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Start helping your child get to a healthy weight. Shapedown is a program that helps your child feel better about himself, learn how to be more active, have more outside interests, eat in a healthy pleasurable way. It helps the parents understand how to support the child in a positive way, be a good role model, and reduce family tension around the child's weight and eating. It supports good communication skills between family members and encourages the parents to set appropriate limits for the child.

Parents say, "My child is so much happier," "the tension in our house is much lower," "dinner time is so much more pleasant," "his father isn't yelling at him anymore."

To assess your child's weight status, go to the BMI calculator  Then click on the graph to access the BMI calculator. This program works for children only. It will tell you where your child's BMI status for age places your child with respect to other children of the same age. Children who fall in the 85-94 percentile range are "at risk for overweight." Children who are over the 95th percentile are "overweight." Risks for kids who are overweight include continuing to be overweight into adulthood, and many health concerns, such as elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, joint problems, sleep apnea, fatty liver disease, and more. You owe it to your child to support him or her in a positive way, by being a good role model and helping the child reach a healthy weight. Access more kids links here.

The program is comprised of an initial assessment and 9 weekly sessions following the SHAPEDOWN workbooks (one for the child and one for the parents), and a follow up session to assess the results, and plan for continuing progress. Call or email for registration materials and flexible appointment times that fit into your family's busy lives. Our office is at Transitions Nutrition Consulting, 707 Skokie Blvd, Suite 190, Northbrook, IL. telephone 847-509-1540 or email us at Check our credentials.  If you feel that you only need some guidance on how to ensure that your child is eating a healthy diet, you may not need the SHAPEDOWN program. We can schedule a 1 hour session to address childhood healthy eating, and provide you with specific tips. This may be enough to get your family on track. If this is not enough, you can still consider the SHAPEDOWN program. Schedule an appointment.

It is important that you as a parent understand that the SHAPEDOWN program requires that both the child and the parents try to adopt the healthy habits taught in the program. Both the child and the parents must do the workbook assignments and read the materials in the workbook. If you think that your child is the only one who needs to change, the program will fail. And, we do not want to give your child a feeling of failure on top of weight concerns. Please decide if you are ready to make the commitment to your child's (and your) health. The kids who are most successful are the ones whose parents make a strong commitment and make real changes in their lives.


What Will SHAPEDOWN Do For Me?   Is it Right For Me?   Should All Kids Be Thin?    What If The Weight Is Just Genetic?

Is it Safe?   Effective?   Is There A Diet?    What About Exercise?

How Long Does It Take?    Who Teaches it?  How Does it Work?   Where Was SHAPEDOWN Developed?

What Other Therapies Are Involved?   What Else Is Addressed?    Is it Appropriate For Us?   Does it Treat Parents Too?    Which Parent Should Attend?   What If Parents Don't Want To Eat Healthy And Exercise?

Program Effectiveness     Facts... About Child And Adolescent Obesity How can I enroll my child in SHAPEDOWN?

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What Will SHAPEDOWN Do For Me?

For Children and Teens - SHAPEDOWN will help you take care of your health and happiness. You will learn to create an active, full life so that food and television are less important. You will talk about your feelings and needs so that you will feel safer and happier. You will learn strategies to stop kids from teasing you and you will feel better about your body and about yourself. SHAPEDOWN brings out the best in you!

For Parents - SHAPEDOWN will help you feel better about your parenting and about your child. You will let go of guilt, fear and frustration about your child's weight as you put into practice positive changes in your family's lifestyle and communication. In many cases, changes from SHAPEDOWN are profound. Parents are amazed at their child's new happiness and vitality and at the richness of their family life.

Is SHAPEDOWN Right For Me?

Not necessarily. That's why care begins with a bio-psycho-social assessment by your SHAPEDOWN Provider (older children and adolescents can receive a full computerized Y.E.S. assessment). Through it you learn all the areas you are already healthy in and the things to focus on to get the best results with your weight. The right care for you may involve SHAPEDOWN, in a group or individually, and/or other kinds of treatment.

Should All Kids Be Thin?

No. Children come in all sizes and shapes that are perfectly normal. The goal in SHAPEDOWN is for the child or teen to gradually attain their genetic body build, which ranges from willowy to rounded.

What If The Weight Is Just Genetic?

The goals of those with simple genetic obesity are to accept their genetic body build, to develop healthful habits and to avoid the dieting psychology. Each of these goals is addressed in SHAPEDOWN.


Weight loss for children and teens can be hazardous. Rapid weight loss or strict diets can affect growth and development, promote binge eating, slow metabolism and result in weight gain. SHAPEDOWN is safe. It encourages a gradual, safe weight loss or the maintenance of weight as the child grows.

Is SHAPEDOWN Effective?

Yes. Controlled studies have shown that when families participate in SHAPEDOWN, there is significant improvement in weight, self-esteem, depression, diet and exercise habits and weight management knowledge. However, progress varies depending on how open to change the child and family are.

How Long Does It Take?

SHAPEDOWN may be in a group format or on an individual counseling basis. Group programs include an intensive, 10-week schedule with meetings of about 2 hours weekly to give families basic SHAPE-DOWN training. They can then continue care through ADVANCED SHAPEDOWN, a nurturing support program that deepens and extends their progress. ADVANCED SHAPEDOWN meets weekly or biweekly for 20 weeks or more. Children love the SHAPEDOWN groups, a chance to be with other kids. Parents receive support from other parents and delight in their child's progress.

Where Was SHAPEDOWN Developed?

