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Vilma led the implementation of the first Spanish version of the nationally-acclaimed childhood obesity education program, SHAPEDOWN, and has years of experience working with children and their families. Below, we share just some of her experiences and patient success stories…

Vilma Andari“SHAPEDOWN is about creating a culture of healthy living among Hispanic families and building healthy mindsets. It is a FAMILY affair, because children, adolescents and parents become empowered to make positive lifestyle changes. They learn to shift their unhealthy eating and low physical activity habits to focus on leading a healthier lifestyle. Everyone has benefited, not just the referred patient.

Parents play a central role in influencing and shaping their children and adolescents’ lives by promoting self-confidence toward eating behaviors, physical activity, and self regulation, and ultimately body weight composition!”— Vilma Andari, NHF President

“I recommend Spanish SHAPEDOWN, because it’s an exciting program that will help you understand the portions of food and the healthy way to keep your body fit. I really enjoyed being in this program, because I learned a lot of things.”

—17-year-old SHAPEDOWN participant
She enhanced her fitness level while also decreasing her BMI by -4.7% and BMI Percentile by -1.5%

“NO Junk food! More veggies and fruits. Think about your health! Ask your parents if any family members have health problems. Do you really want to have to follow their footsteps? I for sure didn’t, this was my motivation. Self Control!“

—Cassandra, 18-year-old participant
She decreased her BMI by -12.0% and BMI percentile by -5.5%

Luis Santizo, 11 years old

For Luis (SHAPEDOWN patient) and Karla Santizo (mother), their focus was not about losing weight as much as it was about improving their dietary and exercise habits in order to be healthy, fit and strong. Throughout the program, Karla focused on using encouragement and family support to help Luis. Rather than making him feel left out, she involved the whole family in developing healthier eating habits.

Ultimately, Luis improved his confidence level and self-esteem by developing a healthier body composition and enhancing his fitness level. Luis stated that he is now very selective when shopping for food: “I read the nutritional food labels on all of the products we purchase at home. When I want to eat something that is not as healthy, I only eat a small portion!”

One of Luis’ new goals is to develop strong core strength and eventually develop a “six-pack,” just like his idol, Alejandro Chaban. So to help support this effort, Karla made an inspirational poster to remind Luis of the importance of continuing to practice the healthy habits he learned, not just in the short term, but for life! As always, the journey to a healthier lifestyle can be easier and more motivating when the whole family is involved—it helps when you have a creative Mom too!

Luis’ Inspiration Poster, featuring his favorite health educator and idol, Alejandro Chaban.
Chaban is also a writer who wrote “De Gordo a Galan,” sharing his childhood difficulties of being overweight. Because of his obesity, he tried to commit suicide as a young adult and is now an advocate for healthy eating.

Luis decreased his BMI by -2.2% and decreased his BMI Percentile by -0.5%.

SHAPEDOWN Patient: Ximena, 10 years old

Ximena’s pediatrician sent her to a SHAPEDOWN after a period of rapid weight gain. Once her appointment was arranged, Claudia and Ximena took the first step to change their behaviors through action! Without transportation, they walked on a cold fall afternoon two miles to meet with me for their first appointment. From that point on, Claudia and Ximena began their journey to change their lifestyle pattern with simple suggestions.

Ximena focused on eating a lot of “free”-foods and light-foods and making sure that half of her plate includes fruits and vegetables – she was always proud to show her weekly veggie and fruit tracking sheet with the other group participants. She and her mother read labels in the supermarket before purchasing or eating a food product and checking for adequate fiber, fats, and no or low added sugars. She drinks water instead of soda or other sweetened drinks, and she self-regulates candy or other non-nutrient dense treats. Being Active became a priority for Ximena and Claudia as they learned the importance to maintaining energy balance. They now understand the mantra: “Work off more calories than you eat”!
Ximena decreased her BMI by -12.2%, decreased her BMI Percentile by -7.7% and was able to improve her overall fitness scores.

SHAPEDOWN Patient: Tomas, 11 years old

Motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes, Alicia and Tomas teamed up to change their eating habits to live healthy! From the first intervention to the end of the program, behavioral changes began. Portions decreased, and they said “no thanks” to all refined grains–especially pastas which are among the family favorites. They started reading nutritional facts from food labels in the supermarket and checking for adequate fiber and no or low added sugars. They drank water instead of soda or other sweetened drinks, and they focused on making fifty percent of their plate comprised of vegetable and fruits. Being active became a priority for both of them!

