A friend of mine was surprised to learn that hair can play a major role is dissuading folks from exercising. He could understand issues like not having a safe place to be physically active, thinking you don’t have the time, especially given the extra time required to wrench the Wii controller out of your child’s hand before leaving the house, but hair? Really?
Oh yes, really. For those of us who aren’t the wash and wear type, it is a big deal. Let’s put aside all those people who spend hundreds of dollars at a salon processing curly hair to be straight and straight hair to be curly. Let’s just consider those of us with unruly hair that requires some at-home taming. When washing, conditioning, blow drying, flat ironing, curling … and I could continue…results in a post workout hour of rejiggering your coif, it can absolutely pose an obstacle to sneaking in a quick daily run.
And what is so eye-opening about this is not the complete inequity between those of us who can wash and dash and those of us who can spend upwards of seven entire days in a year handling our hair, but the fact that obstacles to healthy behavior are pervasive, diverse, and very real to the people experiencing them.
So, in answer to your question, “Why waste space discussing hair as an obstacle to healthy behaviors?” I say, “Because identifying the real obstacles to healthy behaviors is the key to engaging in them.”
We need more than a prescription to engage in healthier behaviors. Deeper and more honest discussion is needed – whether with our doctors, within our communities, with our families, and even with ourselves – to figure out what the real barriers to healthier decisions are. And it’s important to ask because sometimes it’s easy to be overwhelmed when things seem hard and we can’t take the time to stop to figure out why.
At my house for example, physical activity is not an issue, but healthy eating could easily drive us to distraction. We have experienced a dinner-time bell pepper standoff on many occasions – with a child refusing to eat and a parent not sure when to back down from gently prodding her to do so. We have experienced steadfast refusals to eat peanut butter unless it’s on an apple and noses resolutely turned up at hummus. We have failed to implement pretty much any suggestion from diet gurus trying to teach us how to get our children to eat a healthy lunch. So much so that I threw a wet sock from the laundry machine at the television when I saw Giada de Laurentiis’ daughter happily munching away on white bean spread on a pita chip.
And I still have issues figuring out how to stop the grandparents from rewarding the children with candy when I’m not looking; coming up with creative, healthy, and safe lunches; whether I allow dessert when my daughter doesn’t finish her dinner (which means she’s still hungry but eating a treat) or whether I ask her to eat more dinner before I allow dessert (which may mean I’m forcing her to eat when she’s full).
Would you really blame me if I threw in the towel on healthy eating? And I’m a person who has easy access to healthy foods, not to mention a pediatrician who works at a foundation focused on combatting obesity-related health issues among children.
At my home, a big part of making things doable is figuring out what the real obstacle is and strategizing to address it. Turns out cooked bell peppers are “slimy,” but a crunchy red one called a “pepper boat” (my daughter is a pirate fan) is much more appealing. Grandparents want to do special things for the grandchildren, so a few suggestions for healthier alternatives (like park outings instead of a handful of Skittles) go a long way. You get the idea.
Rather than approaching healthier strategies en masse and giving up when they seem too tough, we try taking a stab at addressing the small, specific obstacles that stand in the way. One step at a time is still a great way to get to a healthier future.