Eating disorder treatment puts patients on the path to recovery

Medical Director of McCallum Place Columbia: “We try to treat the whole person.”

The negative stigma behind eating disorders and a lack of local treatment options were issues that local doctors knew needed to be fixed.

McCallum Place Columbia, an eating disorder treatment facility that provides help for local residents, opened in late January.

The facility can treat up to 24 patients suffering from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating at a time, said Dr. Stephanie Bagby-Stone, medical director of McCallum Place Columbia. Two adolescent medical specialists, three dietitians, four therapists, nurses and direct care staff cover all aspects of the healing process.

Bagby-Stone said that patients meet with different experts and engage in a variety of forms of therapy, including dance, yoga and art.

“Eating disorders are very complex — it’s not unusual for people to have an eating disorder and other psychological factors or medical issues resulting from their eating disorder,” Bagby-Stone said. “We have to have a treatment program that handles all of these things.”

Dr. Kimberli McCallum, psychiatrist and founder of McCallum Eating Disorder Centers, approached Bagby-Stone about the possibility of opening the facility in August of 2014, she said. The number of high school and college students made the location desirable.

“The reality was that (before) people would have had to drive to St. Louis and leave school to do it,” Bagby-Stone said. “We work very hard with students so that they can balance their academic goals with eating disorder needs.”

At McCallum Place, patients can choose from two levels: intensive outpatient treatment or partial hospitalization programming. With the first, patients eat dinner at the facility and attend group therapy for three hours, three to five days a week. With the second, patients spend six to 10 hours at the facility for the entire week and consume two meals and two snacks.

Casey Frost, the safety and wellness chairwoman for the Department of Student Services within the Missouri Students Association, said students’ stress levels and busy schedules often cause them to ignore their mental health.

According to the Missouri Eating Disorders Association website, about 95 percent of those with eating disorders are between 12 and 25 years old. Eating disorders also have the highest fatality rate among mental illnesses at 20 percent.

“Everyone focuses on physical health and going to the gym three to five times per week, but your mental health is just as important,” Frost said.

She recommends that students get seven to eight hours of sleep per night and suggested visiting on-campus resources like the Counseling Center, Wellness Resource Center, Women’s Center, LGBTQ Resource Center and Active Minds Mizzou.

“Just try and take a step back and look at things with a different perspective,” Frost said. “People think ‘I need to get an A on this test’ but it’s OK to say ‘maybe it’s OK if I get a B just so I don’t stress myself out as much.’”

Skipping meals, evidence of purging, spending excessive amounts of time at the gym, extreme dieting, isolation or signs of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety can be signs of a potential eating disorder, Bagby-Stone said.

If one suspects that a friend or relative is suffering from an eating disorder, she recommends bringing it up gently by reminding them that you care and want to help. She also suggests not bringing it up while they are eating, as someone with an eating disorder already has a negative relationship with food.

“There’s a lot of shame associated with eating disorders because they may feel guilty if they do eat and can be very secretive,” Bagby-Stone said. “But we try to treat the whole person.”

Edited by Hailey Stolze | hstolze@themaneater.com

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