Weight Control Program Turns Ellen’s Life Around


Ellen is a 13-year-old girl who was concerned with her weight.  Going through the transition from elementary to middle school is a tough time for any child, and Ellen was afraid that other kids would bully her. She tried dieting, but that proved unsuccessful. When she heard about the Pediatric Weight Control Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, she was cautious at first, but decided to try it out.

What Ellen found was a family-based, group behavioral and educational program, one that taught lifelong healthy eating and exercise habits for overweight children, adolescents and their families.  The Pediatric Weight Control Program at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health provides services for children and adolescents ages 8-15 and requires the attendance of one parent or legal guardian over the course of the 6-month program. Their mission is to help overweight children and their families reduce any risks of related health conditions such as diabetes, heath and liver disease and cancer, and ultimately, help children have overall better health and quality of life.

See a chart here about the criterion for the program.

“From day one, Ellen and her mom committed to making healthy changes for Ellen and her family,” said Nadia Al-Lami, coordinator for the program.  “Ellen’s consistent progress and commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been very impressive,” added Al-Lami. “She has a strong awareness of her own eating and exercise habits and how they impact her health, which is rare for a girl her age.”

The program stands out from other weight control programs because the program doesn’t force the children to abstain from their favorite foods. However, they learn that certain foods are either red, yellow, or green foods:

  • Red – High in calories, lots of sugar
  • Yellow – pasta, rice, bread, fruits with lots of sugar
  • Green – veggies, zero calorie items

These foods are placed into categories so the children can easily recognize which foods are unhealthier, and learn to portion those foods better. The program is not about dieting and counting calories, it’s about implementing lifestyle changes that the children can apply to their lives even after the program is over.

It works. Since 1999, more than 80% of participating children and adolescents have achieved age-appropriate weight reduction through the program’s approach. In addition, over 70% of overweight parents have seen a decrease in their weight and BMI.

The program encourages kids and parents to increase the amount of exercise they are doing each day. Several classes are dedicated to exercising together, in order to introduce participants to different activities. As part of her lifestyle turnaround, Ellen also took up karate lessons, and now attends a class in her community. She has received top honors and will soon be a purple belt. It makes her feel happier, comfortable, and less self-conscious.

“Try the program out and see how it works for you,” said Ellen, yet another proud success for one of the top pediatric weight control programs in America.

For more information about the program and to see if your child qualifies, visit their website.

Discover more about our The Center for Healthy Weight or call (650) 694-0600.


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