Eating Disorder Victory Program for Athletes

At The Victory Program at McCallum Place, we are as passionate about your health as you are about your sport. The Victory Program provides eating disorder treatment to help athletes overcome eating disorders while significantly improving physical and psychological health for maximum performance and emotional well-being.

We know that sport performance is of paramount importance to serious athletes. For that reason, the athlete’s performance is not avoided or forgotten in treatment; rather, it is interwoven into eating disorder treatment. We do not believe that the athlete’s health and treatment should ever be subordinated to sport. At the same time, we do not believe that performance has to be ignored in effective treatment. In fact, it can be an important part of eating disorder treatment that can be used to motivate the athlete-patient.

Victory Program staff members are not only aware of the psychological issues related to enhanced sport performance, they are equipped to assist program athlete-patients in learning and using such strategies and techniques to enhance sport performance. The fact that this type of skills training is included in treatment is simply another example of how the Victory Program is different from traditional eating disorder treatment programs. Thus, when returning to competition, the individual is not only healthier physically and psychologically, but is better equipped to perform.

Our Treatment Philosophy

The world of sport is a microcosm of the world at large. As such, what occurs in the larger world will likely occur in the sport world as well. Unfortunately, this includes eating disorders. Despite the fact that athletes are often viewed as “healthy” and strong, as well as being able to do things that many non-athletes cannot do, many athletes have eating disorders. In fact, research suggests that athletes, especially those in lean sports, have more eating problems than their non-athlete counterparts.

Risk Factors for Athletes & Eating Disorders:

Why are many athletes at increased risk for developing eating disorders? Athletes have the same risk factors for developing these disorders as non-athletes, (societal pressures, family history, perfectionism, etc.). In addition, athletes have physical and energy demands related to significant expenditure and training. They also have risk factors that are related to aspects of the sport environment or that may be unique to a particular sport.

Treatment for Athletes with Eating Disorders at the Victory Program, athletes with eating disorders will encounter a program designed specifically for them that is run by healthcare professionals who understand not only their special treatment needs, but also understand and appreciate the importance of sport in the life of a serious athlete. The Victory Program is designed for competitive male and female 

The Victory Program Difference

Despite the fact that eating disorders constitute such a prevalent and serious problem for many athletes, there are no specialized treatment programs for such athletes. Most eating disorder treatment facilities in the U.S. treat athletes on occasion but do so through their usual treatment programs, in part because a treatment program cannot be changed to meet the special needs of an athlete when it treats only a few eating disorders in athletes each year. The Victory Program is specifically designed to treat eating disorders in athletes with other athletes who are overcoming their eating disorders. One of the major advantages of treating athletes with eating disorders together is that they can be provided with strategies for dealing with the special risks that have contributed to their disorders—risks that they will likely have to deal with on their return to training and competition.

What Makes The Victory Program Unique for Treating Eating Disorders in Athletes?

Several components of The Victory Program make it different from all others—the most important of which involves professional staff. The Program will incorporate the very successful state of the art treatment components typically employed at McCallum Place. In addition to McCallum staff members with experience and expertise in working with eating disorders in athletes, The Victory Program staff will include a sport psychologist, sport dietitians, and an athletic trainer, who will provide services specifically designed for serious, competitive male and female athletes. The addition of these professionals adds to the singularity and specialness of The Victory Program.

When appropriate, based on the athlete’s medical condition and progress in treatment, the athlete will be allowed to begin training in preparation for his/her eventual return to competition. Decisions regarding such training will be made by the treatment staff, but the addition of the expertise of the sport psychologist, sport dietitian, and athletic trainer in making such decisions, again adds to the uniqueness of The Victory Program. Additionally, the sport psychologist will provide the mental training, on which so many serious athletes currently rely to augment their physical training. Such training will include the traditional psychological skills training that has characterized sport psychology, such as goal setting, self talk, imagery, arousal regulation, and finding the flow or mindfulness.

