Department of Psychiatry

Penn Behavioral Health


The Albert J. Stunkard Weight Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania has helped to save my life.  When I walked through the doors into the office for the orientation on a dreary late February afternoon, little could I have imaged just what an impact the professional staff would have on me.  I had hit the absolute worst point in my life, both personally and professionally.  I could neither sleep nor walk without ankle, knee, hip, neck, and back pain and my blood pressure and tests were so far deviated from normal, it was a wonder that I had not had a heart attack.

Fast forward four months later (four months is a blink in the eye of a human life) and my blood pressure is now on the low end of normal, my blood work is normal, and all of the pain is gone.  Furthermore, I have lost 94 pounds and 10 inches off of my waist and I have never felt as good (at any point) in my life as I feel presently.  Andrea Spivack, the Registered Dietitian who leads the dietary education and behavior modification side of the program, helped me to develop a set of skills for lifelong weight maintenance.  On the medical team, Karen Lecks, Nurse Practitioner, made absolutely certain that I was safe at every step in the journey.  Both Ms. Lecks and Ms. Spivack showed genuine care and concern for me and provided key encouragement.

The Stunkard Weight Management Program also helped me to discover the joys of physical activity.  The staff members make a distinction between “physical activity” and “exercise.”  Exercise is arduous and unpleasant whereas physical activity is enjoyable.  The key is finding an activity that is more than something you don’t mind doing but something that you actually look forward to.  I found this in bicycling and have not looked backwards.  I ride regularly over 20 miles at a time and have completed a personal best of 68 miles.  Bicycling has become an extension of my life and is as much a part of me as eating and sleeping is.  If you were to ask me four months ago if I would be riding a bicycle, I would have said, “Absolutely not!”  I still have some weight to lose and I am looking forward to the continuation of my journey with the Stunkard Weight Management Program. 

Success in weight loss is within the reach of everyone who participates in this program – you just need the heart and desire and the staff will be there right alongside of you to help you make it happen.

Matt S.
West Chester, PA

I am currently being treated for sleep apnea at the Penn Sleep Center. I was told that if I were to lose weight that chances are my symptoms would improve. It was suggested that if I wanted to pursue weight loss, that I should look into the Health First program at the Stunkard Weight Management program. I was hesitant at first because I have joined many programs in the past and without great success. I thought why not, I have nothing to lose. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I started in April of 2012. I was presented with a course of action that was so simple to follow with the HMR product line. More importantly, I was supported by Andrea Spivack, the lead dietitian, and the other members of the group.

I tried many times in the past to do this on my own only to fail miserably. I strongly believe the kindness, consideration and encouragement that I received from Andrea and the group helped me form a solid foundation not only for healthy living but for healthy thinking.

The things that I am learning and practicing through this program are guidelines for life. Nutrition misconceptions, emotional eating habits, mindful eating are just a few of the lessons that I am applying to my new way of life.

I was strongly encouraged to participate in physical activity in addition to my new food approach. I was reluctant at first but once I started I saw dramatic results. I was shown through this program that it is as simple as calories taken in and calories burned through being more active. I now follow various exercise routines during the course of the week.

It is now October and I have lost 75 pounds. Andrea compares it to losing 7 1/2 bowling balls. I participated in the initial Health First group and am currently maintaining through one of the maintenance. I have not felt this energetic, happy and alive in all my life.

The results of a recent sleep study have indicated that my sleep apnea has completely disappeared. I have only Andrea and the group to thank for improving my health and quality of life.

Thank You,

When I started the Stunkard Weight Management Program, I couldn’t even walk a block without getting tired. In the span of thirteen weeks, I’ve gone from that, to being able to walk, run, or anything else I had previously wanted to do, but could not, and for an hour or more at a time. On top of that, I’ve lost over 50 pounds, and gone down four dress sizes. I’ve been able to fit into clothes that I haven’t worn for ten years. More than any of that though, I’ve felt healthier than I have in years. I can sleep better, my blood pressure is lower, and I just feel physically better.

