Healthy Hairdresser

Gail Carter-Cade: “Exercise is My Medicine”

Rosanne Ullman | September 29, 2014 | 1:42 PM

Gail Carter-Cade: “Exercise is My Medicine”You’re promising a lot when you’re an independent contractor and name your salon: Ooh La La GA LA CAR Boutique Salon, “The One Stop of Beauty & Styles for Women Who Know that Beauty is a Necessity and Not a Luxury.” But Gail Carter-Cade isn’t afraid of promising a lot, because she’s determined to deliver.

“I love beauty, I love helping women look beautiful and I like being creative,” Carter-Cade says. She works with every client to develop a beauty plan that fits the individual budget. She created her makeup line, Beauty Made Simple for a Simply Beautiful You, specifically because she felt that “women of color could wear a wider range of makeup shades than were offered” by other lines. And she has positioned her salon as a health and fitness resource. Throughout the year, she holds community outreach and health and fitness events, and her website carries information on issues that Carter-Cade knows all too well: lupus, diabetes and general fitness.

The first African-American woman to receive a scholarship from the makeup department at Long Island Beauty School, Carter-Cade worked in the New York area until she had an opportunity to go into business for herself in Jacksonville, FL. She moved there in 1989, supplementing her makeup certification with a full cosmetology degree.

Carter-Cade recalls that her brother asked her, “How are you going to go into business with no money?” She replied, “That’s the best time to go into business, because I have nothing to lose!”

With that level of determination and a sought-after specialty in creative weaves, Carter-Cade was doing well when, three years later, her diabetes first showed up in the form of gestational diabetes with her first pregnancy. Two subsequent pregnancies resulted in the same diagnosis, and since then she has continued to take insulin for type 2 diabetes.

Gail Carter-Cade: “Exercise is My Medicine”More recently, a sensitivity to medication snuck up on her. A bout with diverticulitis landed Carter-Cade in the hospital, where the prescribed medication made her break out in hives. Not long afterward, her eye was giving her trouble and she began having seizures. After ignoring her symptoms for longer than she should have, she finally sought medical care. Repeated allergic reactions to the medication for getting the seizures under control brought comprehensive testing that resulted in the sobering diagnosis of lupus.

“I also may have MS,” Carter-Cade says, “and I’m one episode from a colostomy bag.”

Instead of letting her health stop her from doing the work she loves, Carter-Cade decided to take better care of herself as well as educating her clients and her community about lupus and diabetes. Now 53 years old, she aims multiple strategies toward staying as healthy as possible:

*Exercise. “Exercise is my most important medicine!” Carter-Cade laughs. Rising Monday through Friday at 5:50am, she exercises for 40 minutes either by watching an exercise program or video or just devising her own routine.

“I exercise every part of my body from my neck to my feet,” she says. “I do a lot of leg raises, sit-ups and pushups. I lift weights to strengthen my arms; I have no cellulite! I do a little cardio in the routine. The exercise helps with my energy level, keeps me flexible, keeps my legs from cramping and controls the pain from lupus.”

*Diet. “After my diabetes diagnosis, I changed my diet,” she reports. “My cholesterol was at 700! The medication to lower cholesterol made me feel terrible, and a nurse shared with me that she’d heard from other patients that flaxseed helps to lower cholesterol. I tried it, and now my cholesterol is way down with no medication.”

Her diverticulitis limits her food variety, so she goes heavy on the fruits and vegetables. After exercising and before leaving for work, she drinks a smoothie with yogurt, a half banana, 3 tablespoons of light canned fruit cocktail, 1 tablespoon of fiber plus some cinnamon, ginger and, of course, flaxseed. Other than the smoothie, she drinks only milk, water, green tea and one cup of coffee a day, no soda or alcohol. For lunch at the salon, she brings a salad containing lettuce, cucumber, carrot, onion, a little meat and a slice of cheese. For dinner, she serves a meat and a vegetable.

“I try to eat in moderation,” she says. “But on Sundays I cheat and make chocolate chip cookies! I also take a lot of vitamins, mainly vitamin C. The lupus makes me tired, as if I’m catching a cold a lot. Vitamin C helps me feel less run-down and gets me through the day. I also take B12.”

*Stress Management. Carter-Cade knows she has to manage stress effectively. “Other people can just take a pill, but I’m allergic to medication and can’t do that,” she says. “When a stressful situation occurs, I try to head it off. I rest; I relax. I change the way I’m thinking. I just can’t afford to have stress.”

*Works accommodations. “Fortunately, I live near my salon, so I don’t have much of a commute,” Carter-Cade reports. “But I was a ‘stander’—I would for 12 or 13 hours. I’m not a sitter. For this season’s back-to-school rush, it could take eight or nine hours to do a braiding service for a young client. You can see in my face how much that drains me, so this year I pulled up a stool. I just sit more now, and on Sundays I rest most of the day. We’re not open on Mondays, and Tuesday and Wednesday can be just a few hours of work.” By taking it easier on those days, Carter-Cade is at top energy on her busy Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Her health-related routine has become habit, and Carter-Cade says she doesn’t let it define her. “If I took the time to focus on all of my illnesses and where I could end up with them, it would be depressing,” she says. “I don’t focus on them. I keep going and working. Having my own business was always my dream. Now that I have it, I want to keep living my dream.”

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