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In Her Shoes: Olivia Johnson

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In this inspiring interview, Olivia Johnson shares how she healed her body naturally with food (the anti-inflammatory diet and the 80-20 rule) and holistic remedies, including her favorite healthy products, daily routine and best tips and tricks for combatting PCOS, Thyroid + Gut issues. 

In this inspiring interview, Kate Kordsmeier (founder of Root + Revel) shares how she healed her body naturally with food (the anti-inflammatory diet and the 80-20 rule) and holistic remedies, including her favorite healthy products, daily routine and best tips and tricks for combatting PCOS, Thyroid + Gut issues. 

Note: Originally this story was published in October 2016, but it was updated in January 2018 to reflect new information, photos, findings and preferences. 

Welcome back to the In Her Shoes series! We’re doing something a little different today. Normally, this series shares inspiring interviews with influential experts in health, nutrition and lifestyle. But today, I’m going to be the subject of the series, sharing a bit with y’all about what it’s like to walk in my shoes.

Getting To Know Olivia Johnson (that’s me!)

For those of who you may be new here, I’m Olivia! 

In October 2015, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Leaky Gut Syndrome, insulin resistance and hypothyroidism.

While the diagnosis was scary, it honestly felt so good to finally know what was causing the debilitating symptoms that had been plaguing me for years (think irregular periods, acne, PMS, fatigue, weight gain, irregular blood sugar, chronic constipation and sudden, unexplained nausea). I felt terrible and now I finally knew why.

Even better: I could finally do something about it!

Of course, my diagnosis was just the beginning…after being dismissed by dozens of conventional doctors, or overmedicated with expensive, dangerous prescriptions that didn’t even work,  I started seeing an integrative doctor (i.e. combining western medicine with natural, holistic solutions), and everything changed.

She put me on an anti-inflammatory diet focused on real, whole foods, complemented with safe, natural supplements.

But here’s the thing–remember how I said I was a food writer? Yeah, it was literally my job to eat and report on the world’s most delicious foods. Plus, I am a true food lover, who believes strongly that life is not worth living without fried chicken, cheese and wine.

So obviously I panicked, at first, wondering not only how I could survive happily without delicious food, but also how I could still do my job. I knew I could never be one of those people to just bake a boneless, skinless chicken breast and steam some broccoli and call it a day. I love big, bold seasonings and complex, layered flavors.

Turns out, there was no need for panic. Not only have I found an anti-inflammatory diet to be absolutely delicious and full of flavor (thanks to fresh, seasonal produce and lots of spices and herbs!), but sure enough, I saw massive changes in just a few short weeks based solely on what I put in my body.

So, I then started paying attention to what I put on my body, and quickly found that the food I ate and the natural products I used (and the toxic products I tossed!) helped me live a near symptom-free life—all without expensive medications carrying a roll-call of scary side effects.

Couple all of that with a few simple lifestyle changes, and today, I feel better than ever and I have reversed my PCOS, insulin resistance, leaky gut and hypothyroidism naturally!

This journey also taught me that balance is the key to health and happiness. So, I now live my life by the 80-20 rule: be as healthy as you can 80 percent of the time (i.e. Root), and learn to let go and celebrate life the other 20 percent (i.e. Revel).

Needless to say, I’m so excited to share more of my story with you today, giving you a peek into some of the products, hacks and lifestyle tips and tricks I’ve used to heal my body naturally!

Please pretend I’m not the one both asking the questions and answering them. Yes, this feels a bit weird, but let’s go with it. Embrace the awkwardness and power through to get to the healing!

Shall we?


Oh man, I am not naturally a morning person, so this has been a bit of a struggle for me, especially since I’ve worked from home for nearly a decade (read: I can sleep as late as I want, work from my jammies and never have to leave the house if I don’t feel like it).

But recently I’ve implemented a few strategies that have really helped me create a healthier, happier morning routine. The #1 Rule: No phone in bed.

I’ve set up a wireless charging station on my dresser where I put my phone every night before I get into bed. If I need to set an alarm, I’ll have to actually get out of bed to turn it off. I also bought this light alarm clocklight alarm clock to help me wake up more naturally each day (I have it set for sunrise light around 6:45 a.m.). I love it!

And now I’m forced to read in bed or just go straight to sleep or get right up. The only things I’m allowing on my bedside table are my Kindle and my 5 Minute Gratitude Journal, which I write in very first thing in the morning.