Alicia states that this was something they wanted to do and were extremely motivated to get done–the program empowered them to make it happen. She even noted that Tomy started helping in the kitchen to prepare salads and other healthy meals and often he reminds his mother about portion control.
Tomas decreased his BMI by -10.7%, decreased his BMI Percentile by -1.7%, and was able to improve his fitness level and scores. Alicia is 19 pounds lighter too.

Body Silhouette Activity

This activity is conducted as part of the SHAPEDOWN program and focuses on reinforcing a positive self-image. The point of the activity is to get the patients to think about what they like about themselves and a couple of things they could improve (both internal, glucose levels and cholesterol, and external, stomach, legs, arms ) and to show this artistically through self drawings. By identifying what they would like to improve, patients are guided on how to take action and actually modify unfavorable body parts, such as by incorporating more exercise into their day-to-day routine. “Most obese kids tend to dislike their bodies, hence this creative exercise. It also gives them a visual idea about their body shape,” says Vilma, MS.

Family Testimonial: Maria del Carmen Carmona and Family

Profile: Family of Four (parents and two teenage children—Maria: 16; Miguel: 13
Total Family Weight loss: ~ 27 pounds. [Mom: 9.6 lbs; Maria: 13.0 lbs, Miguel Angel: 4.4 lbs]
Highlights: Entire family lost weigh and Daughter Maria lost 13 pounds in 6 weeks
Name: Maria del Carmen Carmona
Age: 16 years old
Weight Loss: 13 pounds
BMI: Decreased her BMI by -4.8% and decreased her BMI Percentile by -1.6%

Success Story:
This family is a ‘stellar’ group and a great example of a family unit working cohesively towards improving their health. Ultimately, they all lost a significant amount of weight by both possessing the desire to be healthy, being disciplined and having the drive to achieve their goals. This family focused on ‘prevention’ and wanting to be ‘healthier,’ as their motivating factors. The two eldest children both play soccer, which helped them easily incorporate physical activity into their daily routines. However, in this family, it was Maria who really helped spearhead the effort. In close sync with her Mom, the whole family was able to implement the changes they wanted in order to achieve their goals, and it paid off. Maria alone lost 13 pounds in 6 weeks, 2 weeks less than the typical SHAPEDOWN participant.

>> See below to read Vilma’s assessment of the family, plus read a full interview with Maria to find out how SHAPEDOWN worked for her and watch her video testimonial too. >>

Vilma’s Assessment:
“This family was successful because of their desire and their discipline; they were very focused. They made being healthy a top priority and they saw immediate results, in a healthy way (gradual weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week). For example, they substituted eating more vegetables for fruits—which they learned they were eating too much of—and significantly cut out chips and sugary beverages. This was a significant positive outcome. The Mom told a story of going to a potluck and bringing a whole wheat pasta with lots of vegetables and the teacher said that it was unusual for a Mexican woman to bring such a healthy dish, and that made her feel very proud. Of course it made me really proud, too, that she is implementing what she learned from the SHAPEDOWN program.

Also, with this family, we were trying to prevent them from increasing their weight status category (BMI and BMI percentile). Many doctors are missing the boat and focusing too much on obesity rather than focusing on intervention with the kids who are already overweight. You really want to tackle that, because it is a lot easier to treat overweight patients than those who are obese. Once obesity onsets, then there are a host of other problems that come with that.”

NHF Interview with Maria:
Did you like this program? Was it helpful?
What worked for me was that I ate more vegetables and less food, like more vegetables instead of having seconds of a lot of grains. And I also ran a lot.
What did you learn in the class that you will never forget?
Well there are a lot of things . . . like knowing that it is better to eat more vegetables than fruit; before I ate a lot of fruit. And now I eat more vegetables than fruit.

What was your favorite memory or thing you learned?
My favorite memory was today, knowing that I lost 13 pounds [in 6 weeks, instead of 8, since she came late to the program].

Do you think the things you learned are easy to follow? Are they easier to do as a family?
Yea. I think they are pretty easy as long as you stick to it and don’t quit. It’s easier as a family. That way if we choose to eat something, we do it all together; we sacrifice ourselves a little.

