Three Essential Steps to My Recovery: Kate Funk’s Recovery Necessities
By, Kate Funk, LMFT
I was seventeen years old when I entered eating disorder treatment. Families and clients alike often ask me if I wanted to go to treatment. Let me tell you, I went willingly only because I hoped by going it would get my parents and doctor off my back and cause them to leave me alone. Much to my chagrin, it didn’t work that way. Treatment came and went and certainly helped, but it in no way cured my eating disorder. However, I got the “bug,” so to speak. In treatment, I learned there was life outside of an eating disorder, and I wanted that life. I always share the story of a recovery coach telling me about her upcoming weekend. She was going out to buy shoes with her friends. My life was so stifled and isolated that buying shoes seemed like Disneyland. How could people go out and be so carefree as to spend an afternoon shoe shopping? I thought to myself. This simple conversation sparked something powerful in me; I don’t think I was ever the same.
I desperately wanted a life where I could be “normal.” I sought a life in which going out with friends on a casual shopping trip wasn’t a foreign idea. That was the first time, in over a year, I had created a reachable goal for myself. I decided I wanted, more than anything, to be able to go out with my best friend, Lauren, buy shoes, have lunch, and not be terrified or preoccupied with how much I walked or what I was going to eat. Small, meaningful goals became a huge part of my motivation for recovery. Life in my eating disorder became so dismally small and useless that accomplishing small things gave me hope that bigger things could change. One day I decided to make a vision board. I put the college I wanted to attend, the town where I wanted to live, the bookstores I wanted to visit, clothing stores I wanted to shop in, and (strangely enough) a small cartoon drawing of a man sitting outside of a hat shop. (I have no idea why he was on my board, but I will share more about him later). I hung that vision board on my wall and started to accomplish some of those things. I went to the bookstores, I spent time in that town, I moved to the state in which the college was located. Though they might not have been massive successes, they helped me feel like I was going somewhere. With my clients, I always tell them that each meal they complete and keep, is one step towards their goals. And each of those steps pieced together is how we recover! My eating disorder kept me imprisoned in my mind and in my bedroom, isolating from all the temptations of food and reality. Recovery was allowing me to move towards my long-term goals, and I was seeing results! But let’s return to that vision board. I randomly placed that cartoon man on my vision board. Looking back a few years later I chalked it up to malnutrition, since there was no reasonable explanation for why he was there. While cleaning out my childhood room last year, I found that old vision board. Lo and behold, take a look at the pictures below and note the freaky resemblance that cartoon man has to my fiancé! I made goals of finding my fiancé in recovery and didn’t even know it! Truly proof that creating and achieving those small goals led me from patient to eating disorder therapist, future wife, artist, and beyond!
Along with creating and achieving small goals, honesty was incredibly important to my recovery process. Honesty was something that didn’t come naturally to me. For as long as I can remember I embellished my life to improve my feelings of self-worth. I remember making up stories in kindergarten so my classmates would think I was “cool” and “good enough” to be their friend. My insecurities started young, and it seemed if I made up interesting things, or simply fudged the truth a bit, people wouldn’t realize just how worthless I thought I was. In recovery, I started getting honest. First, about my eating disorder. Being open about your eating disorder isn’t for everyone, but for me it felt like the best way to hold myself accountable and to quit pretending to be someone I wasn’t. Instead of pretending I had food allergies and stomach “issues,” I was honest with people. I found if I told them I had an eating disorder, I was more likely to eat in front of them because I didn’t want them to think I was struggling. Honesty also helped me open up to my team and my supports; it helped me get the support I needed instead of pretending things were fine when they obviously weren’t. Being honest with myself was probably the biggest thing that helped me stay on course, because only I knew when things weren’t going well. Being honest with myself about my struggles allowed me to get support faster and prevented those issues from growing. I had to be honest with myself, my team, and my supports about what was and what wasn’t helpful. It wasn’t easy to do, but I’ve found that life is so much better when you’re being honest.
My third recovery necessity would be passion. It’s so helpful to find a passion in your life that makes getting up each day worth it. In my eating disorder the only things I looked forward to were deciding what I was going to eat and weighing myself. It was imperative I found something to fill that role. I learned that helping others overcome their eating disorders and speaking up against diet culture filled me with passion and pride. My passion for fighting eating disorders can even be a little overwhelming at times. I want everyone to know the freedom I live with today and know it is possible for them, too! I want to shout it out to all the people buying weight loss products and trying new fad diets to know that being brainwashed by diet culture isn’t necessary!
I obviously didn’t know this would be my passion early on in recovery, but I worked to explore new things and dug deep within myself to find who I was meant to be. I utilized art and music, both of which became hobbies and coping skills for me. By trying new things and reconnecting with our healthy selves, we can find passion in our lives that goes far beyond the desire to hurt ourselves! When thinking about my recovery necessities, lots of ideas came to mind, but these three simple ingredients made the biggest difference in shifting my mindset. They helped me see there was more to life than my eating disorder, AND that I wanted to be a part of that life, outside of food, weight, and exercise!
About the author:
Kate Funk, MFT, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has a private practice in The Woodlands, TX and serves as family therapist at Clementine Woodlands a residential treatment center. Kate earned a Masters Degree in Family Therapy from Drexel University and a Bachelor’s in Science from Philadelphia University. Kate has dedicated her professional career to the treatment and understanding of eating disorders. Since 2016 she has worked for Monte Nido and Affiliates and has worked in several of their programs across the country. Kate believes eating disorders affect the entire person and that individual and family therapy promote healing. With 10 years personal experience battling and recovering from an eating disorder, Kate knows first-hand full recovery is possible. Dedicated to learning about the treatment of eating disorders, Kate has trained with Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas, Shepherd Pratt, The Renfrew Center, Monte Nido and Affiliates and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals.