, 2013 - 10:59 AM

“What’s the point of the unnecessary attention if it’s not going to culminate into something worthy of being called “a solution?” You put people into a system that demands they look a certain way, mock them for complying, then demand they put their livelihoods at stake so their bodies can look like they’re not “costing us billions in health care.” What do you suggest these women do? Cut their hair and go natural, even if their industry is hostile towards natural hair? Learn a completely new way of styling their hair just to please you? You don’t complain about the system, you don’t publicly fight the system, you just fuss at Black women for being “silly.” Because it’s just easier to do that”

And boom.

There it is.

Ariel May 18, 2013 - 9:04 AM

This may be anecdotal, but I have heard so many Black women claim their hair as a fitness barrier. While the research sampling is questionable, the statements are not shocking – compared against my experience. Heck, before my natural hair, I WAS that woman passing on workouts to avoid sweat and messing up my ‘do. Stemmed from insecurities, in retrospect. And media or researchers providing solutions?! Have they ever?! That’s on us, then by chance if we do “fix” our issues, they’ll find something else to tease us about. *shrug*

Erika Nicole Kendall May 18, 2013 - 8:55 PM

I address this in my post, though. This isn’t about expecting the media to provide solutions. It’s about questioning why these narratives are so prevalent and, apparently, powerful.

Like, it shouldn’t be a “shrug-worthy” thing that we *accept* that the media “teases” us. We do not make our choices in a vacuum. I’m glad that you (and, obviously, I) made the choice to go natural, but chances are high that not everyone has the resources, time, or energy to do it. I REALLY need to hammer that home, because it’s absurd that other naturals keep perpetuating this. YES, hair presents itself as a barrier, but why? WHY would a woman choose to protect her hair over venturing to work out? If it’s because you fear being ostracized at your job if you start walking around with a hairstyle you can’t pull off and are uncomfortable with, then NO it’s not just people being silly.

You referred to your “insecurities.” What were they? I bet money they have a LOT to do with what other people think. See? Not a vacuum. Not a bubble.

Kim May 20, 2013 - 1:57 PM

I am a woman in my 50’s who wears a hair weave. I exercise and ride my bike daily. It is easier to workout with the weave, but more importantly there seems to be a stigma w/ black women and exercise. When I lived in a predominately black neighborhood, I was accused of “acting white”. esp when I rode w/ my dog in the basket on my bike. I felt self conscious and ridiculed. Now I live in a predominately white neighborhood and am always encouraged . Here working out and riding bikes is the norm. It really is disheartening that some of our people disdain getting healthy. I’m praying that more of us can learn to pass on healthier eating habits and that exercise is good for the body AND the mind.

Maraya June 29, 2013 - 1:40 PM

I’m sorry you had that experience. I live in a predominately Black neighborhood and make sure I cheer all the ladies who ride their bike, especially the young girls. IMO…its nice to see them acting like kids instead of mimicking adults. I recall one lady riding up our hill and the young man she was riding with was encouraging her to keep going and we cheered her on. He smiled and said “See even they want you to make it!”

kiyah May 26, 2013 - 4:35 PM

I think the best thing i ever did was get my sisterlocks. I never have to worry about sweating my hair or doing my hair taking priority over my morning workout.
However, for other ladies there has to be a hairstyle that works for you and lets you work out.

kescia June 27, 2013 - 12:46 AM

Ummm. The study was conducted by researchers–not the dermatologist. They sampled women who visited this dermatologist’s office. Further, they interviewed the salon owner to round-out the article, the salon owner’s comments were not part of the formal study.
There is nothing in the article to impugn the credibility of the study. You may not agree with the findings, but the science is good. Journal articles are rigorously peer reviewed and highly credible in most cases.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 27, 2013 - 11:13 PM

Umm.

“The study was conducted by researchers–not the dermatologist.”

From the article:

““As an African-American woman, I have that problem, and my friends have that problem. So I wondered if my patients had that problem,” said Dr. Amy McMichael, the study’s senior researcher and a dermatologist at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.”

“Further, they interviewed the salon owner to round-out the article, the salon owner’s comments were not part of the formal study.”

Didn’t say she was. Don’t conflate my critique of the science with my critique of the write-up. The write-up is lazy. No one bothered to ask someone who specialized in the study of obesity or epidemiology at all. It’s lazy… like it was promo for the salon owner because she knows the writer. “If you do my hair for free, I’ll get you mentioned on HuffPo! You know they don’t pay us, so I can’t pay you… but I can pay you in free promo!” *blank stare*

“There is nothing in the article to impugn the credibility of the study. You may not agree with the findings, but the science is good.”

