NCDs, Mental Health, Diet and Exercise – MSCD kicks off first Panel Discussion for Pink Reign campaign

“Achieving your fitness goals comes with finding the right balance of diet and exercise. This starts with respecting our bodies and using food as fuel. This must also be built on a solid foundation of self-love.”  This was the general synopsis of the Ministry of Sport and Community Development’s inaugural panel discussion of the Pink Reign campaign titled “Journey of a Million Miles- tackling Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Mental Health, Diet and Exercise in women and girls.”

Streamed via the Ministry’s Facebook page this afternoon, the discussion featured invaluable contributions from Dr. Dionne Mitchell- General Practitioner, Ms. Jessica James, Fitness Instructor and Founder of First Lady Fit and Wellness, Ms. Zulema Charles, Health and Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer, ably led by Moderator Mrs. Nicole Duke-Westfield.

Dr. Mitchell provided a comprehensive overview of NCDs and her experience with patients over the years, noting a significant rise in cases involving diabetes, precocious puberty and PCOS, a rise in thyroid-related cases among women in their 20s and 30s, and asthma. She also addressed the issue of hormones present in the foods we consume and how this is impacting our bodies. She further stressed that we do not have control over our genetic composition, but we can change our lifestyle choices which will directly tackle NCDs.

Zulema also shared her experience transitioning from a dancer to fitness instructor, opening up about her own endometriosis diagnosis. She confessed that a poor diet fed her illness, leading her to make a conscious transformation. She repeats to clients “you cannot out-train your diet. You must adjust your diet and not focus on exercise only. Food can easily cancel any workout. Your diet can support or completely stop your routine.” 

Former bodybuilder Jessica echoed these sentiments, emphasizing that achieving one’s fitness goals must be done in a holistic manner. “It starts with a conversation from within. Self-love is critical. We cannot punish ourselves if we don’t look like Serena Williams or Jennifer Lopez.”

All three panelists equally endorsed eating locally grown fruits and vegetables as an effective way to combat NCDs and achieve one’s fitness goals.

The MSCD’s Permanent Secretary Ms. Angela Edwards extended her gratitude to the panel for providing yeoman service to Trinidad and Tobago through their participation, citing that “this series is intended to intensively explore the entire sporting ecosystem and how this impacts girls and women’s ability to exercise and participate in sports.”

The next panel discussion is scheduled to take place on May 26th, titled “Fostering a Cultural Shift.”

The Pink Reign Campaign seeks to encourage the meaningful participation of women and girls in sports and is being executed through four pillars: the GirlsRunTT Virtual Race Challenge, the Panel Discussion Series, a social media feature spotlighting women and girls in sport, and the Sport Training Video series. For further information on the campaign, persons may visit the Ministry’s website at or the Ministry’s social media pages.


About the Panellists:

Jessica James

Jessica James is the founder of First Lady Fit and Wellness, and is a trained, experienced and certified professional athlete. Jessica attended the University of the West Indies, IOWA Central University and Abilene Christian University where she attained 2 degrees along with certifications in Physical education, Sociology, and the Art and Science of Coaching.

Upon returning home, after the Olympic Qualifications, she retired from professional athletics, with career achievements including:

– Five (5) time All American Champ,

– Five (5) time Carifta Medalist,

– CAC Silver medalist,

– NACAC Silver medalist

-Three (3) time National champion in Track & Field

– Miss Trinidad & Tobago World fitness winner.


The foundation of First Lady Fit and Well is to encourage others to be the best version of themselves. Jessica strives to encourage and motivate persons to build their mental fortitude while working on the physical.


Zulema Charles

Zulema’s journey to fitness happened during her ten (10) year tenure (2007-2018) at Xtatik Ltd as a dancer for Machel Montano. The hectic tour life coupled with studying for her Bachelors at UWI led to Zulema developing unhealthy eating habits, which inadvertently started her journey into the health and fitness realm. Determined to fix her unhealthy lifestyle, she started weight training and with encouragement from gym members entered a National Bodybuilding competition, eventually becoming a National Champion in 2018. She has also represented Trinidad & Tobago in various international bodybuilding competitions. Deciding that this was her passion, she became a certified Health & Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer. Zulema started her company ZeeFit Ltd in 2018 which focuses on transforming her clients’ attitudes towards nutrition and exercise. Join Zulema this Wednesday at 1pm via our livestream for our panel discussion “Journey of a million miles – tackling NCDs in women and girls.”

Dr. Dionne Mitchell

Dr Dionne Mitchell has over 11 years’ experience in the medical field. She attended St George’s University School of Medicine and did her clinical training at Norfolk and Norwich Teaching Hospital in England.  After completing her studies, she returned to Trinidad and worked at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences complex before eventually opening her own private practice in San Juan. Although she is a general practitioner, over the last several years her focus has shifted towards more holistic care with particular interest in women’s health and care of the elderly.



Caption: Screenshot of today’s Pink Reign Campaign Panel discussion:

Top : (left) Mrs. Nicole Duke Westfield, Ms. Zulema Charles (right), bottom  left: Ms. Jessica James, and right Dr. Dionne Mitchell


Caption: Ms. Jessica James during the panel discussion