Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sisters get themselves in shape, spread word to others

The flight attendants always say, in an emergency, place the oxygen mask on yourself first, then help the person next to you.

Dr. Marilyn Gaston and Dr. Gayle Porter transfer that message to the midlife African-American woman they work to help. Too many times, these family matriarchs focus solely on everyone else, including the care of adult children, grandchildren and grandparents.

It may be one reason African-American women die younger than any other group of women in the country.

"You have put it on yourself first," Gaston said. "You can't put it on a child or an elder if you're unconscious."

Prime Time Sister Circles seeks to reverse the trend by empowering African-American women between the ages of 40 and 70. The program blends nutrition, exercise and stress-management education with support group principles. With the help of Healthy Together Tampa Bay, it makes its Tampa launch Aug. 21.

Gaston, a former assistant surgeon general, and Porter, a clinical psychologist, created Prime Time Sister Circles in 2003. The goal is to eliminate health disparities created by ignorance, isolation and poor access to health solutions.

Since the first sister circle, the program has inspired women in Washington, D.C., suburban Maryland, Chicago and Orlando to not only change their own lives, but to change the lives of family members. One woman taught her grandchild to read nutrition labels. She said, "I want to be here to see your grandchildren."

After a few weeks, she got a craving for a bag of fatty chips. The grandson bounced around the store but changed his demeanor when he found her with the chips.

"He said, 'Nana, what is this?' " Gaston explained. "He held them up and said, 'Don't you see how much fat is in here and how much salt is in here?' He gave them to the cashier and said, 'My nana can't eat this because she's going to live long enough to see my grandchildren.' "

More than 80 percent of the women who have gone through the 12-week program have maintained healthy lifestyle changes. The support-group aspect fosters sisterhood while creating accountability.

It also empowers women. They find the strength to change careers, challenge adult children and end unhealthy relationships. One woman convinced her pastor to promote better nutrition.

"She told him, 'You're saving our souls in the sanctuary, but when we go downstairs, we're killing our bodies.' "

Such stories inspire Gaston and Porter to maintain their efforts, and it's prompted me to personally help Healthy Together promote the launch as a co-chairman. The doctors have harnessed the greatest strengths of these women: sisterhood and self-reliance.

Together, they can accomplish anything — as long as they help themselves first.

That's all I'm saying.

.If you go

Prime Time Sister Circles Community Launch

When: 5 p.m. Aug. 21.

Where: Blake High School, 1701 N Boulevard.

Registration: Call (813) 849-WELL (9355) or e-mail healthy@

healthy-together.org.

Sisters get themselves in shape, spread word to others 08/13/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump vowed to end DACA. Tampa Bay immigrants worry he soon will

    State Roundup

    Andrea Seabra imagined the worst if Donald Trump won: "I thought on the first day he would say, 'DACA is done' and send immigration officers to every house."

    Mariana Sanchez Ramirez, 23, poses for a photograph on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida on Wednesday. Mariana, who was born in Torreon in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, traveled with her family to the United States on a tourist's visa in 2000. She was able to stay in the U.S. and attended college after President Barack Obama's action on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in June 2012. Mariana will graduate with a degree in political science from USF next month. (CHRIS URSO   |   Times)
  2. Want to audition for Howl-O-Scream? Here's how.

    Florida

    How would you like a job that has you running all night, dodging punches and earning high marks from your boss if you make someone wet their pants?

    Lindsay Weppelman, a University of South Florida biomedical science student, plays a Zombie Bride in one of Busch Gardens' open-air scare zones at Howl-O-Scream 2016.  Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens.
  3. On the defensive: Heisman history not in Derwin James' favor

    College

    The lowdown on Derwin James? "No offense to (Michigan's Jabrill) Peppers (a Heisman finalist last year)," ESPN analyst Rex Ryan says, "but he only wished he was the player this kid was." (Monica Herndon, Times)
  4. Trigaux: Closing Iron Yard coding school hits area tech hard but leaders talk of options

    Business

    The coming shutdown this fall of the Iron Yard software coding school in downtown St. Petersburg — announced this month as part of a national closing of all 15 Iron Yard locations — remains a shocking event to a Tampa Bay technology community that dreams big of becoming a major player in the Southeast if not …

    In better days last fall, friends and family of graduates at The Iron Yard, based in the Station House in downtown St. Petersburg, applaud during "Demo Day" when grads of the coding school show off their skills. Despite the local success and strong job placement by the coding school, The Iron Yard is closing all of its 15 locations across the country this summer. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  5. Kevin Kiermaier: Return to action Thursday 'didn't set the world on fire'

    The Heater

    Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier's return from the hip injury that sidelined him since June 8 could have gone better Thursday in Port Charlotte. He broke two bats and went hitless in two at bats while playing for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs.

    Kevin Kiermaier takes cuts in the cage during batting practice before the game between the Rays and Texas Rangers Saturday at Tropicana Field. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]