I’m sorry, but no. Just because people are “scientists” doesn’t mean they have the expertise necessary to be able to understand the fullness of what contributes to obesity, and nothing about a dermatologist” who also doubles as “lead researcher” instills faith in me.

Interviewing 100 women and using that as a basis to identify some pseudo-pathology in Black women IS shoddy science. It’s LAZY. Researchers ROUTINELY interview tens of thousands of people for general purpose nutritional studies, and follow them for DECADES in order for their research to be considered credible. A drmatologist interviews 100 Black women, HuffPo interviews the dermatologist and a SALON OWNER, and we want to accept that as legit? Why are the standards so low when it comes to women of color?

“Journal articles are rigorously peer reviewed and highly credible in most cases.”

In most cases, mama. Not this one.

Now, see, I even held off on posting your comment until I could sit down and re-read my blog post to make sure I genuinely screwed up, because your comment had too much snark for it to be midguided. You would’ve caught infinitely more flies in your wrongness with honey than with your “Umm.” snark. How hard is it to say “I’ve read the study, and I think you got something different than I did?”

kescia June 28, 2013 - 11:35 AM

You were absolutely right for calling me out on the “snark”–I honestly don’t know where that came from. After reading my comment, I wanted to go back and address the issue of sample size because I do think that the sample size is a legitimate criticism of the study, although the cost of substantially larger studies is often prohibitive. Of course other factors like geographical region, the randomness of the sample (are women attending a dermatologist’s office more or less likely to respond in a given manner), and socioeconomic status of the participants are also concerns.
I simply wanted to state that providing a random group of women with a survey and controlling for other factors is a very common and legitimate form of conducting research practiced by hundreds of researchers in all fields. I don’t think that the study was dumbed-down because AA women were involved. I don’t think it’s fair to suggest ill will, incompetence, or impure motives on the part of the researchers, which are also AA. I guess we can just agree to disagree on that point.
I’m sure that the results of this study didn’t come as a surprise to any Black women. Most of the Black women I know who don’t work out do list their hair as a major factor in that decision. I think it’s up to us to find the solution, that’s not the researchers’ job.
Funny that you refer to me as “Mama”. Yes, I am a mama to one son and two Black young women. One is a scholarship college athlete who must not only balance her athletic and academic performance, but who must also deal with “doing her hair”; and the other who works out with me daily and also knows that our hair should fit our lifestyle, our lifestyle can’t be dictated by our hair.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 29, 2013 - 3:48 PM

“although the cost of substantially larger studies is often prohibitive.”

It is prohibitive, but considering the latest flurry of interest with regards to obesity in Black women, do we really think it’d be that hard to come across some medical school/research grant/etc to fund exploration? And, even so, wouldn’t 500 women be better than 100?

“I simply wanted to state that providing a random group of women with a survey and controlling for other factors is a very common and legitimate form of conducting research practiced by hundreds of researchers in all fields.”

This isn’t something I negated in my original essay. At all.

“I don’t think that the study was dumbed-down because AA women were involved.”

This isn’t quite what I said. I said that the standards for acceptable research regarding this topic are lowered, and could be so for any number of reasons; politics exist in science like any other industry, and we aren’t all privy to the details. Either way, I’ve YET to see a survey related to obesity that has as small a sample size as this that wasn’t mocked thoroughly. Sorry.

“I don’t think it’s fair to suggest ill will, incompetence, or impure motives on the part of the researchers, which are also AA.”

I didn’t imply ill will or impure motives, and none of that – or this – has anything to do with them being Black. I DID imply incompetence, but it wouldn’t solely be on the part of the researchers. I’m saying this should’ve been kicked back and they should’ve been told they need a larger sample size before they could go on trying to brand sweeping generalizations as some kind of “standard understanding” among the Black community. If you’re going to try to tell me something about Black women as a collective, considering how there are a few million of us, you’d better be damned sure you’ve interviewed more than 0.0000002% of us.

“I think it’s up to us to find the solution, that’s not the researchers’ job.”

Did I imply that they need to find the solution? Or did I say that we, as a society, after looking at said research, need to think about how we process this information and what it says to/about us? And, by “us,” I hope you mean “society at large,” and not just “Black women.” Because… well, I gave the “reasons why” in the essay above.

