A perfect storm

Research has shown that the pandemic has magnified the prevalence of eating disorders across all demographics. There isn’t a group that has been spared including competitive athletes.

An inability to access training facilities, disrupted routines, and lack of control created a “perfect storm” for athletes to begin or further their eating disorder related behaviors. The impact of the pandemic will undoubtedly have lasting effects on the mental health of many people – athletes included.

What impacts athletes seeking eating disorder treatment?

The experience of athletes is unique as they are managing multiple roles. Not only are they navigating the stressors that come with their athletic pursuits, but they’re also managing the responsibilities and inevitable challenges that come with daily life and other identities that they may hold.

We know that athletes experience stereotypes, stigma, and other barriers to eating disorder treatment causing many cases to go undetected just the same as within the general population.

Unlike the general population however, competitive athletes tend to have a unique set of predispositions and challenges that can impact eating disorder treatment. Thus there is a consequential need for an athlete-specific alternative pathway that allows folks of a common community to come together to work toward recovery.

GOALS: Walden’s athlete-specific eating disorder treatment program

Walden’s GOALS program is a virtual intensive outpatient eating disorder program designed specifically for competitive adult athletes. The program was created using evidence-based research from the fields of mental health, nutrition, sport psychology, and exercise science.

The curriculum is based on five pillars: fueling for sport and life, eating competence, body esteem, recovery skills, and resiliency. Athletes enrolled in the GOALS program meet three nights a week for three hours to cover the 6-week-long curriculum. Each individual in the GOALS program receives individual mental health and nutritional counseling, group education, and exposure to essential skills needed to thrive both in and out of sport.

Based on recent research, athlete-specific eating disorder treatment has positive and measurable effects of decreasing eating disorder behavioral risks, eating pathology, and increasing eating competence. Furthermore, when asked about participating in the GOALS Program, clients felt that the program was customized and addressed the unique needs of athletes. This gleaned more meaningful and desired treatment outcomes for the athletes.

Don’t be afraid to reach out

We know finding eating disorder treatment for an athlete can be tough. Walden is here for you. If you are concerned that you, or a loved one, may have an eating disorder, please reach out by completing the form on this page or email us at intake_coordinators@waldenbehavioralcare.com.

k varzeas headshotKelsey A. Varzeas, Ed.M., CMPC, (she/her/hers) is a clinician with Walden Behavioral Care’s GOALS program. In her work, she acknowledges the unique social, cultural, physical, and mental stressors that athletes face and aims to unite the separation between the sport and clinical worlds. Kelsey feels extremely passionate about addressing anti-fat bias, size-ism, body oppression, and eating disorder awareness in the current culture and sporting world. Kelsey is a Ph.D. candidate at The Ohio State University where her dissertation research explores stress, coping, and body image for female collegiate athletes. She received her Master of Education degree in Counseling with a specialization in Sport and Performance Psychology from Boston University. Upon graduation from Boston University, Kelsey became a Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC), which demonstrates the highest standards of professional practice for sport and performance psychology consultants.

*This blog post does not necessarily represent the views of Walden Behavioral Care and its management. The Walden Blog is meant to represent a broad variety of opinions relating to eating disorders and their treatment.


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