Then I brush my teeth, spray some Rosewater on my face and head downstairs to make a cup of Bone Broth and some coffee (more on that below). I usually try to read or clean up around the house for the next half hour, just so that I am not immediately working as soon as my feet hit the floor.

I’m never hungry first thing in the morning, so I usually wait to eat until around 9:30-10 a.m.


I am extremely picky about the products I put on my body, reading labels like a hawk and often making my own because I can’t find options that are clean enough. It’s amazing the amount of toxic chemicals and harmful ingredients allowed in our personal care products.

RELATED:  The 10 Most Toxic Skincare Ingredients to Avoid

So most of my personal care/toiletry collection is full of natural, safe and non-toxic products. That being said, I’m a firm believer in balance and I’ve found that natural living doesn’t have to be all or nothing in order to have a profound impact, both on your health and the environment.

And so there are a few traditional products that I’ve gone back to, namely hair care, as I absolutely love the smell and the suds of regular shampoo and just never felt like the natural versions got my hair clean enough.

I also think that those products that you immediately wash off, like shampoo and face wash, have less of an effect than those products that you apply to your skin and allow to penetrate, like lotions and creams. Plus, I only wash my hair 1-2 times per week, so that helps lessen the impact, too.

So here’s what’s in my shower right now: Biolage Matrix Hydrating Shampoo, Beautycounter Smoothing Conditioner, Everyday Coconut Body Wash in Lavender, Acure Organics Brightening Facial Scrub and Mother Dirt Foaming Cleanser.

I also love using this exfoliating mittto scrub my body and face a few times a week–it’s super gentle, makes my skin beyond smooth, and doesn’t require any expensive products.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, I’ve since fallen in love with Beautycounter’s Volumizing Shampoo. It’s totally natural and non-toxic and it’s the only natural shampoo I’ve found that actually suds up so you can get a good lather going.


I struggle with breakfast because I’m never hungry when I first wake up. And then once I get started working, I get distracted and before I know it, it’s 10:30 a.m. and I’m starving. So I have to very consciously force myself to eat within an hour or so of waking up, especially because my insulin resistance means that it’s super important for me to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

So I have a few go-tos: avocado toast (I’m obsessed with Canyon Bakehouse’s gluten-free 7-grain bread), veggie omelets, oatmeal (I either make overnight oatmeal/chia pudding or these savory oatmeal breakfast bowls) or a smoothie. I try to drink one green smoothie every single day, so if I don’t have one for breakfast, I usually have one between breakfast and lunch.

RELATED:  Organic Green Smoothie Recipe (with Coconut Water!)

Whatever I’m eating for breakfast, I always try to incorporate at least one serving of fruits/vegetables, something high in protein and a healthy fat. Also, breakfast foods don’t have to be just eggs or something sweet, like waffles and pancakes. Think outside the box–sometimes I eat leftovers from last night’s dinner or I’ll make a big pot of soup–this butternut squash soup is a breakfast fave!


I absolutely love and drink both, but I have to start my morning with coffee. And not for the caffeine. In fact, in Spring 2017 I gave up caffeine to see if it would help with my anxiety and it worked like gangbusters. So now I drink decaf.

RELATED:  Reduce Waste With Sustainable Single Serve Coffee + Recyclable Coffee Pods

I usually make a version of Bulletproof Butter Coffee with ghee (my favorite brand is 4th & Heart–their Vanilla Bean ghee is RIDICULOUSLY GOOD and lately I’ve been really into their chocolate ghee).

I try to limit coffee to 1-2 cups, only in the morning, and then I’ll switch to tea. My favorite brands are Numi Organic–I love the Mate Lemon, Honeybush, Aged Earl Grey, Moroccan Mint, and Rooibos Chai flavors–and Traditional Medicinals.

I’m also addicted to Kombucha, which is full of probiotics and so great for digestion, so I usually drink half a bottle of GT’s Enlightened Organic Raw Kombucha with lunch. My favorite flavors are the Multi-Green, Gingerade (this is awesome if you feel nauseous) and Gingerberry.

Other than that, I only drink water (never juice or soda) and then usually have wine with dinner.