Did your instructors help make your experience and learning about these things better?
Yea . They were very motivating. Showing us you know, this is good, this is bad and they never told us it was a diet. We could still have whatever we wanted, just less of it and you know, exercise more.

What does being healthy mean to you now after this class—is it staying fit, losing weight, eating enough nutrients, learning how to eat the things you like but in smaller quantities? And, has your view now changed from what it was at the beginning of the program?
I think it’s the same. What I really wanted was to be healthier. I guess it’s losing weight as well, but I think it’s more important to look healthy, be healthy, feel healthy than to be, you know—‘oh I lost weight’– but then you’re not healthy.

Do you think you will teach what you have learned to other people around you? Extended family, friends, classmates?
Yea I think I will teach them.

Anything else?
It’s a great program. I would recommend it to other people definitely.

Family Testimonial: Francisca Sanchez and children

Profile: Single Mother of four children—ages 8-14
[Francisca (Mom), Lupita (oldest), Michelle (middle girl), Luis (middle boy), Carlos (youngest)]
Total Family Weight Loss: 19 pounds.
[Francisca: 5.2 lbs , Lupita: 6 lbs, Michelle: 4 lbs (plus height increased), Luis: 1.5, Carlos: 2.2 (plus height increased)
Highlights: The entire family lost weight collaboratively and implemented a joint eating schedule.

Success Story:
This family of five is a cohesive family unit and great example of how when a family works together collaboratively, huge strides towards healthier living can be achieved. This family has been able to create a lot of structure into their healthy eating and increase the amount of communication they use in an effort to support future weight loss—implementing better eating habits and incorporating more physical activity on a daily basis. For example, this family was guided to develop and implement a daily eating schedule in which each member of the family has a different responsibility. Though weight loss was achieved prior to implementation of the eating schedule, following execution is when the real weight loss resulted. Plus, sticking to the eating schedule helps fortify these better eating habits in the long-term.

>> See below to read Vilma’s assessment of the family, find out how they divided their meal schedule and read an interview NHF conducted with the family too.

Vilma’s Assessment:
“This family was initially referred to the program to prevent further weight gain as half of the children were within the ‘overweight’ range and half were within the ‘obese’ weight status category. Prevention and discipline was the main goal of this single mother of four. The result was that this family gradually lost weight – especially toward the end of the program as they started to implement more structure and discipline into their daily life with the eating schedule. By going through the program, Francisca and all four children discovered that the key to success was as simple as creating self-awareness, discipline and accountability. These all helped to instill healthier eating habits and physical activity and now helps them to make healthier food choices on the daily basis. They really check on each other; they are a very special family!

Also, this is a prime example of how when you have the whole family involved in making behavioral changes, it can be a great success story. As a unit, this family of five lost approximately nineteen pounds in eight weeks—much of which came in the last few weeks. It was so fun to work with them and to really see how happy and proud they were when they received their certificates.”

The Schedule [as reported by Vilma]:
During summer break, this family was guided to create a weekly eating schedule and divide the tasks among the whole family. This ‘division of responsibilities’ creates accountability; and, should this fail, each family member selected his/her ‘consequence’ for not following through on their commitments to each other. Creating a meal schedule prevents skipping meals, eating out of your meal schedule and snacking on junk foods.

The boys are in charge of waking up the girls and for making breakfast so that they all eat at the same time. One of the girls (Michelle), is in charge of doing the snacks—morning and afternoon. She is in charge of coming up with the ideas and uses the handouts and things she learned in the program to decide what to select. The older sister (Lupita) is in charge of lunch; she puts a schedule together and again puts together the ideas for what a healthy, balanced lunch looks like—of course based off of what she learned in the program. The Mom is in charge of dinner – and includes a health balance of grains, proteins and lots of vegetables that include a rainbow of colors.

The consequences for not following up (they decided on the consequences):
Michelle—Make everyone’s beds in the morning
Lupita—3 months without her cell phone
Boys—No wrestling, video games or tv shows they watch
Mom—Play tag with the kids for one hour

After one week of implementing this schedule, NHF interviewed this family of five:
Did you guys like this program? Was it helpful?
Michelle: Yes, because we lost weight and are eating healthier.

