NEW ORLEANS - Teens girls of all shapes and sizes have a chance to join a free health program that could help them lose weight and learn good habits for a lifetime.
Tja'h Edwards, 13, is proud of herself. In the last nine weeks she's lost 17 pounds.
"I feel good. I just think I feel like, I don't feel sluggish anymore. I feel lighter," said Tja'h Edwards, a Trim Teens participant who is an eighth grader at Academy of Our Lady in Marrero.
She's losing weight while also helping advance medical science. Tja'h is part of an NIH study at LSU Health Sciences Center where African-American teen girls 13 to 19-years-old are going through a medically supervised program of nutrition, behavior and exercise counseling.
The reason this program, or study, is just for African-American teenage girls is because in southeast Louisiana, statistics show that they have a much higher rate of both asthma and obesity, both which are linked to inflammation.
"We know that the two happen together very often, but we don't understand why," said Nicole Pelligrino, an LSUHSC clinical research associate and Trim Teens Clinical Manager.
Like Tja'h, teens in the 12-week-study do not have to have asthma. But checking her blood for certain biomarkers will help researchers learn how lifestyle changes disease risks.
Tja'h now gets that weight is about health much more than fitting into skinny jeans.
"The lady (in a video I saw in the program), she was like really overweight and like the fat was like blocking her heart from pumping. And I was like, 'Awe man, like that's got to be hard.' 'Cause she like, 'cause even lifting up her arms was hard for her, and I just thought that I didn't, I really did not want to get like that," she said.
And she gets that a healthful diet is not about deprivation.
"I didn't know that you can still go to a fast food restaurant and eat healthy," said Edwards.
And in the program, her own peers are cheering her on.
"We find that when girls do this together as a group, it motivates them. It sort of encourages a little bit of healthy competition in a sense," said Pelligrino.
The Trim Teens program is one day a week, after school and teens will be paid. Girls can be of any weight, shape or size. To see if you qualify call 504-568-5949 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org