A major difference between the Stunkard Program and all the other weight loss programs I have tried is the high level of accountability required of me. Between midweek check-ins and weekly weigh-ins, I am rarely tempted to step outside of the program’s guidelines. I know that if I’m going to be reporting and being weighed, I don’t want to be disappointed with myself, and I don’t want to disappoint the others who are working with me. Another major difference is the food. The food is better than that of any other program I’ve tried that uses pre-packaged food. While it might not be the most important aspect of the program, it makes the process significantly more enjoyable. The last, and very important difference between the Stunkard Program and all others I’ve tried is the clnical team. More than anyone else I’ve worked with, they are helpful from both a dietary and a medical standpoint. On top of that, they are the most supportive, and are very interested in my personal journey. It’s a truly rare thing to find such a caring group of people who are also so immensely helpful.

After one cycle in the program, I’ve learned that weight loss is not only possible, but it can be fun and painless. Furthermore, I didn’t have to feel hungry. All it takes is will power, a well-balanced and healthy diet, and exercise. As simple as that sounds, it took the support of the Stunkard Weight Management Program to put it all into action.


The Stunkard Weight Management Program truly changed my life. This is the first time I have felt like I could have a healthier life! The clinical team is supportive, encouraging and extremely empowering. This group of practitioners helped guide me through the accomplishments and challenges of losing weight. Putting weight loss in perspective of my overall health is a gift this program gave me. I now see weight loss as one crucial part of my overall journey to better health.

I was days away from having gastric bypass surgery when I found out I potentially had cancer. Cancelling that surgery was so difficult because I thought it was my only option for successfully losing weight. Going through my cancer diagnosis and treatment helped me to realize exactly how important my health is. My doctor recommended the HMR program that I found at the Stunkard Weight Management Program. This program has taught me that I am capable of being in control of myself and my health. Healthy portion sizes, regular physical activity, and being surrounded by supportive people are key factors to successful weight loss. Knowing that I can count on the clinical staff, the meal replacements, and classes to help me maintain my weight when I reach my goal distinguish this program from others I have tried in the past.

Losing seventy pounds has dramatically changed my life. I am able to try new things that I never thought I could do. I recently completed a 20 mile bike ride and walk daily. I lead a much more active lifestyle and have really come to enjoy the time I spend being active. Feeling alive and light is a wonderful feeling. For the first time in my life, I am beginning to shop for new clothes in the “regular” sized sections. I have never done this. The Stunkard Weight Management Program has helped me to create a new life that is healthy and filled with vitality!


The Stunkard Weight Management Program at Penn has been a wonderful experience for me. I have tried many programs over the years and have lost and gained, lost and gained. After having two children, I was at my highest weight ever, and ready to try something new. This program works! The fixed structure of the program keeps me on track. The weekly class is small enough to ensure accountability, but large enough to learn and share ideas with others. All of the staff - dieticians, nurse practitioners, and program coordinator - have been extremely supportive, friendly, and helpful. I look forward to each weekly meeting and feel welcomed and inspired by both the staff and my fellow participants. I’ve learned how to cope with real-life eating situations, the importance of exercise as a contributor to weight loss, and most importantly, how to get back on track immediately after straying.

I’ve lost 38 pounds and feel happy, healthy, and confident. This is the longest amount of time that I’ve ever consistently stuck to one program, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is ready to work the program to successfully lose weight.


At the Stunkard Weight Management Program, quality clinical services and support are integral to the HMR Program. My weight loss journey with the staff at Stunkard has lasted three years so far. The relationships I have had here with Andrea, Tricia and Bridget are life-changing.

I know so much more about nutrition, physical activity and good health than ever before.  The ups and downs of weight loss are tough! When I had a hard week, I always left my sessions feeling encouraged and uplifted. When I do well, the clinical staff challenge me to explore areas where I struggle. When I decided to celebrate my weight loss by running a 5k, my Stunkard Dietitian was at the finish line, cheering me on-- on a Sunday morning!

Because of this excellent clinical team, I now know my BMI, how many grams of protein my body needs, and food combinations that help my body better absorb vitamins and minerals. I can honestly say that these are things I NEVER would have considered before!

I cannot say enough about the supportive and caring staff you will encounter here. They are amazing and will help you to work through your journey toward the amazing person inside you, too.


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