What did you learn in the class that you will never forget?
Nutrition tables (Michelle), to do more exercises (Luis), activities (Lupita)

Do you think the things you learned are easy to follow? Are they easier to do as a family?
Yes, they were easier to do as a family (Luis)

What can you tell me about the eating schedule and division of tasks that you guys started doing?
Michelle: It’s fun; it’s an assignment. Like they get breakfast, I get the afternoon snack and we all have to do different things and if we don’t do it we get punished. This has been really helpful.

Do you think you will be able to teach other people what you have learned?
Francisca: “For me I really enjoyed the program, because it taught me how to eat. It taught me how to read the nutrition tables, to exercise, to not watch a lot of television, to spend more time with my children. And also, it made me feel better as a person, because I lost weight. And also she (Michelle) lost weight and all of my children want to be healthier. And, I would recommend this program to other people too. I am giving classes, well not giving classes but showing others the exercises that I learned and I am showing people what is good and what is not and I am able to share these healthy tips with people because they are bigger and I am thinner, hahaa.”

SHAPEDOWN Patient: Jonathan, 7 years old

Jonathan is a great  SHAPEDOWN success story. He is an example of the importance of early intervention in working with a patient who is in the overweight range, versus waiting until they have surpassed this point and moved into the obese range.

It is far easier to normalize a child’s weight when they are still in the overweight range, and it is far harder to modify habits when they are in the obese range. Again with this success story, we see the impact and importance of the role that a parent makes in helping to drive success and long-term change.

This ‘biggest winner’ was able to move towards a healthy body composition while enhancing his fitness, maintaining his same core strength and decreasing his exercise heart rate (as measured by a standard 3-minute step test) by -1.0%.
Jonathan decreased his weight by nearly -6.1%, while he grew in height by 0.33 inch, decreased his BMI by -7.4% and decreased his BMI Percentile by -5.0%.

SHAPEDOWN Family: Godinez Family, 6-17 years old

Meet the Godinez Family, our largest family unit enrolled in the program yet. The children range in age from 6-17 years old, and they make a remarkable example of the power that a cohesive family unit has in implementing change as a collective! Together, they lost a total of 41 pounds, including the Mom. The eldest son lost a whopping 18 pounds and moved from the 96th to the 90th BMI percentile–a huge achievement for teens!

Top motivating factors with this family include working together, integrating regular physical activity through sports and all sharing the desire to be HEALTHY! Working as a family unit really helped Manuel (the eldest) to lose the most weight, not an easy feat to accomplish among teens who are less likely to fully commit to the program (often due to social distractions) and to stick with healthy lifestyle changes over time.  We are proud of Manuel for helping to lead his family to a healthier way of life and declare him our ‘biggest winner,’ though the whole family’s success story is impressive.

Manuel Godinez (eldest): 17 yrs old
He was able to move towards a healthy body composition while enhancing his fitness, building core strength and decreasing his exercise heart rate (as measured by a standard 3-minute step test) by -7.8%. At the same time, he decreased his weight by nearly -6.4% despite growing 0.06 inches, decreased his BMI by -6.6% and decreased his BMI Percentile by -0.4%.

Carlos G: 14 years old
He was able to move towards a healthy body composition while enhancing his fitness, building core strength and decreasing his exercise heart rate (as measured by a standard 3-minute step test) by -22.5%. At the same time, he decreased his weight by nearly -7.2% while growing by 0.88 inches, decreased his BMI by -9.7% and decreased his BMI percentile by -6.3%

Enrique – 16 years old
He was able to normalize his weight and moved into a healthy weight range!

Angel – 10 years old
He decreased his weight by nearly -1.1% while growing 0.50 inches, decreased his BMI by -2.9% and decreased his BMI Percentile by -0.2%

Alfredo – 6 years old
He improved his eating  behaviors and level of physical activity, but needs more improvement to achieve weight loss

Neel D. Patel MD, FAAP – Medical Director. Fair Oaks Children’s Clinic, San Mateo Medical Center

“Vilma and her team make an important connection with children and families who want to become more healthy. They help families identify their challenges and then work closely with them to make changes step-by-step. Vilma is a leader in this area and we are fortunate to have her teach SHAPEDWON sessions in our clinic. By empowering and motivating our patients and families, including the use of the electronic Patient Health Information Tracking System (ePHITS) reports, we are able to help children move towards healthy adulthood and significantly decrease their risk for chronic diseases.”