RELATED:  A Guide to Healthy Hot Drinks: Pantry Staples to Keep You Warm & Well This Winter


I’ve always been a regular exerciser, though I definitely go through phases where I’m better than others. But I usually try to workout 3-5 times per week and do a combination of yoga, HIIT/weight training, walking and tennis. Usually, I’ll take a break from work by going for a 30-minute walk during the day.

I joined CorePower Yoga last year and have become addicted to their hot yoga classes–my body has never been in better shape, I’m so much more strong, flexible and balanced, and my mind is so much calmer and clearer. I love their C2, Sculpt and HPF classes.

Avoid toxic chemicals and save money with this super quick and easy DIY Homemade Toner. With just 3 ingredients you can soothe, clean and refresh your skin.


Like I said, I often make my own skincare products because it’s easy, it’s cheaper and it’s so much better for you. Right now, I make my own toner, makeup remover and I like to alternate between this DIY moisturizer and this Face Oil.

But when I’m not in the mood for my own products, or I want something a little different, there are a few brands I go to again and again:

I love Acure Organics face washes and scrubs, but also like taking my makeup off with Beautycounter’s Cleansing Balm and Goop by Juice Beauty’s Melting Cleanser. Sometimes if I’m feeling lazy, I’ll either use these makeup remover wipes or just this amazing microfiber cloth that removes every last trace of makeup with just water. 

I’m also obsessed with Goop By Juice Beauty’s Instant Facial, which I use every other night and Kypris Clearing Serum, which is great for acne-prone skin. Both have really helped to shrink my pores and smooth my skin.

If you remember the Natural Deodorant Test Drive, you know that I’m obsessed with Primal Pit Paste’s deodorant. But after a while, that brand started causing irritation and redness on my armpits, so I’ve since switched to Native Deodorant’s natural deodorant and I am IN LOVE!! It’s so gently and yet it works SO well!

Other than that, I keep it pretty simple when it comes to skincare and find that the fewer ingredients in a product, the better it is for you.

When it comes to makeup, I use a combo of natural products and a few more conventional items that I just haven’t found great replacements for. I start with Beautycounter’s Concealer Pen (I also love RMS’ uncover up) and then if I need more coverage, I’ll use Beautycounter’s Tint Skin Foundation. If not, I just go straight for Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light. This isn’t the cleanest brand, but I just love how bright and fresh it makes my skin look, and none of the natural alternatives I’ve tried have come close.

I love Beautycounter’s Bronzer and I’ve been loving Tarte’s Blush palette–literally every color looks amazing!

I’ve tried tons of different natural mascaras, and my favorites are Beautycounter’s Volumizing mascara (I actually hate their lengthening mascara, for what it’s worth) and 100% Pure: Fruit Pigmented Mascara Black Tea. I also love their Fruit Pigmented Satin Eye Shadow.

When it comes to lipstick, I alternate between Beautycounter’s Lip Sheer in Plum, Stowaway Cosmetics Creme Lip Stick in Muted Plum, and Mineral Fusion’s Sheer Moisture Lip Tint in Adorn (this is the best natural alternative to Clinique’s Black Honey I’ve found!).

RELATED:  The 20 Best Natural Beauty Products on Amazon


I am so glad to be done with expensive prescription medications, most of which carry a roll call of scary side effects. Instead, I rely on safe, natural supplements, like probiotics, collagen, natural compounded T3/T4 (to treat my hypothyroidism) and real-food vitamins. I did an entire story about what’s in my medicine cabinet, which you can read here.

RELATED:  Natural PCOS Treatment: Supplements for PCOS

That being said, after struggling with debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, I started taking Zoloft. I’m on a low dose, and while I struggle with the desire to treat everything naturally and avoid prescription medication when possible, I’ve found that sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do, and there’s no need to suffer needlessly.

Root + Revel is all about balance, and I strongly believe there is a time and a place for Western medicine. I try to always seek the natural, holistic approach first, and then supplement with safe prescriptions, with minimal side effects, when necessary. I work with a holistic psychiatrist to manage my medication in tandem with cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga and other self-care practices.

RELATED:  Relax: Creating Healthy Habits for Self Care


I’m a big snacker and often need something crunchy to satisfy a craving. Instead of eating regular potato chips, which are usually fried in inflammatory, junky oil, I’ve found that I can get my chip fix with these awesome baked, organic chips from Jackson’s Honest that are cooked in coconut oil!

