The KISS Project: Keep It Simple Sister

The KISS Project: Keep It Simple Sister

It is time to shape up Southwest Louisiana! That is the goal of the Dare to be Healthy Program, a three year grant awarded to Calcasieu Parish from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation and Partnership for a Healthier Southwest Louisiana, providing $1.5 million in grants to combat obesity.

One of the pilot projects is working with African-American women in the area in need of losing 20 pounds or more. The K.I.S.S. Project (Keep It Simple Sister) just entered its sixth week with a group of Westlake ladies that has already dropped 85 pounds.

"Simple." That is the golden word for the Westlake gals participating in the KISS Project.  Group fitness instructor Sharmita Rideau is the group's fearless leader. "A lot of times we complicate diet and exercise," she said, "and then we fail and it doesn't work, so I just came up with a simple curriculum."

Rideau is spearheading this 12 week program working on mind, body and soul conditioning.  "We need to have a balance in our whole life, instead of just working on one thing and going to another," she said, "just being a whole woman."

The KISS Project is open to ladies needing to drop 20 or more pounds and willing to put in the work of working out, weighing in, measuring up and journaling. Hope Ortelli took the challenge with 12 other Westlake ladies. "A lot of times, I would become discouraged with losing weight," she said, "I know that I wanted to be healthier, but for some reason, there was a roadblock."

Part of the requirement to be enrolled in the Kiss Project is a commitment to get moving at least six days a week. Three of those days are in a group setting - offering support, encouragement and inspiration for all of the ladies involved. "We all have little nicknames," said Ortelli, "so mine is finisher, because I want to actually start and finish this project."

As the KISS Project moves into other communities, target participants are African-American women - at higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and dangerous weight problems. "I don't want to follow down that same road," said Ortelli, "so now is my time to get on the right path."

It is a path that has not been without bumps along the way. But Rideau says working through that is what will spread over to success long after the 12 week program ends. "They have really been working hard and I can see some struggles there," said Rideau, "but even through the struggles they're continuing to press forward."

The 13 Westlake ladies have lost 85 pounds in the first month. Next, the KISS Project moves to Lake Charles, then to Iowa.

To learn how you can register for the free project, e-mail Sharmita Rideau at

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