SHAPEDOWN was first developed in 1979 at the School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco with support from federal and health agencies. SHAPEDOWN is revised annually to integrate the latest research on diet, exercise, obesity, child and adolescent development and the family.

Who Teaches SHAPEDOWN?

Only interdisciplinary teams of health professionals teach SHAPEDOWN. A physician, a registered dietitian, a mental health professional and an exercise specialist are involved. All SHAPEDOWN Providers, in addition to their own professional training, complete 46 hours of clinical education in child and adolescent obesity from the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine.

How Does SHAPEDOWN Work?

SHAPEDOWN builds on the strength of the family. It gently and effectively supports families in creating an active lifestyle and a healthy but not depriving diet. Parents tune up their nurturing skills to curb their child's emotional overeating and sharpen their limit setting skills to prompt their child toward a healthier lifestyle. The child accepts more responsibility for diet and activity and feels happier and safer. Food becomes less important, activity more exciting and the child's weight begins to normalize.

What Other Therapies Are Involved?

SHAPEDOWN not only helps families target changes in nutrition and activity but focuses on common underlying factors that fuel a child's excessive appetite for food and inactive pursuits. Although exercise physiology, nutrition and behavioral techniques are used, the power in SHAPEDOWN comes from its sensitive, entertaining and practical use of family therapy and psycho-educational techniques.

Is There A Diet?

No. Diets typically cause children to feel deprived and, as a consequence, to overeat. Instead, SHAPEDOWN supports gradually adopting a moderate food intake that provides essential nutrients based on the Recommended Dietary Allowances and the National Cholesterol Education Program Guidelines.

What About Exercise?

SHAPEDOWN stresses overall fitness, including endurance, flexibility and strength. Children and parents develop a more active lifestyle and replace television viewing and other inactive pursuits with chores, interests, sports and projects.

What Else Is Addressed?

A wide range of strategies help the child and parent take care of their emotional and physical health. For example, children learn techniques that effectively stop peer teasing. Parents free themselves from the weightism of our society. Families learn communication techniques to resolve conflicts.

Is SHAPEDOWN Appropriate For Us?

SHAPEDOWN caters to diversity. There are four developmental levels of SHAPEDOWN, each sensitive to the educational, social and emotional stages of the child. Ethnic, cultural and economic differences are reflected in the program as are a range of family types, such as single parents and blended families.

Does SHAPEDOWN Treat Parents Too?

In SHAPEDOWN, the whole family changes so parents often see weight loss and improvements in their diet, activity, blood pressure and serum cholesterol. However, overweight parents need a comprehensive assessment from their own healthcare provider to determine the best form of care for them.

Which Parent Should Attend?

If both parents reside in the area, both parents should attend. Also, step-parents, aunts and friends or anyone who takes a parenting role, is encouraged to participate. If one parent is more removed from a child, their presence may be even more important. Questions about your particular situation should be discussed with your SHAPEDOWN Provider.

What If Parents Don't Want To Eat Healthy And Exercise?

Then SHAPEDOWN is not right for the child. The SHAPEDOWN philosophy is that parents should not ask of their child anything they are not willing to do themselves. However, the SHAPEDOWN lifestyle changes are gentle and flexible and fit into the priorities and capabilities of most parents.

Program Effectiveness

64 obese adolescent boys and girls were followed for 15 months at 4 sites in Northern California (1 urban, 1 suburban, 2 rural). The subjects were randomly assigned to test and control groups. The test group attended 14 weekly sessions of discussion and exercise based on the SHAPEDOWN Program. The control group received no treatment.

Paired t-tests were used to compare mean scores within groups over time. The results were that participation in SHAPEDOWN was associated at the end of treatment and at one year follow-up with significant improvement in relative weight, knowledge of weight management principles, depression and diet/exercise behavior. (March, 1987, Journal of the American Dietetic Association.)

Research has shown repeatedly that without a family approach, all treatments - diet, exercise, behavioral approaches - are ineffective. It is only by building on the strength of the family that child obesity programs have their long lasting, beneficial effect on weight.

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Facts... About Child And Adolescent Obesity

27 percent of children and 21 percent of teens are obese, an increase of 54 percent in the last 20 years.

Overweight in young people is diverse in cause and consequence and benefits from an individual assessment to develop an individualized care plan.

50% to 70% of the obese young will be obese adults. Family weight problems, severe obesity and the young person's age increase risk that the obesity will persist into adulthood.

The medical consequences of obesity vary. However, obese children and teens have an increased prevalence of hypertension, respiratory problems, hyperlipidemia, bone and joint difficulties, hyperinsulinemia, and irregular periods.

The psychosocial disadvantages of overweight in the young include peer teasing, scholastic discrimination, low self-esteem and negative body image.

Weight difficulties in children and adolescents are highly treatable when a family-based approach is used. Studies have shown that if the treatment includes parents and focuses on the family's lifestyle and communication, weight loss is maintained, on the average, even at five- and ten-year follow-up.


Note: the following information is about a Shapedown provider in the northern Chicago suburbs. If you live elsewhere, contact the Shapedown company directly at for providers in your area.

For more information on enrolling your child (and family) in SHAPEDOWN in the northern Chicago suburbs, call us at 847-509-1540 or email us.

All SHAPEDOWN information 1993, Balboa Publishing.


1999 - 2010 Transitions Nutrition Consulting

Northbrook IL, tel 888-794-0788.

If you have any comments or questions, email us at This page was last updated on January 09, 2010.

Original web design by Julie Wehmeyer, while she was a dietetic intern at UIC