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Latham Thomas

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The Transition Decision

Posted: 02/15/2012 4:43 pm

Close your eyes and imagine... It's Saturday morning, the weather is gorgeous, you are surrounded by women chatting, flipping though gossip mags, on cell phones, texting. The humming of hairdryers, the all familiar smell of relaxer, hair spray and the faint scent of hair burning fills the air. When you finally make it to the shampoo bowl it seems that half the day has flown by, and the rest of it will surely pass before you leave the salon... Does this scenario sound familiar? This is how I recall spending my weekends getting my hair done in Oakland, CA. It all started with a hot comb in my mom's kitchen, sitting between her legs and folding my ears back while I got my hair pressed. But the alluring relaxer had my mom sold and she would never again have to pull out that hot comb. From then at the tender age of eight, I was baptized in black beauty salon culture. So many of us spend the only time we have for ourselves in salons "beautifying", making our hair just perfect. I happily gave up that lifestyle in my teens and have sported dreadlocks ever since, I have a transition story like so many women who have gone from perm to natural hair. Support around transitions with our hair is key to feeling confident and following through with not only a change in hair style but lifestyle too. As a wellness and lifestyle expert, my main function is to help clients embrace a healthy lifestyle. I notice that even your hairstyle can have an adverse effect on your overall heath.

78 percent of black women are overweight and 50 percent can be categorized as obese, according to the American Obesity Association. So why aren't we exercising ladies? There are a few factors that come into play -- the most interesting of them is our hair. In a study conducted by Wake Forest University Medical Center, 31 percent of women surveyed said they exercise less because it might compromise their hairstyle. All women are concerned about their hair but black women tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time in the salon and maintaining their hair than their white counterparts. Those of us who are going to the gym may not be giving our best during our workouts in an effort to preserve our scalp and tresses from the "sweat out" and consequently ruining the style we just spent a fortune of time and money on to begin with. For the effort it takes to maintain a style after visiting the salon and spending all that money who can fault black women for not wanting to sweat out their hairstyles at the gym.

Interestingly enough, white women frequent the gym, are regularly seen running outdoors, seemingly embracing exercise at whatever juncture possible and many admit to being obsessed "in a good way" with working out. Being thin is greatly valued popular culture and the magazines that young white women are reading perpetuate the skinny ideal. From the time they are in grammar school, many young white girls are already self conscious about their weight, according to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota white girls as young as 10 years old are on self prescribed diets and trying to loose weight, and many are obsessed with weight as early as age five. White women and their fixation with weight parallels to the fixation black women have with their hair. From an early age, we are aware of whether or not we have "good hair." I recall my mom even making comments about my son and nephew's hair and placing value on it for being soft and curly. Like our white counterparts, who may try every diet under the sun in a quest to reach their ideal, we too try all the chemical processes, techniques, braids, extensions, that exist in our quest to achieve what we have been taught is the beauty ideal -- the perfect hair! Now I'm not saying that black women don't have weight issues and that white women aren't just as experimental with their chemical processes, I'm just connecting some dots.

In recent years there has been a movement back to big and bold natural hair. Short styles, dreadlocks, braids, mohawks and more have been embraced in urban areas across the country, inspiring other black women to free their scalps and make "the transition". Site's like LeCoil celebrate the hairstyling and creative expression of natural hair. In places like Brooklyn, NY you can find various salons that offer expert care in natural hair. One of the big selling points for my transition which took place when I was 15 years old, was that I would never again have to sit all day in a salon and my athletic lifestyle was no longer worked around whether or not I was having a good hair day. Everyone has a story about their hair and as an expert from the Carol's Daughter Glam Squad Transition team I want to offer some tips, support and encourage those of you who are transitioning your hair, and want to make a larger transition in your life to check out our Facebook Page and contest -- "Transition Me Beautiful" The contest will begin on Wednesday, February 15th - March 28th 2012. on Facebook.

A lucky winner will receive a fierce makeover, and weekend with the Carol's Daughter Glam Squad -- fabulous fashion consult with a celebrity stylist, health and fitness consultation with me and Carol's Daughter products for a year! We look forward to hearing your stories so please join us online.

Here are my 7 tips to help you embrace "the transition" & a healthy active lifestyle, hair and all.

  1. The Tie Back Solution. The reason many African American women don't want to sweat from exercise is because the sweat which contains water and salts causes the affected hair at the scalp to kink up and appear dry and brittle. Before you work out pull your hair back into a ponytail and place a sweat band or bandana at your hairline. This will keep the edges flat at the hairline. Only remove after you've completed the workout and shower and are ready to style your hair.
  2. Get your Om On! Yoga is a wonderful way to increase strength, flexibility, reduce stress and induce a sense of calm. Your yoga practice is a great form of physical, mental, and spiritual exercise that will keep you feeling balanced. What's more, with the exception of Hot Yoga or Bikram yoga, your hairstyle will last too.
  3. Go Au Naturale. It's a great time of year to cut your hair or start fresh with a new style. We are inching closer to spring and that's often a time when people emerge with a new look. Check out some magazines and celebrity styles for ideas. Locks, low cuts, twists, afros, are all relatively low maintenance hairstyles.
  4. Prioritize. Many of us are juggling commitments to work, family, friends and we need to carve out time for ourselves; for our health and schedule time to workout. Invest the time to make yourself feel good. If you don't have a gym membership, no problem, it's beautiful outside so there are many alternatives: you can run outdoors, take brisk walks, jump rope or rollerblade. Do whatever feels good for you, but remember to push yourself. When you are having fun, working out seems effortless!
  5. Set an Intention. Decide to commit to your health and well-being. Creating an intention in your life inspires you to live in alignment with that goal in mind at all times. So if your intention is to strive towards healthy weight-loss, then when you are confronted with choices like French fries or salad greens, red velvet cake or fresh fruit, you will make a choice that is aligned with your intention. Remember discipline is not a punishment, it's a reward. If we are disciplined in our eating, exercise, and lives we will be much happier in the long run.
  6. Upgrade your Products It's important to have quality hair care products that work for you and don't contain harmful ingredients. Carol's Daughter makes a great line of hair care. You can even use natural ingredients found in your kitchen like coconut oil.
  7. Get Inspired Create a mood board of images that rouse you, this could include cool hair styles, fashion, activities, words of inspiration etc. You can use this mood board to help galvanize your change, whether that is growing out your hair, chopping it all off, starting locks, whatever it may be. New hairstyles spark a shift in lifestyle, fashion, and more.