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Friday, April 25, 2014

Habits of a Quitter

Two months after quitting
shampoo.  No styling products.
Just straightened.
The following article appeared in the April 2014 edition of The Northeast Texan.

In the last year and a half, I’ve quit three major things, and I’m pretty proud of that.  Christmas before last, I quit biting my fingernails.  If you’re not a nail-biter, you may not realize what an accomplishment that is.  It probably comes with less social stigma than any other bad habit, so there is less external pressure to quit.  The biter almost never experiences any significant consequences, so there is less internal pressure to quit, too. 

The only real reason to change is that keeping dirty fingers in your mouth all the time is unsanitary.  Personally, I just wanted pretty hands.  Fifteen months later, my nails are strong and healthy and grow fast enough that sometimes I even complain about how often I have to groom them.

But that’s not my greatest accomplishment.  My greatest accomplishment came on December 20 of last year when I smoked my last cigarette.  After smoking a pack a day for the better part of 23 years, I finally gave it up out of desperation.

A week before Christmas, I came down with the flu.  During the three or four days I laid on my mother’s couch, suffering hourly breathing treatments for asthma and taking cold medicine every four hours on the dot, I didn’t even want to smoke. 

A couple days later when I finally did want a cigarette, I had a little talk with myself.  “You’re already through the three-day nicotine withdrawal, and that’s the hardest part.  Just go ahead and quit.  It should be easy from here!”  And it WAS!  The most valuable advice I ever received about quitting was this:  The craving will go away whether you smoke or not.  So you can make the craving stop by surrendering to it and tossing your goal out the window, or you can just wait it out.  The craving will pass.

This past February, I quit shampooing my hair, mostly out of curiosity.  I heard that women everywhere are swapping their chemical-laden commercial shampoo and conditioner for baking soda and vinegar.  Everyone has their own way of doing it, but no, you don’t feel like a fourth grade science experiment, and no, you don’t walk around smelling like a jar of pickles. 

One of my friends grabs a handful of soda, wets it enough to make a paste, and works the paste through her hair.  Most people, however, make a solution of soda and water with varying ratios.  Mine is about 1/3 cup of soda in a repurposed 20-ounce Coke bottle with a dish soap lid on it.  It leaks a little, but that doesn’t really matter in the shower, and it gives me an easy-to-use squirt top.  Some people wet their hair first, but I apply about 4 ounces of the solution to my dry hair, rub it all in for a couple minutes, then rinse it out. 

There is much debate about whether the Apple Cider Vinegar rinse is helpful or necessary, and I tried both ways.  I didn’t use it at first, but my hair was dry as straw and I was sure that if I crushed it in my hands, it would crumble like dry leaves in autumn.  It was frizzy, tangled, dull, and I hated it! 

I decided to start over with a fresh shampoo, fresh trim, and new determination.  This time I used the baking soda shampoo but kept my commercial conditioner.  That was a little better, but I was still happier with my Pantene.  If it was working for so many women, why wasn’t it working for me?  Turns out, the secret really was in the vinegar. 

Your scalp is a 4.7 acid on the pH scale (7 is neutral), and baking soda is 9 base.  You need the vinegar to put your head back in proper pH balance.  As soon as I read that, I sprayed my whole dry head with ACV (not just the ends of my hair as every website recommends) and let it sit for about twenty minutes before rinsing.  After doing the same thing the following night, I felt like I had a new head of hair.  I can’t think of any reason I’ll ever need to use shampoo or conditioner again. 

Quitting my fingernails and quitting smoking are both common goals, but you may be wondering, why quit the shampoo?  Well, why not?  Why apply synthetic chemicals to your body when it’s so easy not to?  I don’t know if they’re really bad for me or not, and I’m still not a big proponent of doing everything naturally, but if it’s cheaper, works better than the store-bought stuff, and isn’t even an inconvenience, why not do it the natural way?

As a smoker I thought, “I’m doing a world of bad by smoking, so what difference is the tiny bit of good I’d be doing by not using shampoo (or buying organic or whatever)?”  Now that I’ve stopped sucking hundreds of known toxins into my lungs twenty times a day, I feel like every little bit helps.

The trade-off to quitting anything is that you can’t just quit and do nothing.  If you give up one bad thing, you have to pick up something good in exchange.  I wish someone had told me that before I quit smoking because what I picked up was a bunch of pounds.  But don’t worry – I’m quitting that soon, too.  

1 comment:

  1. It would be a lot easier to lose weight if you could totally stop eating the way you can totally stop smoking! It seems a lot harder to use moderation. :-{


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