Clarence July 7, 2013 - 3:17 PM

Sorry ladies, but this article has merit! As a personal trainer in Baton Rouge, LA I have struggled to build a AA female clientle and I have been training in Baton Rouge/New Orleans for over 10 years I am sooooooo over hearing about “I cant work out because I have a hair appointment” or “I don’t want to sweat my hair out!” I’ve heard it on the regular my entire career. In my experience sisters are either all in for fitness (I know 3 women from my New Orleans high school (McDonogh #35) who compete in fitness competitions) or not at all. It may sound bad but its gotten to the point where I rarely will waste my time passing out a business card to a sister unless she approaches me first. Another problem I’ve run into is SOME, NOT ALL sisters have a problem taking instruction from a black male, even had one tell me I can talk to “them” like that but not her when I was simply trying to motivate her. Had to tell others, “I’m not your boyfriend, I’m your trainer. Keep your attitude at home”. You may not like the article or what I am saying here but it DOES seem to me that a lot of sisters put too much emphasis on hair and nails and not enough on physical health. Maybe its because you guys are BORN with what other women want (curves, butt, beautiful symmetry) but a lot of these “fitness stereotypes” happen to be TRUE, although, of course, not for everyone.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 7, 2013 - 6:30 PM

“Sorry ladies, but this article has merit!”

This, right here, is how I know you didn’t actually read the article.

And, I’m sorry, but this:

“I have struggled to build a AA female clientle and I have been training in Baton Rouge/New Orleans for over 10 years I am sooooooo over hearing about “I cant work out because I have a hair appointment” or “I don’t want to sweat my hair out!” I’ve heard it on the regular my entire career.”

is hilarious. The key cornerstone of being a trainer is the ability to encourage people and, yes, persuade them to shift their priorities so that one doesn’t get in the way of the other. You can’t talk to and encourage a woman to get excited about fitness beyond the concerns about her hair and/or nails? You don’t have quality results to share with women, showing them your testimonials being SO spectacular that they’re like “Damn, if I can get like that, then screw this hair.” You don’t have resources for what women can do with their hair while they work out?

It sounds like you know VERY little about how to actually help your potential clientele, and it’s far more likely that THIS is the reason why your business is failing, NOT because they “don’t want to sweat their hair out.”

Once again, blaming the women for your failures. Damn.

Take my advice. Step your game up, work on your resources, learn a little more about your potential clientele, and then let’s see how that business does.

On another note, this right here:

“Another problem I’ve run into is SOME, NOT ALL sisters have a problem taking instruction from a black male”

lets me know how disconnected you are regarding the research in the industry. Most WOMEN have problems taking instruction from MEN period – no need to make that a race-based thing – mainly because a man doesn’t have a woman’s body and, more often than not, hasn’t done the proper research or gathered adequate resources, and it instills an unhealthy fear in a woman in her male trainer’s ability to tailor the workout specifically to her. Many women don’t want to train like men, don’t want to be treated like soldiers in boot camp, and simply don’t want to be talked down to. They’re not going for the Biggest Loser experience. That’s legitimate. You may just not be the trainer for them. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, and ain’t no reason to try to demean them for not wanting to work with YOU.

Clarence July 7, 2013 - 9:20 PM

As far as attitudes toward black men: You’ve shown yours by your repeated “failure” comments.

Editor’s note: You’re more than welcome to ask my husband about my attitudes towards Black men.

-Erika

PS: Menopause, pregnancy, but oh yeah… men and women’s bodies are no different, right? In all your ten years of expertise, you still haven’t picked up a book, boo. You gon’ pick one up today, though. ROFL

Rooo July 7, 2013 - 6:57 PM

Oh, Clarence. *smh*

You must be this guy.

I wear Jin Soon on my nails and the lady who does my hair also does … well, the hair of some other ladies whose names you would recognize if I was a name-dropping type, which I am not. I also am a single-digit size and work out with a trainer who trains Ailey and Broadway dancers — because I am finally able to keep up with them, which I would challenge you to do, but that’s another discussion not for today — but I was not always that girl.

And the trainers who were patient and kind enough to work with me to get me to the point I am today held — and hold — the exact opposite of the “attitude” with which you are harshly attacking the potential clients you hope to train.

One of my trainers asked me to be a brand ambassador of sorts for him because so many people were asking me about the transformation I’ve gone through … and I was proud to refer people to him because of his patience and encouragement. (And, in case it has escaped your attention, I am a “she” and he is a “he”, so it really isn’t so much about the gender wars as you’ve tried to make it.)

Women like me are pretty much your ideal client.

And I would never, ever, EVER train with someone who displays what you’ve exhibited here. Not only that, I’d also be none to happy to take to my Twitter account and tell 200 of my closest friends not to either. I don’t scruple to hide abusive nonsense.

#notthatgirl

Not only does your “attitude” speak of the opposite of common sense — because I have no idea how you think berating and shaming these ladies is going to encourage them to put the time and effort in that it takes to become maximally fit — but it’s also just plain old bad business. How on earth do you expect to build a successful enterprise by displaying behavior so noxious it drives away prospective customers?

#comeonson

So perhaps you should take your own advice, and “keep *your* attitude at home”.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 7, 2013 - 10:09 PM

Girl, you should’ve seen the comment he left that I wiped. Just.. tired. Seriously. Trolling for attention and hits to his little BeachBody page. I’m not interested in catering to or engaging that.

