Success Story: Alberto Hidalgo

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Meet Alberto

Alberto Hidalgo has the broad, generous smile you might expect to see on someone who has won the lottery. But 15-year-old Alberto hasn't won anything, and his smile hasn't come without effort. Alberto has made—and continues to make—small but important choices over and over again, several times a day, and the result is this: a very healthy, happy teen.

More than a year ago, Alberto weighed 235 pounds. "I didn't have any confidence at all. I was always thinking about what people were going to say about me." Alberto loved to swim, but avoided it because it meant taking his shirt off in front of other people. But self-consciousness alone wasn't enough to change his habits. "Both of my grandmothers suffer from diabetes. When I had a blood test that showed I was at risk for diabetes, they were really upset, yelling at me and my parents that we had to do something." Alberto's mother, Cecilia, saw an article in the newspaper about weight loss that mentioned Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford's Pediatric Weight Control Program, she talked to Alberto about signing up. Cecilia and Alberto Hidalgo, before they participated in the Pediatric Weight Control Program. Alberto's interest in starting the program was the most important factor. In order to start kids on a lifetime of good choices, Packard's Pediatric Weight Control Program insists that it be the child's decision to start the program. Teamwork is the key to the program's success; at least one parent or guardian must enroll with their child. But no matter how enthusiastic a parent may be about the program, only children who are willing to make the commitment themselves are allowed to enroll.

"In the beginning, it was hard," says Alberto. "The program was great, but weekend dinners with our extended family were tough." Like many families, the Hidalgos enjoy big family dinners as a time of togetherness and bonding. But having to say "no" to some menu items can make loved ones feel rejected or insulted. "The program teaches creative ways to say no without making people feel bad," explains Alberto. "It also teaches you how to control portions, especially when your choices are limited." These lessons helped Alberto adjust to a new eating style in any situation. "We soon found out that every place you go has healthy food, you just have to look harder for it." The program taught them how to read labels and understand nutrition and exercise. In the six-month, behavior-based Pediatric Weight Control Program, patients and family members meet in a group with two behavior coaches trained in a curriculum developed by pediatricians, psychologists, dietitians and health educators. It wasn't long before Cecilia noticed a change in Alberto's weight, and also his outlook. "Once he started to see results, the choices became easier and easier. He was feeling the reward of his commitment."

Alberto and his mother both benefited from the program. During the time that Alberto was enrolled in the program, he lost 30 pounds. In the year that followed, Alberto practiced the skills and knowledge that he had gained and went on to lose almost 40 additional pounds. Cecilia changed her cooking style and lost 12 pounds. "I feel great," Alberto says. "The program was a whole lifestyle change for me. It's not like a diet or a plan; it changed the way I will eat for the rest of my life." Alberto and his parents moved to the Bay Area from El Salvador in 2002. On their most recent visit to El Salvador, Alberto recalls, "My relatives were shocked. My cousin said, 'Who is this person?'" Going into his junior year in high school, Alberto is looking forward to a 10-day school trip to France and doing his best to be ready for college. In fact, he's looking forward to a lot of things. "I don't feel so self-conscious anymore. I can forget about that and focus on all the things I want to do."