What is the second thing you notice after looking at good before and after weight loss photos? I would bet good money that most of you said the woman’s hair makeover. I’m sure it won’t come to a surprise to any of you that before and after competition contestants are encouraged to pull their hair back for their “before” photos and most get their hair done professionally to take their “after” photos. But, what does hair have to do with feeling skinny? A lot apparently.

You can see similar behavior on the show The Biggest Loser. At the weigh-ins, the female contestants are forced to stand there in a sports bra and shorts and get on a scale in front of millions of viewers. I am always delightfully surprised when they show up with their hair well coiffed. It makes sense though, when you think about it. Especially in the beginning when they can’t stand behind their weight loss progress, their hair is one of the only things they have to look and feel beautiful.

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A woman holds her hair very closely to her identity. I remember sitting in a diner with my good friend Megan about the time when her hair started to fall out because of her chemotherapy. As she battled stage 2 breast cancer, surviving was the big picture, but day-to-day, it was about losing her hair and feeling “lost” without it. I obviously wasn’t in her position but I could certainly empathize with that feeling. It is amazing to me how a bad hair day can completely kill my self-confidence, so it completely boggles my mind how I can allow myself to ever leave the house with my hair undone. Especially since I have vivid memories of  going camping with my youth group and obsessing about how I was going to keep my early 90’s “high hair” well… high! I also remember leaving every class in high school on a bad hair day to reposition my bobby pins for the 300th time. In fact, when I look back at self-conscious moments in my childhood, behind zits-so-large-I-named-them, my hair was my biggest concern. So how is it that women are so quick to let their hair go once they become mothers?

Of course, as a mother, there are a million reasons to not spend too much time on your hair. Children, work, laundry, dishes, cooking, you name it, but that shouldn’t be one of the things some moms are willing to let go. Blogger Kristen Chase agrees in her popular column Mominatrix on the site Imperfect Parent. Chase writes, “It seems as though the instant that many women pop out their babies, they’re instantly sucked into a capri-pant-and-ponytail-wearing vacuum. Or worse, they somehow rationalize the ‘cut it short because it’s easier’ hairdo.”

I think some women feel guilty about spending time on themselves and they sport awful hairstyles as badges that tell the world how they self-sacrifice for their family. I think if those same women sat down with their own daughters (as adults) they would say that the idea is ludicrous. They would lovingly tell their daughters that they don’t have to sacrifice their self-esteem to be a good parent, that they are beautiful and that they deserve to feel beautiful.

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So ladies, take down your ponytail and dial up your stylist because you don’t need to sacrifice your self-esteem to be a good parent. You are beautiful and you deserve to feel beautiful. I promise you.