TODAY   |  April 24, 2013

Slimming down while fighting cultural stereotypes

A nonprofit called Slim Peace is helping women from diverse backgrounds lose weight while learning about each other’s cultures. TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 8:44. midst all of the tragic stories we've seen recently, there are groups doing some amazing thick things. a nonprofit working with a diverse group of women helping them to lose weight while learning about each other in the process. two women --

>> i'm julie ballette.

>> from very different backgrounds.

>> i'm jewish .

>> i am a muslim woman.

>> both on the same journey.

>> i joined slim peace so i could focus on my health and wellness.

>> i joined slim peace to get healthier.

>> hasta salim and julie ballette are part of a unique weight loss group , a sisterhood unlike any other. slim peace is a boston -based nonprofit. each week, five jewish women and five muslim women come together to talk about their dieting struggles. but the group has become so much more than that.

>> we were all a little nervous when we first got there, what is this going to be like?

>> when we first started, it was muslim and jewish groups.

>> and we, as participants, asked to have more opportunities the to talk to each other.

>> and by the end of it, it was just a group of women.

>> slim peace was founded in israel by documentary filmmaker, jael more than a year ago. the first group met, and initial tensions soon gave way to compassion and ultimately understanding.

>> we're all people. it's a universal topic. it's a universal struggle, and we're more alike than we are different.

>> in boston , the group is run by two nutritionists, one muslim, one jewish . they provide healthy eating tips and weekly weigh-ins.

>> great.

>> awesome! good job.

>> and a potluck dinner, a chance to get a taste of another culture.

>> it was wonderful.

>> i always say to my husband, when you get on the scale, we're all exactly the same, we all want the same thing.

>> so far, i have lost about 8 pounds.

>> i have lost 7 pounds .

>> i've lost 11 pounds.

>> and while hasta says she still struggles with her weight, the group has given her the confidence to talk about what it's like being a muslim woman living in the states.

>> i've always had this feeling of like, oh, if i was to go in a store and i knew there wasn't that many muslim people , i always felt like i was unwelcomed, so i would always walk in with my head down.

>> reporter: that's changed because of slim peace and today she counts julie as one of her closest friends.

>> like a sister. just knowing that someone's always there for you, no matter what, with the good, with the bad, it's just so comforting.

>> late last week, still reeling from the boston attack, the two responded simply. a quiet walk, a powerful tribute to their friendship.

>> this week's been really hard and i felt really alone and knowing that i had this walk scheduled with hasta, who i know feels as deeply as i do about things, she's totally helping.

>> the groups are open to members of all faiths. new chapters are being planned in chicago, cleveland, detroit, and washington. it's really great to see that.