A hairdresser for 28 years and an independent contractor with Jacques Michael Salon in Los Angeles since 2001, Schwanda-Matthews also has formally studied nutrition at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where her teachers included such well-known names as Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Deepak Chopra. Schwanda-Matthews has started a website (humanleaf.com) devoted to spreading information about proper nutrition, and she’s working on a book as well.
“Hairdressers, teachers and nurses are a very special breed,” Schwanda-Matthews says. “We take care of everyone else, while we put ourselves second. That can lead to weight gain. We drink coffee instead of water, we don’t go to the bathroom when we need to and we make choices for convenience—quick fixes—because we’re so exhausted by the end of the day. So we go for fast food and processed food, which doesn’t give us proper energy. Then we try crash diets, and we lose weight but gain it back, or we find that a diet that works for our friend doesn’t work for us, because every person is different.”
Schwanda-Matthews, who says she used to be a chronic yo-yo dieter, helps hair pros understand the principles of good nutrition by applying beauty terminology. “We tell clients that their hair needs hydration, or they need a moisture treatment,” she explains. “Our bodies need hydration, too. Bad skin, weak nails, bouts of depression—some of that is related to dehydration. We need water to run our bodies when we wake up in the morning. We start with coffee, and before long we need a sugar fix. Instead, have a cup of warm water in the morning. You’ll be surprised how quickly you wake up!”
Hairdressers also are used to “eyeballing” everything, she adds. You eyeball color, cut lines and texture blends, so you’ll be a natural at quickly assessing an appropriate portion size.
Getting to know your body really well is a good start, Schwanda-Matthews continues. “When you start eating the right way for your body,” she explains, “you may stay at a size 8, and that’s okay. Some people are not made to be a size 0, and we drive ourselves crazy trying to get there.”
Your first step should be avoiding sugar and white flour, Schwanda-Matthews recommends. Replace processed foods by going back to the basics of fruits and vegetables. “Hairdressers are around a lot of chemicals, which is not good for our respiratory system, and we’re indoors a lot,” she observes. “Green plants give oxygen. Much of what we eat starts out as a plant, but it’s so processed that you can’t recognize it. In a traditional American diet, two-thirds of the fiber is removed. Once you start grinding food, you remove the fiber and it behaves like sugar.”