I also love SeaSnax Organic Roasted SeaweedMavuno Harvest Organic Dried Tropical Fruit MixEpic Chicken Sriracha BarsPaleonola Maple Pancake Grain-Free Granola and Mary’s Gone Crackers Gluten-Free Crackers.

And I am totally addicted to Simple Mills Farmhouse Cheddar crackers, which are a healthy and grain-free cross between Cheez-Its and Wheat Thins.

I buy almost all of my favorite snacks and pantry staples from Thrive Market–it’s like an online Costco for natural foods–as the prices are significantly cheaper and they carry tons of brands that can be hard to find elsewhere. I did a story about my favorite products from Thrive here. 


Lunch is always changing for me, and it’s often leftovers from whatever I had for dinner the night before. But if not leftovers, I usually make a giant salad or a big pot of soup to try to get at least 2-3 servings of fruits/veggies in. It’s important to get a wide range of colors into your diet, so that you’re maximizing your nutrient intake, so I always switch up what produce I’m using based on what’s in season.

I also usually try to eat vegetarian until dinner time, but my one exception is seafood. I love adding canned wild tuna or wild salmon to salads, or making my own with a magic green sauce, like this pesto tuna salad with white beans.

 In Her Shoes with Root + Revel's Kate Kordsmeier. See how Kate used the anti-inflammatory diet, real, whole foods and natural living to heal naturally!


Gosh, most things. If it’s not real food, I try not to eat it. Here’s a helpful guide to determining whether or not an ingredient is real food. 

So no chemicals, artificial and natural flavors and the other obvious offenders, like preservatives. I also never read calories, fat grams, etc. because they are so misleading and not an indication of whether something is healthy or not. Instead I read ingredients like a hawk!

I try to minimize the amount of gluten, dairy and sugar I consume when I’m at home, as well. So I usually buy gluten-free pastas and breads (some of my favorite brands include Jovial, Ancient Harvest and Canyon Bakehouse) and dairy-free milks.

Most store-bought almond milks are loaded with gums and preservatives, so I avoid brands like Silk and Almond Breeze. The cleanest almond milk I’ve found at the grocery store is from New Barn, and I also love Forager Project’s Cashew Milk and Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk (though there’s more additives in that last one than I’d ideally like). Or I’ll make my own.

I also like a few dairy-free cheeses, like Kite Hill and Treeline Treenut. But if I can’t find those, I’ll try to just buy whole blocks of raw, organic cheese that doesn’t contain any preservatives, thickeners or stabilizers.

RELATED:  Is Milk Bad For You? A Guide to Healthy Dairy Products

Perhaps the hardest thing to avoid is processed, hydrogenated oils, like canola, vegetable, soybean, safflower, sunflower and cottonseed. These oils are highly refined, cause inflammation and have been linked to tons of health issues, from heart disease and obesity to digestion disorders and more. But most packaged food relies on these oils, so it’s really tough to avoid. Instead, I opt for extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.

RELATED:  Savvy Swaps: The Best Healthy Cooking Oils + Fats


You can find a list of my favorite pantry staples here, but a few that I buy again and again are Red Boat Fish Sauce, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flours, Grains and Starches, Primal Kitchen Salad DressingsBionaturae Organic Tomato PasteSimply Organic Spices and ExtractsNative Forest Organic Coconut Milk, and Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.

Once again, I buy most of these from Thrive Market (remember, if you sign up for a free trial with my link, you’ll get 20% OFF Your THREE Orders, plus Free Shipping AND a 30-day free trial.

{yes, that’s really my pantry shown above}


Like a lot of the other women in this series, I generally look for whatever dishes have the most produce in them. I tend to stick to meats and veggies, rather than pastas and sandwiches, though I do admit that as part of my 80-20 rule, I also let go a bit when I go out to eat. I figure that if I eat as healthy as I can while I’m at home, then I can let go and indulge a bit when I go out to eat.

I try to limit restaurant meals to 2-3 times per week, and I tend to stick to independently-owned, chef-driven restaurants that rely on local, organic and/or sustainable sourcing practices. I also usually build a meal from small plates, appetizers and salads, rather than getting one big meat and starch entree. It’s more fun to try lots of different plates, and I find it way easier to make healthy choices this way.


