Medical Services

Weight Management Program

The Weight Management Program at Washington University School of Medicine is dedicated to the management of excessive weight. By applying the most current methods, the program helps patients manage their weight and reduce the medical risks linked with being obese.

Whatever your personal goals are in losing weight, our program offers three proven options to promote your success.

Medical Weight Management Program

Weight management is a challenge for everyone. An individualized approach to weight loss is essential because we are all different in genetic make-up, lifestyle, behaviors and physical activity.

By using the most current methods and medical monitoring, the Weight Management Program professionals are able to help people lose weight safely.

This program combines the expertise of physicians, psychologists, registered dietitians and physical therapists to provide a comprehensive approach to the medical management of obesity.


The Washington University Weight Management Program's emphasizes helping individuals achieve a healthy lifestyle. This is based on the following principles:

  • Obesity is a disease that requires long-term treatment for successful management.
  • Health benefits are associated with a modest amount of weight loss (5 to 10 percent or more of one's body weight), as long as it is maintained.
  • Changes in eating habits are essential for weight loss.
  • Physical activity is important for long-term weight management success.

Program Goals

Gradual weight loss will be achieved by following a structured, low-calorie meal plan that includes meal replacement products.
  • Physicians will medically monitor treatment.
  • Patients will learn to gradually increase the number of minutes they engage in physical activity.
  • Patients will learn weight loss skills as well as strategies for long-term weight maintenance, by adopting a healthier lifestyle that can be kept up in the long-term.

Weight Management Center Staff

The Weight Management Center staff are leaders in their field and collectively represent the area's leading experts in all areas of managing obesity. To speak to one of the staff members, please call 314-286-2080.

Providing diagnosis and leading-edge treatment of medically significant obesity and applying the most current research on weight loss, the program helps patients manage their weight safely and successfully, and reduce their risk for long-term complications of obesity.

Medically significant obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above - or 27 and above, if the individual has medical complications of obesity such as diabetes or heart disease.

Definitions and BMI Calculator

Body Mass Index Categories (for adults)

Classification BMI Risk
Underweight <18.5 Increased
Normal 18.5-24.9 Normal
Overweight 25.0–29.9 Increased
Obese I 30.0–34.9 High
Obese II 35.0–39.9 Very High
Obese III >=40 Extremely High

Weight Management Services

  • Medical monitoring and physician supervision
  • Behavioral modification sessions within a closed group setting to help form life-long healthy eating habits and lifestyle changes
  • Emotional support and encouragement from group members
  • Nutrition seminars to educate members about healthy grocery shopping, menu planning, portion size and nutrient content
  • Physical activity seminars to explain all aspects of exercise and to tailor programs for each patient
  • Meal plans and meal replacements
  • Individual counseling sessions
  • A long-term maintenance program
  • Drug therapy, supervised by experienced physicians, for those unable to achieve their weight management goals

When a patient is referred to the Weight Management Center, an initial screening is scheduled. Prior to that visit, the patient will be asked to complete a food diary, food frequency form and a three-part psychological assessment, which is mailed in advance. The initial screening takes approximately three hours and involves a medical examination with blood tests and EKG, a psychological assessment, and a detailed nutritional evaluation.

Many people who lose weight tend to regain it over time. For this reason, the ability to sustain that loss is just as important as the initial weight loss itself. Staff members teach the skills necessary to help maintain weight loss and achieve realistic goals. Even moderate long-term decreases in body weight -- five to 10 percent of initial body weight -- can result in considerable health benefits.

Unique Aspects of the Facility:

The Washington University Weight Management Program, in affiliation with Barnes-Jewish Hospital, offers medical and surgical specialists collaborating to treat people who are obese.

The Weight Management Program's unique physical activity program - On the Move - is designed to encourage a long-term commitment for a physically active lifestyle. On the Move emphasizes physical conditioning, proper body mechanics, strength, endurance, flexibility, balance and coordination. Pre-tests and post-tests are conducted to individualize the program based on each participant's capability, medical condition and lifestyle.

It is our philosophy that patients need to be fully informed of the risks and benefits of both the surgical and medical treatments for obesity to make informed decisions. Patients referred to the Center are thoroughly evaluated to ensure that the most appropriate weight management approach is selected for them.

Research and Clinical Trials

While enrolled in the program, patients can choose to help increase knowledge of obesity by participating in federally funded studies. Using the most sophisticated techniques, researchers hope to gain a better understanding of why people are overweight and use these insights to develop better management for those who want to lose and maintain long-term weight loss.

The Gastroenterology Department is one of two centers in the country to have been awarded a Digestive Disease Research Core Center and a Clinical Nutrition Research Unit by the National Institutes of Health.

For more information on current clinical trials sponsored by Washington University School of Medicine, go to Volunteer for Health.

Program Components

Medical Monitoring
Our physicians are trained to recognize medical conditions related to excessive weight and weight loss and to monitor changes in patient health. Regular medical monitoring helps reduce health risks related to weight loss and enables the staff to make appropriate adjustments to a patient's treatment.

Lifestyle Modification
With the help of the behavioral staff patients will learn to:
  • Develop healthier behaviors.
  • Identify triggers.
  • Assess their environment.
  • Make positive lifestyle choices.
  • Establish an encouraging support group.
Nutritional education provided by registered dietitians will teach patients how to make healthier eating choices through individualized meal planning. Patients will also learn the importance of identifying environmental factors that influence weight gain and how to change their surrounding environment to support ongoing weight control.

Individual consultations with patients are provided for meal planning. Most meal plans utilize meal replacements, which are high quality, calorie-controlled nutritional products.
Physical Activity
A physically active lifestyle is an essential component in health and weight management. Physical therapists provide guidance in establishing a safe and effective physical activity routine that best suits each patient.

Program Structure

The medical aspect of the Weight Management Program is separated into three stages:

Stage I - Initial Weight Loss Basics
  • 20 weekly group sessions.
  • Five months in length.
  • Medical monitoring.
Stage II - Sharpening Weight Management Skills

  • 36 weekly sessions.
  • Weight and blood pressure monitoring weekly.
  • Eight months in length.
Stage III - Long-Term Continuous Care
  • Monthly group sessions with limited medical supervision.

Supplemental Physical Exercise

Regular physical activity is an essential part of healthy living and weight control. The medical weight management curriculum provides guidelines and goals for incorporating physical activity into your lifestyle.

Regular physical activity is an essential part of healthy living and weight control. The medical weight management curriculum provides guidelines and goals for incorporating physical activity into your lifestyle.
In addition to the exercise instruction included in the medical program, we offer the following supplemental physical activity opportunities:

Individual Instruction

This is an individual session with a physical therapist to evaluate your needs and to show you specific exercises that can be safely done. Suggestions will also be made for physical activities you can incorporate into your daily life. You will be educated on the types of exercise in which you should engage. You will also learn ways you can fit exercise into your day. This session will provide you with a detailed exercise plan.

Group Activity

If you enjoy the motivating atmosphere of a group, then we have just the program for you. On the Move™ is offered at the Washington University physical therapy clinic. On the Move™strives to help overweight individuals pursue fitness and musculoskeletal health.

Adolescent Bariatric Surgery

Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital have partnered to open the first bariatric surgery program in the area for obese adolescents. Find out more in this "Innovate" podcast with Esteban Varela, MD, the Washington University bariatric surgeon who first directed the program at Barnes-Jewish.


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