SHAPEDOWN was developed by faculty members of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine and includes contributions from nutrition, exercise physiology, endocrinology, psychology, family therapy, adolescent medicine, family medicine and behavioral and developmental pediatrics. SHAPEDOWN is continually reviewed and revised to ensure that it reflects current scientific and clinical understandings.

Children and teens in SHAPEDOWN enhance their self-esteem, improve peer relationships, adopt healthier habits and begin to normalize their weight within their genetic potential. Parents feel better about their parenting and about their child. The family becomes healthier and closer. The results of SHAPEDOWN go far beyond weight.


Pediatric obesity research has shown that family-based treatment is effective even at 10-year follow-up. Treatments that don’t target the family have no long-term significant effects. SHAPEDOWN is family-based and targets overweight, nutrition and activity in both child and parents.

Developmentally Sensitive
You will receive two SHAPEDOWN Programs: the Children’s Program for 6 to 12-year-olds, and the Adolescent Program for ages 13 to 18. Each program is sensitive to the physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of that age group.

Addresses Underlying Factors
SHAPEDOWN incorporates into obesity treatment a broad range of family therapy and psychoeducational techniques to address underlying psychosocial correlates of the child’s or adolescent’s weight. Included are problem solving, assertive and emotionally expressive communication and parenting skills – limit-setting and nurturing. In addition, cognitive therapy, stress management techniques and body image therapies are used. Together these techniques create the intimacy and safety children need to stop their excessive appetites for food and inactive pursuits.

SHAPEDOWN is so gentle and protective that almost any child or family could benefit from participating. All potentially harmful or distressing techniques are avoided including rigid or low-calorie diets. Weight loss is gradual, ranging from weight maintenance while growing, to no more than 2 pounds per week.

SHAPEDOWN’s dietary recommendations are consistent with the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowances and the National Cholesterol Education Project Guidelines. The recommendations for physical activity include increasing daily endurance activities, enhancing overall activity levels through chores, interests and social activities and decreasing sedentary pursuits such as television, video games and Internet. Additional food behaviors targeted include eating regular meals and eating in response to hunger and satiety.

Respect for the individual and the family is inherent in SHAPEDOWN. The whole child is addressed, rather than just the obesity. Each level stresses the psychosocial issues pertinent at that stage of development. SHAPEDOWN integrates ethnic, cultural and economic differences into its content. The program workbooks include examples of a broad range of family types including single parent families and blended families. In addition, multiple instructional modalities are used to enhance the program’s utility with learning disabled children.

(As published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Vol. 87, No. 3)

Validation Results

SHAPEDOWN was shown to produce significant long-term outcomes in a controlled study of 66 adolescents followed for 15 months in diverse sites in California. Subjects were randomly assigned to test or control groups. The test group received the group application of SHAPEDOWN. The control group received no treatment. There were no significant differences between groups in any of the variables studied at the beginning of the study. The data were analyzed using paired t-tests. The SHAPEDOWN group at the end of the treatment (3 months) and at one year follow-up (15 months) significantly decreased relative weight and significantly improved weight-related behavior, self-esteem, depression and knowledge. The control group made no significant improvement in any of these variables except self-esteem. This study demonstrates the short- and long-term effectiveness of SHAPEDOWN.