Oh man, I’m a huge bookworm and usually read a couple of books every month, so my Kindle is always on my nightstand. I usually alternate between novels and nonfiction, and a few recent favorites include Sweetbitter, Fates & Furies, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and It Starts with Food (I read this before I did the Whole30 last year and it was so eye-opening!).

I recommend anyone struggling with hormonal imbalances or digestion issues also read Clean Cuisine, WomanCode, The Hormone Cure and Skin Cleanse. You can learn more about why I love these books here.

I’m also addicted to business books, personal finance, self-improvement and mindfulness books. Some recent favorites include The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, The Gifts of Imperfection, and You Are A Badass.

Also on my nightstand: a basal body temperature thermometer (I take my temperature every morning and record it in the Glow app on my phone to track my cycles), an essential oil diffuser (you might remember from the Essential Oil test drive that my favorite is the Now Solutions Ultrasonic Faux Wooden Oil Diffuser) and some natural lotion and face wipes (for those nights when I’m just too tired to wash my face).

I love Acure Organics Calming Lavender Stem Cell Body Lotion and Blum Naturals Dry and Sensitive Skin Daily Cleansing Towelettes with Chamomile.


 I don’t really have a strict routine, though I usually try to get into bed by 10 p.m. on weeknights. We used to always fall asleep watching TV, but we’ve gotten out of that habit and instead I usually just read before falling asleep.

Sometimes if we’re having trouble falling asleep, we’ll meditate. I love the Headspace app.


Potatoes. In all their glory. Give me French fries or give me death. I am powerless against the potato! And wine, of course. I usually have 1-2 glasses every night.

RELATED:  Why You Should Drink Natural, Biodynamic and Organic Wine


Epsom Salt Baths (get my recipe for the best detoxifying bath here). Once or twice I week, I take a long, luxurious bath with epsom salt, essential oils and coconut oil and it just feels so incredibly indulgent, despite the fact that it’s so good for you.

I love bringing a book or my iPad into the tub with me, and I’ll read through all my favorite blogs on Feedly and just relax. It’s my favorite ritual!


Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap. I’m like that grandma from the Frank’s commercial–I use that [email protected] on everything 😉

But seriously, I use this castile soap as shampoo, body wash, in cleaning products, as laundry detergent…whatever the need, castile soap can probably be the solution. Plus it’s safe, natural and smells amazing–lavender is my favorite!

And that’s a wrap. I hope you all enjoyed getting a sneak peek into my life. I’d love to hear about your favorite products and natural, healthy living tips so please share below!


Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust.

In this inspiring interview, Whole30 founder Melissa Hartwig shares her clean eating tips and tricks, favorite real food products and healthy living advice.

Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I've linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

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Root and Revel Collective inspires others to live healthy, fulfilled lives. Living naturally, without sacrifice! We’re taking it back to basics and infusing beauty, flavour and celebration into everyday life, helping you strike the balance between good and good for you.

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8 comments on “In Her Shoes: Olivia Johnson”

  1. Thank you for all of this great information, as well as the names of the brands you buy. It’s great to see that you are not 100% perfect on all this. I am being way too strict on myself!

  2. Kate. I’m glad that u recovered your PCOS. But this will not be easy for me. Since I’ve PCOS. Am all stressed a lot. I don’t know what to do or how to reverse this. Please guide me. As a woman u know how it feels like..

    • Thanks, Aisha, and yes – I know how you feel and I’m so sorry to hear about your stress. This entire site is a resource for people with PCOS – have you read some of the posts on this site like How I Healed PCOS Naturally?

      I recommend you read that and search the site for other topics that are of interest to you. Of course, cleaning up your diet to eat real foods and also switching to non-toxic cleaning products makeup and personal care products. Are you working with a holistic practitioner? That would be helpful to give you personalized support.

      I hope you start to notice improvement soon, Aisha, and please continue to follow along for more recommendations – every month I publish health stories and updates!

  3. It’s so fun getting to know you better by reading this. I love your beautiful new photos too!

  4. This helps me SO much. Thank you!!!!!!!!! I am struggling with PCOS and hypo as well. It took me almost four years for doctors to test me and to believe me that something was wrong. I didn’t know that Silk or Almond Breeze wasn’t the best; I’ll be buying New Barn now! Thanks again! 🙂

  5. great post and great blog! I too am a PCOS sufferer along with chronic neuro lymes which has affected many of my organs. nutrition is huge in handling my symptoms.