Health is a Personal Journey

Each of us has to find our own motivation for living a healthy lifestyle. Hairdressers share their reasons for making changes.

Sometimes a serious health crisis is the wake-up call that gets people to overhaul their lifestyle. Other times an outside factor—a book you read, a celebrity's public health battle, a weight loss TV show or even a column in a magazine (hint, hint)—can trigger that resolve to live healthy.

Stephanie Johnson had both—a yin/yang of positive motivation paired with a negative scare. The negative came first, four years ago at age 38, when Johnson received a diagnosis of aggressive, triple-negative breast cancer. Since breast cancer ran in her family, she underwent genetic testing that showed she was carrying the BRCA2 gene mutation and followed her doctor’s recommendation to have an oophorectomy to prevent ovarian cancer in addition to a mastectomy and chemotherapy to treat her breast cancer. Altogether, Johnson spent about a year trying to get well.

Faced with a life-threatening disease, Johnson decided to pursue something she’d always dreamed of doing—getting her cosmetology license. She was an artist and photographer who did some makeup, but with her new perspective she enrolled in cosmetology school so she could do hair. “I thought that even if I had only a few years to live, I would be doing something I love,” she says.

“You become a different person when you go through cancer. It gives you a real sense of purpose.”

By the end of 2015, Johnson still was not herself. She was experiencing chronic leg pain from the chemo drug taxol, and chemo also had forced her into premature menopause with debilitating hot flashes. She felt weak, slept poorly and could barely get through a workday. Watching the documentary Forks Over Knives became a positive inspiration that drove her second decision—to improve her overall health regimen. The movie promoted the benefits of a plant-based, whole food diet.

“I was sick of being sick,” says Johnson, whose business, HairFacePhoto, is based in Dallas. “My quality of life was not what it should have been.”

Within a week of changing her diet, Johnson began to sleep better. She gradually gained energy, and her leg pain vanished. In January she added strength training to restore muscle strength.

“I pass along that success and enthusiasm to my clients,” Johnson says. “I tell them that they’re in ‘hairapy’ when they sit in my chair, and I help them to understand that when they want great hair, skin and nails, they have to consider how they’re treating their interior, too.”

With no signs of cancer in her body, today Johnson is cautiously looking toward a bright future. “Anything can happen, but at least I know that I’m doing everything I can not to contribute to my own demise,” she says.

British stylist Allison Tovey changed her life in a different way after a 2013 health crisis. At age 48, she figured that impending menopause must be causing her symptoms of fatigue, breathlessness and heart palpitations.

“I felt I had to push through it and I’d get better,” says Tovey, who runs her salon, Hayton Hair Salon, just outside the UK’s Lake District. Luckily, her husband insisted on taking her to see a doctor.

“I was in heart failure!” she says.“Two of my heart valves were leaking, which produced fluid around the heart.”

Assured that she didn’t require surgery, Tovey returned to work and managed to complete an advanced hairdressing certification program even though she was feeling increasingly weak. By June 2014 when it was determined she required open heart surgery after all, things were so bad that a heart transplant was considered. Instead, Tovey received some new heart valves and began a long recovery that kept her out of work for five months.

Through this crisis, Tovey learned how much she meant to her husband, mother and teenaged children, who all pitched in to care for her and each other. Her clients were supportive, and all but one returned when she was available again. She switched to a more lightweight blowdryer, and now she paces herself.

“If I’m doing a big color correction, I don’t book anything else that day,” she says. But the most significant thing she changed was her outlook.

“Anything can be an opportunity!" Tovey says. "When I was unable to physically do hair for five months, that didn’t stop me from learning new things online and in magazines. I started following some amazing artists who have changed my world. I couldn’t even use my iPad before all this, and now I’ve passed online courses from a major manufacturer in master coloring!”

In addition to advising our Healthy Hairdressers to listen to your body and go to the doctor when you’re in pain, Tovey says the moral to her story is to keep moving forward.

“You are never too old or too ill to learn,” she says. “Passion for your craft is everything, and there are no limits.”

Try This First

Don’t wait for a health crisis to make healthier lifestyle choices! In sharing their 2016 health goals, salon pros responding to our January Healthy Hairdresser Challenge also provided great ideas for finding motivation:

Become part of a community. "I joined Weight Watchers. My healthy resolution is to lose 50 pounds by 2017.”—Kristy B.
Focus on one goal at a time. "I'm adding one healthy change per month. January was to stay hydrated, by measuring out 64 ounces of water each morning.” —Julie J.
Download an app. "My resolution is to quit smoking for good. I down-loaded an app that keeps track of money and time saved, plus health benefits.”—Joshua R.
Practice prevention. “My Healthy Hairdresser resolution for 2016 is to set aside enough money each month to get a deep-tissue massage to help me to prevent injuries from working behind the chair. I help myself out by having great posture, holding my shears safely and stretching, but all the blowouts I do take such a toll on my shoulders by the end of the day.”—Kaitlin B.
Do it for the kids. “My children are my real motivators so they’ll have their mother healthy, active and around for a long time. No excuses this year! I’ve lost almost 100 pounds. I want to continue my healthy lifestyle and lose 20-30 more pounds. There will always be something else that has to get done, but nothing is more important than a person’s health.”—Jessica Keeton

Take the Challenge! Weight Loss: The First 10

Many salon pros in the Healthy Hairdresser community have identified weight loss as a goal for 2016 and a contributing factor to overall health concerns that affect career sustainability, productivity and lifestyle. In fact, it was the number-one issue cited in the inaugural Healthy Hairdresser survey of stylists. (Source: MODERN SALON Research, 2014.)

In the spirit of being proactive, and not waiting for a health crisis to make change happen, the April Healthy Hairdresser Challenge sponsored by haircare line Obliphica Professional, asks salon pros to commit online to put a weight loss plan in motion, and to share one strate-\gy they will implement as a smart start to lose the “First 10.” Participants will be given the option to be contacted by Healthy Hairdresser editors in the fol-lowing month and to share updates on their progress. As with all Challenges, the purpose is to share stylist-to-stylist best practices and to encourage more salon pros to take care of you.

The first 100 participants to com-mit to the April Challenge online at will receive a gift package from Obliphica Profes-sional (see opposite page for details). Ten lucky respondents will receive $100 Amazon gift certificates to invest in something for the next phase of their healthy endeavors.

“Treat yourself well, you deserve it,” Obliphica founder Dalal Moussa says. “Healthy Hairdresser encompasses everything we stand for—beauty, health and wellness. We are vested in your success and in making the First 10 Challenge a positive experience.”



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