Name: Sharon DuMas
Organization: Full & Fabulous Curvy Girl Project
This week we spoke with Sharon DuMas, a PreventObesity.net Leader and the founder of the Full & Fabulous Curvy Girl Project, a nonprofit organization that works on quality empowerment, health education and self-esteem building programs among women and girls. Through events, expos, and in-school trainings, Sharon has built and led the organization for more than 30 years. Read on to get to know Sharon better, and connect with her directly through her PreventObesity.net profile.
What inspired you to start working on childhood obesity?
I was inspired to work on childhood obesity issues because I was overweight when I was a child and it was very hard on my self-esteem. I was teased by my family members and at school. I remember making excuses that I was sick, so I would not have to go to gym. Swimming class was the worst. I realized that poor body image and low self-esteem followed me into adulthood. One day I decided I was not happy with my life and I was going to do something about it, starting with actually liking what I saw in the mirror. I started researching how what I was eating was affecting my body and my health and didn’t like what I was learning—so I started eating healthier and walking. I lost 50 pounds! I thought about how I was treated as an overweight girl in school and decided to start an organization that would teach other women and girls how to do what I did by first loving yourself as you are, and then focusing on nutrition and exercise.
How are you helping to reverse childhood obesity?
I am currently working in four schools in Detroit, with 20 girls in each chapter. I am helping to reverse childhood obesity through self-esteem, exercise/dance and modeling classes. Every girl loses 7 to 10 pounds during the eight-week program, and their self-esteem goes through the roof. We celebrate their accomplishments by having them participate in a debutante ball, where their family and friends can come and see their accomplishments.
What’s your biggest accomplishment so far in helping reduce childhood obesity?
My biggest accomplishment is starting the Full & Fabulous program 33 years ago, and the many girls who are now women have come back and said how the program has helped them. Currently my organization goes into schools in Michigan and Ohio with our Curvy Girl Project, and works with girls ages 10 to 21 in the areas of health, beauty and self-esteem. Also, we do an annual Walk Against Childhood Obesity as well as The Curvy Girl Living Well Expo, and we’re looking to start more chapters around the country. We have an online newsletter, “The Curvy Girl Swagg Mag,” and online membership. I have learned that the only way to reach the girls today is to meet them where they are with fun activities they can relate to.
Who is your role model in your work?
Now this is a hard question for me because I started my organization in 1982 based on the need I felt when I was a kid, and I didn’t know anyone else that was doing what I do. Today there are quite a few organizations around the country focusing on childhood obesity and I am a role model for some of them. So I would say my childhood experience motivated me to reach back and help young ladies who are going through what I went through because it never change until you do.
What healthy snacks did you enjoy growing up?
My favorite fruits were watermelon, nectarines and grapes.
Each week, our own Prarthana Gurung speaks with a Leader to get a quick look at why he or she loves working to create healthy environments for kids. Want to take part? Visit Prarthana’s profile and contact her.