Clarence July 7, 2013 - 10:16 PM

Lol, not involved with Beachbody! But you already know this. Since you are obviously ok with telling outright lies–

Editor’s note: You’re absolutely right; it wasn’t BeachBody. It was some other weird pyramid scheme “wellness program” foolishness. My bad for misrepresenting you, bro.

Rooo July 7, 2013 - 10:29 PM

So dude just … elected to miss this part of your comment policy:

“Disrespecting me or the people who post here is also unacceptable. Your comment won’t be approved, and you might be banned. (Actually, I’ve grown to like embarrassing people who behave like they have no home training. Consider yourself warned.)”

“Trolling for attention and hits to his little BeachBody page.”

Oh, so that’s his sad attempt at a so-called business strategy. Thank you for clearing that up.

On the other whole side of this discussion, if your ears were burning yesterday, I was actually chatting a bit w/the trainer – after having my butt thoroughly kicked, LOL – about trying to do training-related things in/for “the community” the *right* way. I remember you laughed right at us when we tried to get you to come uptown 🙂 but I come out to the BK periodically for physical therapy these days. Maybe one of these days we can chat.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 7, 2013 - 10:37 PM

Girl, I’m done with him.

“I come out to the BK periodically for physical therapy these days. Maybe one of these days we can chat.”

Maybe someday, baby. But anything north of Grand Central, and I start whining. Loudly. LOUDLY. ROFL

Clarence July 7, 2013 - 10:35 PM

Another editing job! Ok, I’m out! Good luck with your endeavors anyway! Peace sista!

Erika Nicole Kendall July 7, 2013 - 10:39 PM

Same with you, too, friend. Take care! 🙂

Clarence July 7, 2013 - 10:01 PM

Almost,the entire post was edited out (as I’m sure this one will be)

Editor’s note: You’re a quick study. Now, if only you’d pick up a book…

LaToya July 7, 2013 - 10:51 PM

I live where the trainer in question is from. A LOT of black men trainers here feel like he dose. which is sad!!! We should be lifting each other up (as a race) and not tearing each other down. It’s okay to disagree but to rip a person down because you don’t agree is wrong. I personally stay away from men trainers black or white because they are not a woman and don’t completely understand our bodies. Is that right, NO but that is how I FEEL!!

Erika Nicole Kendall July 7, 2013 - 11:14 PM

“It’s okay to disagree but to rip a person down because you don’t agree is wrong.”

I’m not ripping him apart*; I’m letting him know that it’s obvious that he didn’t read the post, because he STILL insists on blaming Black women for something that they largely have no control over, instead of understanding that the “hair thing” is something much bigger than Black women being petty and vain.

And, since he’s so comfortable considering Black women as petty, I showed him petty. Especially since he wants to assume my attitude towards Black men. ROFL I had a grand ol’ time with that.

I think that there are lots of reasons why women shy away from/avoid male trainers – oftentimes because perverted ones have ruined it for the rest of them, but even more so because they feel like men who haven’t done the research on women’s individual bodies and how certain things affect them – how man men know what diastasis recti is? how do you cater to a woman who is pregnant? or, even more, a woman who WANTS to get pregnant? Menopause? PCOS? How many male trainers can give sustainable advice on menstruation and body changes – but none of that changes the fact that I’d expect someone with 10+ years in the game to understand all this and know how to work with/around it. To dismiss that, by claiming that “women’s bodies are no different from men,” coupled with him running to his FB to call me some kind of fraud…

…that lets me know he’s not only a crybaby, but an uninformed one, at that. “Trainer,” indeed.

*Once I realized what was going on, I edited my comment. Because, wow. LOL

QSil July 8, 2013 - 1:40 PM

There was one point in my life that I cared more about my hair than I did about working out: it was when I was in high school, and I actually cared what others thought of me.

I’ve been working out regularly since 2010, and I have been wearing my hair natural since 2009. I sweat profusely at least 5 times a week, and when my hair is not in two-strand twists, I am restyling it every night. I don’t care how much work my hair is, because my health is top priority (and let me stress that I am not the type of person who will leave my house with my hair in ANY type of disarray). I am a full-time student and mother with a part-time job. I make it happen because it is what I want. I imagine there are women who feel the exact opposite of how I feel, and I contribute that to the fact that they just are not yet at the point in their lives where their health is a priority…the hair is just one of many excuses. I have to say, though, that there are more women, especially black women, at my gym than any other nationality in my community, which represents all branches of the military. More and more of us are getting active! The urgency to have good health and look good, too, is growing. It’s a thing of beauty and I’m glad to be a part of the revolution!

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