For Kate Van Horn, there is freedom in authenticity.
After years of struggle, the sexual abuse and eating disorder survivor found comfort and support in PTSD treatment, yoga and meditation. Then, as soon as she began to heal, she turned around and began doing her best to help others.
The yogi—who ultimately created her own vinyasa-meets-interval-training workout concept called (in)Body—spends her days guiding others towards feeling safe in their own bodies and minds and getting real about the ups and downs of daily life. She doesn’t pretend that life is without adversity, nor does she demand perfection of herself and others, if she can help it—just acceptance and honesty.
Most recently, she co-created The Good Fest, a wellness conference and retreat concept, through which she hosts festivals and workshops to inform and inspire hundreds of women to release harmful thought patterns and move through painful life experiences.
Here, she explains why happiness begins with radical self-acceptance:
Live The Process: You’re very brave and open about your experience with sexual assault and a resulting eating disorder. Can you talk a bit about your recovery from that?
Kate Van Horn: My recovery began when I was 19 and went to treatment for anorexia. It was deeply impactful, and I was terrified and lost at the time—certainly at a physical low. But, after treatment, I began eating properly and no longer overexercised. While my body started to change and become “healthier,” my thoughts and mind felt anything but.
My rock-bottom came in the form of intense anxiety and depression that really reached a peak at about 22. It was at that time that I went back to treatment for PTSD and women’s trauma at a program based in mindfulness. It was four months of intensive work, but the work I had been avoiding for a long time. The trauma of sexual abuse as a young girl was something I needed to properly process and give attention to; and it was there that I discovered yoga and meditation—and this entire journey began.
LTP: You’ve attracted a loyal following on Instagram. To what do you attribute their dedication? Is it about authenticity?
KVH: Yes, authenticity is key. It’s everything. Social media is far too saturated at this point to attract people by being anything but authentic and yourself. That energy radiates from someone’s website, social and other online platforms.
Being honest about the highs and lows is what has drawn my most loyal audience and connected me with women who deeply relate to my story. I used to stress about having a larger following, and I never do anymore. It’s flattering when someone tells me they follow along, but it’s most impactful and humbling when someone contacts me about their story and feels called to share with me. I know it’s women like that who will attend my retreats, work together through mentorship, etc.
LTP: How did you come to develop your (in)Body movement classes? Do you ever have “lazy” days when you feel resistant to exercise?
KVH: I first got into yoga when I was in treatment for PTSD. I found it so beautiful to finally feel present on my mat. I had struggled with body dysmorphia even in the years after my eating disorder treatment, and it was so refreshing to feel safe in my body like I did in yoga.
I came up with (in)BODY after years of testing and discovering the types of yoga and movement I most enjoy and felt the greatest healing from. Slow and restorative is a practice I love, but there’s something about the intensity of movement that I found my energetic body craved. It needed to get out of me, so, in order to do that, I had to look inward and see what’s stored in my body.
Of course, I have days when I’m lazy and don’t want to move, but I don’t ever label them as lazy days. I label them as nothing—just days. A day that differed from my last and will differ from the next. It’s important that I don’t become too rigid with any routine in my wellness because of my eating disorder background.
LTP: When did you co-create The Good Fest and how has it been impactful?
KVH: The idea of the Good Fest started at a coffee shop in the summer of 2016; and our first event took place in April 2017 in Philadelphia. The original concept was similar to now—a large conference for women that felt inviting, authentic and refreshing in the wellness space. Not discussing weight loss or featuring a “boot camp,” but going deeper and finding more meaning in the conversations. The most impactful thing that has come out of it is that we have featured strong, resilient women’s stories and seen our audience respond in a way that can only be achieved through face to face, IRL connections.
We’ve also had the chance to discuss wellness topics that need attention, and I’m proud that we’ve very candidly covered sexual health and pleasure, mental health, diversity in wellness and much more in large groups of over 500—without fear. When the intention is inclusion, the result is incredible and the community can heal.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
KVH: Happiness looks like freedom. While sadness and anger, of course, don’t feel the same as happiness, feeling the freedom to express yourself authentically does. Happiness at its core, I believe, is like radical acceptance of self and the freedom to be just who you are, despite the challenges and adversities we face in life. Happiness is also very much tied to gratitude and self-worth, as well.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
KVH: “Living the process” is equal parts bravely showing up for yourself and softening enough to forgive yourself.
Photo by @filmdecay_