At no time has sports nutrition been more important to the serious athlete regarding sport performance than today. Program sport dietitians not only understand the importance of good nutrition for recovery from an eating disorder and improvement of overall health, they also understand that athletes have nutritional needs that are different from non-athletes. They will also work with the athlete regarding his/her specific or unique nutritional needs for a particular sport.

The athletic trainer plays a very special role in The Victory Program. Many athletes with eating disorders may be injured. The injury may or may not be directly related to the eating disorder but will require rehabilitation; rehabilitation that will be managed by the athletic trainer. The athletic trainer will also arrange, manage, and monitor the athlete’s training throughout treatment at The Victory Program in preparation for a return to competition.

The combination of McCallum Place’s successful treatment philosophy and staff regarding eating disorders in athletes with the special Victory Program staff and its belief that athletes constitute a special subpopulation of eating disorder patients, truly make it a program that is “one of a kind.” In The Victory Program, these very special individuals that we call “athletes,” will receive the eating disorder treatment and any other related treatment they may need. In addition to treatment for eating disorder focusing on the sport environment, sport nutrition, sports related body image and return to sport. Victory encourages athletes to build a mental toughness and positive body images as a resource for recovery.

Why Athletes with Eating Disorders Need to be in Treatment

Psychological Reasons

  • Recovery for athletes with eating disorders without treatment is unlikely.
  • Without treatment, the athlete can become isolated.
  • Over time, the athlete will deteriorate physically and psychologically.
  • Performance in athletes with eating disorders is eventually negatively affected.
  • Poorer performance increases pressure on the athlete.
  • The disorder is apt to be the athlete’s way to deal with pressure.
  • An increase in pressure on the athlete increases the need for the disorder.

Medical Reasons

  • Medical complications are common and potentially life-threatening in athletes with eating disorders.
  • Many athletes with eating disorders and anorexia athletica have fluid, electrolyte, and energy imbalances, increasing the risk of cardiovascular compromise while competing.
  • Postponing treatment can lead to worse outcomes.
  • Malnutrition has a significant impact on thinking in athletes with eating disorders – affecting concentration, the ability to see things in context, and impair judgment.
  • Malnutrition can lead to both brittle bones and metabolic compromise and increased risk of musculoskeletal injury.
  • A compulsion to exercise and over train may make stabilization difficult in athletes with eating disorders without structure and support.

Effects of Athlete Eating Disorders

On the Athlete’s Health

  • More individuals die from anorexia than any other psychiatric disorder. Medical complications can affect every organ system, ranging from mild dysfunction to death, depending on the severity and chronicity of the disorder. Poor circulation, lack of available energy, electrolyte disturbances, increased physical demands, and hormonal imbalances can result in organ failure (heart, liver, and kidney). Death is usually related to organ failure.
  • Dental problems, sleep disturbance, skeletal system complications, and reproductive system complications are common results of athletes’ eating disorders.
  • Depression and anxiety often occur with an eating disorder and can either precede and/or follow the disorder, and complicate treatment.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death.

On the Athlete’s Sport Performance

  • Athletes can sometimes perform well despite having a serious eating disorder, but eventually the athlete’s eating disorder begins to affect the athlete both physically and psychologically.
  • Following a period of intense dieting, VO and running speed usually decrease.
  • Inadequate carbohydrate intake results in early glycogen depletion and fatigue.
  • Inadequate carbohydrate intake results in increased use of protein as fuel.
  • Inadequate protein intake for athletes with eating disorders can lead to muscle weakness, wasting, and injury (increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries due to inability to build/repair muscle tissue damage).
  • Dehydration leads to fatigue, poorer performance, and earlier glycogen depletion.
  • Symptomatic athletes are apt to be malnourished, dehydrated, depressed, anxious, and obsessed (with eating, food, and weight). Most athletes with eating disorders find they lose concentration and the capacity to play with emotion, in addition to the negative effects on the athlete’s physiology.

Levels of Care for Male & Female Athletes with Eating Disorders

Our RESIDENTIAL House, accredited by The Joint Commission, is available to female and male athletes with eating disorders ages high school through 65 years of age in need of 24-hour structure, monitoring and support. All patients are supervised with medical monitoring 24 hours a day, seven days a week both at the Programming Suite and the Residential house. Patients stay in a large, beautiful historic homes with modern amenities in a highly desirable neighborhood of St. Louis. What’s unique about our level and quality of residential care is this: we are often able to serve as an alternative to hospitalization for elite athletes with eating disorders who are medically compromised as a result of dangerously low body weight, need of tube feeding or struggle with frequent purging. Extra support is available for those who are beginning the refeeding process or engage in symptomatic exercise.

Partial Hospital Programming (Day Treatment) Options for Male & Female Athletes with Eating Disorders

Extended 10-Hour and Traditional 6-Hour Partial Hospital Programming (PHP) are offered up to seven days per week, Monday through Sunday, at the programming treatment suite for both male and female athletes with eating disorders. Depending on the patient’s medical stability and treatment needs, he or she will be placed in either the Extended PHP (10 hours a day, 9:30am-7:30pm) or the Traditional PHP (6 hours a day, 9:30am-3:30pm) level of programming.

Extended Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

The Extended Partial Hospital Program provides support for 10 hours per day and up to seven days per week for both male and female athletes with eating disorders. Unlike other partial hospital programs, we can offer structure for up to 70 hours per week. This level of care includes:

  • Monitored weight and vital signs. Vitals are obtained at least once per day or more per physician’s orders.
  • Supported AM snack
  • Supported lunch and post meal therapy
  • Supported PM snack
  • Support dinner and post meal therapy
  • Highly individualized weekly treatment planning
  • Three individual counseling and/or family sessions per week
  • Two individual dietitian sessions per week
  • All groups and fitness activities with various eating disorder experts (see group schedule below)
  • Weekend outing(s)
  • Updates and reviews to your insurance company regarding progress per your insurance company’s request, submitting claims, and helping pursue reimbursement

Traditional 6-hour (PHP)

The Traditional Partial Hospital Program provides support for 6 hours per day and up to seven days per week for male and female athletes with eating disorders. Unlike other partial hospital programs, we can offer structure at this level up to 42 hours per week. This level of care includes:

  • Monitored weight and vital signs. Vitals are obtained at least once per day or more per physician’s orders.
  • Supported AM snack
  • Supported lunch and post meal therapy
  • Supported PM snack
  • Highly individualized weekly treatment planning
  • Two individual counseling and/or family sessions per week
  • One individual dietitian session per week
  • Groups and fitness activities with various eating disorders specialists (see group schedule below for more)
  • Updates and reviews to your insurance company regarding progress one to four times per week, per your insurance company’s request, submitting claims, and helping pursue reimbursement.
  • Weekly to Bi-Weekly Psychiatrist appointments and treatment of any co-occurring issues* (separate fee; submitted to your insurance)*
  • Weekly physician appointments and close medical monitoring** (separate fee; submitted to your insurance)*
  • Blood draws on site* (separate fee; submitted to your insurance)*
  • If needed, tube feeding is available and may be placed on site by our medical team for patients in need of extra calories and support.* (separate fee; submitted to your insurance)*

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) Options for Male & Female Athletes with Eating Disorders

The Victory Program at McCallum Place offers a one-of-a-kind approach to IOP. Patients are able to attend Victory specific groups during the day and participate in a variety of meal opportunities in the evening for a total of 3 hours of programming a day. Victory IOP includes ongoing weekly sessions with your Victory therapist and Sports Dietitian. In our IOP program, patients practice real life skills and challenges while living in our transition apartments or at home. This program is offered Monday through Friday for male and female athletes with eating disorders.

Transitional Apartments for Eating Disorder Recovery

The Victory Program at McCallum Place offers a unique transitional living option for those struggling with disordered eating in the state of Missouri. Our transitional apartments located within walking distance of our Therapy Suites provide a safe, nurturing and real life environment that helps ease residents back into independent living.

The transitional apartments accommodate up to four adult patients. Staff support is available each evening seven days per week. Additional opportunities for independence include grocery shopping and challenge outings with experienced staff.

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