Losing weight the Johns Hopkins way

Multidisciplinary approach blends clinical treatments with psychology

Image caption: Lawrence Cheskin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center

Credit: Will Kirk / Johns Hopkins University

To achieve success with weight loss, you first have to acknowledge the complex puzzle behind it. Beyond the fundamentals of diet and exercise, there are more-slippery factors such as emotions, habits, and motivation. And the nuances are different for each person.

With these factors in mind, Lawrence Cheskin founded the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in 1990. Cheskin—an associate professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of Health, Behavior and Society with joint appointments in Human Nutrition and in Medicine at the School of Medicine—wanted to take a multidisciplinary approach to weight loss, blending clinical treatments with psychology.

"Imagine 10 people the same height and weight as you are lined up, wishing they weighed less. Each of them gained weight for a different set of reasons, though, so 'one-size-fits-all' diets are bound to fail for most of those 10 people," Cheskin says. "We take a step back and look at the habits, triggers, life circumstances, and metabolism of each patient to tailor a program to meet your specific needs."

Joining the program is signing up to work with a team of specialists: a physician (Cheskin), a dietitian, an exercise physiologist, and a behavior therapist. The experts work to create a personalized plan for each client, including support for long-term maintenance.

And if you work for Johns Hopkins, these offerings can come at a discount. Full-time university employees are eligible for $150 off the cost of assessments (down to $200 from the normal $350) if they continue past an initial orientation, and full-time employees of the hospital and health system get 50 percent off the full range of services. For those who work on the East Baltimore campus, there's also the convenience factor: The center, part of the Bloomberg School, is centrally located at 550 N. Broadway.

Since its creation, the center has treated thousands of clients. There are no goals too small, but its programs are typically geared toward clients with significant weight loss goals, often with a medical impetus such as diabetes or other cardiac risk factors.

The program carries clients through four phases, starting with a suite of initial medical and psychological evaluations to assess their current status and goals.

Next, they'll zero in on weight loss, which may include replacing their current diet with scientifically designed meal replacements (which the center provides) while addressing behavior and ways to increase physical activity. They'll also work on finding the right fitness routine. During this time they can choose to meet with individual experts or as part of a confidential support group.

A transitional phase follows, establishing a regular, healthy diet. And finally there's the maintenance phase, where clients can opt to continue meeting individually with the experts to ensure ongoing success.

The center finds that clients who have completed the comprehensive program see an average weight loss of more than 60 pounds. "I'm half the woman I used to be and twice as vigorous," one client reported after achieving success.

To learn more, visit the center's website or call 410-502-0145 to schedule an introductory appointment.