Breaking The Pattern

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When thinking about the connection between hairstyles and childhood obesity, I thought it would be a tough (if not impossible) task. Unfortunately, several recent incidents popped into my head that made me think about the value of a hairstyle versus the value of physical health.

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese. The most common causes for this type of obesity are genetic factors, unhealthy eating patterns, lack of physical activity or a combination of the three.

In the summer months, most children love nothing more than to cool off in a community pool or dodge waves at the beach. That is unless they just got a fresh hairstyle. Let me explain. Recently, a mom brought her daughter into my salon. The child had her hair braided a week earlier, but the mom was upset that the little girl had gone swimming multiple times and her hair was now a frizzy mess. The daughter whined in defense, “I just wanted to swim with my friends.”

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common in my salon. Parents spend money to keep their child’s hair groomed – expecting the style to stay in place for two to three weeks – and then getting upset when it gets messed up. One mother told me about how at a pool party, her daughter was warning the other kids not to splash her and get her hair wet even though the mom encouraged her daughter to play and not worry about her hair.

Obese children are at risk for a number of conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, early heart disease, bone problems and skin conditions. Children need the freedom to participate in physical activity and free play. Unfortunately, for many African-American children, parents are passing down a deadly legacy of beauty to their children.

I try to stress to parents that they should choose tension-free hairstyles that offer longevity. This way, parents don’t have to style their child’s hair on a daily basis – giving it a break from possible mechanical damage like daily combing, brushing and pulling. On the other hand, when our children become involved in more activities that may compromise their hairstyles, we have to remember not to compromise their health. There are some styles and techniques that can be used to keep a child’s hair protected while they are engaged in their activities, but be prepared that based on their level of activity the style may not maintain its fresh look for long. By loosening up about our child’s hairstyle, we are allowing them the freedom to enjoy being an active, healthy and happy kid – ultimately breaking the unhealthy pattern of choosing to be inactive to preserve a hairstyle.

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