Women Find Good Health With Their “Sisters”

Sister Circles Program In D.C. Teaches Women Diet, Exercise and Fighting Diseases

Prime Time Sister Circles is a national program that brings women together once a week to learn about nutrition, diet, exercise and health, and it's starting to have an impact in D.C.

"I was coming out of a stressed out kind of lifesyle and I was looking for an alternative, a better way of life," said Michelle Holmes.

"I didn't take the time to monitor what I was eating all the time," said Margerine Neal.

Holmes and Neal are about to complete the Prime Time Sister Circle program in southeast D.C. They say that meeting with this group of women, once a week for two hours, has changed their lives.

"My lifestyle was a bit dysfunctional," Holmes said.

Holmes said for years she's been battling drug addiction, was in danger of losing her home and couldn't find a  job. All that stress led her to emotional eating and weight gain.

"We are dying at rates that are higher than any other group of women in the nation," said Dr. Marilyn Gaston, one the program's co-founders.

Gaston, a former U.S assistant surgeon general, and her colleague, Dr. Gayle Porter, a clinical psychologist created the Sister Circle program because they say statistics show African American women have a high rate of chronic diseases. They believe if women learn to manage stress and nutrition, then their physical health can improve.

"It is extremely clear that what happens on your emotional health is going to impact on your physical health and what impacts on your physical health is going to impact your emotional health," Porter said.

"What we're focused on is helping them in terms of their lifestyle habits," Gaston said.

Things like getting excercise, the proper portion size when it comes to eating and how to read food labels. They do it through personal discussions and education, even dressing up as fictional characters.

"I have lost weight," Holmes said. "I'd say about 10 pounds. I exercise regularly I now have a better positive attitude about the exercise. I look forward to it."

"Now when I go to the store, the first thing I do before I buy anything is look at the label," Neal said.

But it's not easy to make lifestyle changes and that's where the "sisters" come in.

"You have somebody to talk to," Neal said.

"So now that I am changing my lifesyle and learning new habits, these ladies can give me advice," Holmes said. "Life is a lot happier, a whole lot happier."

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