Dr. Marisol Munoz-Kiehne, Ph.D. – Nuestros Niños

“Vilma Andari is on Nuestros Niños radio show’s “great guests” list, for she’s truly an expert on matters related to nutrition for health. She shares the reliable and practical knowledge gained through years of training and practice generously and clearly with our listeners. Vilma is an effective communicator in English and Spanish, who inspires us all to get healthier!

Ivette Carrasco-Moctezuma – HEAL Instructor & Program Community Outreach Liaison, The Heal Project

“I had the pleasure of meeting Vilma 1-year ago, when my client’s children were referred to Vilma for the SHAPEDOWN Program by their pediatrician. I was automatically impressed by Vilma’s professionalism. I appreciated the sensitivity and understanding she used while explaining the goals and objectives of the program. Even though my client’s children did not follow through the program, Vilma encouraged them to give SHAPEDOWN another try when they were ready. After observing Vilma with the SHAPEDOWN Program, I felt Vilma could be a great resource for our schools and our community. We are very excited to have Vilma as a guest speaker for our very first Nutrition Workshop in our school. We wish Vilma the very best and we hope her passion to make a difference in our Latino/Hispanic communities, schools, and families are noticed.”

Anonymous Community Partner, Bay Area

“Working with Vilma for the last five years has been a great experience. Her expertise in nutrition has allowed us to work closely on educating the Latino community about the importance of healthy eating to improve or prevent cardiovascular diseases. As an expert in her field, Vilma always dedicates herself to her work. She is especially committed to helping communities and individuals learn healthy habits. She’s professional, well liked, extremely knowledgeable in her field, dependable, and capable of working with people of all ages. I highly recommend her.

Among the many projects we’ve embarked on, I most closely work with Vilma to help children reduce their risk for obesity. Her manner of style with kids is encouraging, fun and educational. I often see children following her advice to exercise more and drink less soda.”

4th and 5th Grade Student Thank You Cards

Students participated in three in-classroom sessions about heart health, an AHA program taught by Vilma

SHAPEDOWN Participants Appreciation Wall

Julio (17 years old)

“Thank you for everything you have done for us and for this fabulous program. I have been more motivated to exercise. I will keep eating healthy and staying in shape. Thank You!”

Cristian (14 years old)

“Thank you for helping me lose weight and teaching me how to eat right and showing me some exercises that I can do. I hope you guys can do this again so that I can tell friends about it!. Thank U!”

Diana (14 years old)

“Thank you so much for everything! I’ve lost a lot of weight! Now I am careful of what I eat. If I don’t do anything for a day, I will go mad! I need at least a little exercise to go with my conscience.”


“I like the exercise. The ball and the sit-ups. Yes.”

Gerardo Reyes

“The thing that I liked was when we went up the stairs.”

Adriana Meza and son Bryan Serna

“This is an excellent program where my son and I learned a lot. We learned to not skip meals but to eat better and thanks to Vilma and Fernando for their excellent nutrition classes.”

Alejandra Baltazar

“In general, I like how the instructors Vilma and Fernando gave the class and listened to us and motivated us to do physical activity and change our habits.”

Nicolasa and Rosa

“It [SHAPEDOWN] is an excellent program. It helped us very much to eat more healthy and to be conscious of all of the diseases that we can prevent. I hope and would love to be with you guys and participate next year. Thank you Vilma and Fernando; all of your support was very valuable. Thank you for continuing this program!”

Angelica Gonzales, lost 30.2 lbs in 5 months after participating in SHAPEDOWN twice with each of her two sons who also lost significant weight (16-year-old: 17.4 lbs in 12 weeks; 9-year-old: 6.6 lbs in 12 weeks)

“This program had a huge impact on my life. Thanks to God that I found it. It has touched me profoundly and allowed me to implement so many changes in the nutrition habits, structure and dynamics of my family. I continue in the fight to change little by little!”

    Vilma is very active in the community working with various schools and companies to teach the value of healthy living. Below is a sample of some of her work in action as she presents during school assemblies and conducts in-classroom sessions. Among other things, she teaches the value of reading labels, avoiding bad ingredients such as saturated fats and high fructose corn syrup, and incorporating a variety of COLORS into one’s diet.