The Story Behind Root + Revel and How I Healed My Body With Food
Welcome to Root + Revel, a digital platform dedicated to living naturally without sacrifice. I’m Kate Kordsmeier, the founder of R+R, and I thought it apropos to kick things off here by telling you about myself, my health issues and the long journey that inspired me to create this site. You can read the About page for a simplified version, including R+R’s mantra, but the even shorter version goes like this: I healed my body with food! Here’s the full story:
My Love Affair with Food
I feel like it’s important to start at the beginning. Before you click away thinking I’m some dirty hippie who doesn’t wear deodorant or some health nut who only eats kale, let me be clear: first and foremost, I am a food lover. I was lucky enough to have parents who refused to let me be a picky eater, who introduced me to new foods and flavors every day and a mother who cooked dinner for our family almost every night. My mom taught me that cooking is caring, that food brings people together, that a delicious meal can turn any bad day around and that the best memories are made around the table.
Though I didn’t often cook with my mom while I was growing up, I must have learned from her through osmosis. When I went off to college, my own personal journey in the kitchen began. Just like my mama said, some of my fondest memories are of my college roommates and I taking turns cooking dinner for our group, trying out new recipes and sitting around our hand-me-down kitchen table eating and laughing.
By the time I graduated, I was completely obsessed with food. I can remember waking up on Saturday mornings eager to try out the latest Ina Garten recipe (I credit her for teaching me most of what I know about cooking). I can still taste my first bite of truly chef-driven cuisine (thank you, Kent Rathbun…your lobster shooters were life changing). I spent all my time studying cookbooks and eating at as many independent restaurants as I could afford.
Getting Paid to Eat
Eventually, I decided to make a career out of my love for food and became a professional food writer. I spent the next five years eating my way around the world, exploring cultures through their cuisines and trying intoxicating foreign ingredients whose memory always lingered long after the last bite. Foie gras in Bordeaux. Otoro tuna in Japan. Truffle tagliatelle in Tuscany. Fish sauce and Issan sausage in Thailand. Smoked eggplant and lamb in Istanbul. Live scallops plucked directly from Australian waters. Grilled pork and noodles on the streets of Vietnam.
Now I know what you’re thinking: I must weigh 300 pounds. But the truth is, for most of my life, I’ve looked pretty healthy from the outside. I’ve always been fairly slim, exercised a few days a week, ate light when I wasn’t eating for work, and learned the very valuable skill of tasting, rather than gorging, early on in my career. And I generally focused my eating on real, whole foods, rather than processed, packaged junk. For all intents and purposes, I was healthy. Or so I thought. Everything started to change about two years ago.
Knocked Off Kilter
It started with digestive issues—namely, embarrassing conditions like constipation and unexplained nausea and vomiting. I was referred to a gastroenterologist, who recommended I have a colonoscopy… at 27 years old, no less. After the procedure, she diagnosed me with IBS-C and put me on a slew of extreme prescription medications, none of which solved my digestive woes and all of which came with less than desirable side effects.
In an attempt to get to the root of my issues and solve the problem naturally, I decided to go cold turkey on prescription medication, including going off birth control after more than a decade on the pill.
What followed was unexpected, to say the least. In the first six weeks of going off the pill, I gained 12 pounds. My face broke out and became littered with red, bumpy acne and my period only came every other month. I didn’t know what was happening to me, but I knew my body was telling me something was wrong.
I made an appointment with my gynecologist, who dismissed my concerns and chalked all of my health issues up to aging, ensuring me that, “Every year, you just need to eat less and exercise more.” She ignored me when I told her about my family’s history with thyroid issues and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and how closely my symptoms mirrored those conditions. She even suggested I just go back on the pill until I was ready to have kids, which not only wouldn’t solve my digestive issues, but would merely mask my other symptoms, rather than solving the problem. Infuriating.
I went home and began reading about holistic and integrative medicine, and found an amazing holistic doctor with her own practice that just so happened to be walking distance from my house. I quickly made an appointment, and just like that, all the pieces of my puzzle began to fall into place.
My Life-Changing Diagnosis: PCOS, Leaky Gut and Hypothyroidism
I spent two hours talking with my new doctor. Finally, someone was really listening and trying to help me. We talked about how conventional Western medicine is heavily prescription-based and primarily focused on treating people’s symptoms with medication, rather than finding and healing the root cause of those symptoms. That resonated with me.
She ran a slew of tests and blood labs and then, a few weeks later, came the verdict: my hormones were completely out of whack. Well, this explained my irregular periods, but what about everything else? After all, hormones are just women troubles and what makes us PMS, right?
Wrong! Oh so wrong. As I was beginning to learn, hormones affect every single human (yes, men have hormones too!) and every single function our bodies perform every day. Hormones help us regulate our blood sugar levels and energy, they control our moods and our metabolisms, and they help our bodies digest and detox. And my hormones were in such distress that nearly all of these functions weren’t happening the way they were supposed to.
To put this in concrete terms, I was diagnosed with Leaky Gut Syndrome and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which also caused insulin resistance and subclinical hypothyroidism.
How I Healed My Body With Food and Natural Lifestyle Changes
A journalist through and through, I began furiously reading and studying everything I could get my hands on about these conditions and how our hormones and our bodies really work. I was shocked to learn how much diet and nutrition not only play a role, but could actually help get my body back in balance.
It sounded so simple… too simple. How could I have downplayed how much food impacts our bodies for so long? Of course, we all know that what we eat affects us, but I’ve always mistakenly thought of that effect as being weight-specific—as in, eat healthy and you’ll be skinny; eat poorly and you’ll be fat. It never occurred to me that eating certain foods could actually help me balance my hormones, and in turn, give me more energy, clear up my acne, return my regular cycles, regulate my bowels and, yes, lose that mysterious weight.
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.
With just some good-for-you foods and natural remedies I started to feel like myself again. Or rather, an even better version of myself.
The 80-20 Lifestyle
I’ll admit, when I first learned my body was such a mess, I panicked. Not only am I a food writer whose job it is to report on the most delicious foods (which, let’s face it, are often deep-fried and smothered in cheese, or full of saturated fat and sugar), but I’m a food lover who believes strongly that life is not worth living without fried chicken, French fries and champagne (that may be my “death row meal”, actually).
Turns out, there was no need for panic. This journey has taught me that balance is the key to health and happiness. 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). In food terms, this means that if you eat three meals a day, seven days a week, then four of your meals can be freebies! Or another way of looking at it is to eat healthy during the week and indulge, without guilt, on the weekends.
Getting rid of the guilt is key! Perfection isn’t healthy, and it’s boring. Who needs it? Instead, what we need is pounds and pounds of fruits and vegetables. For a society that eats as much as we do, we are incredibly malnourished and nutrient deprived. In fact, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that eating well isn’t about cutting out all of life’s pleasures. It’s not about sacrifice or going without, and it’s certainly not about counting calories.
No, eating well isn’t about taking away; rather, it’s about adding good in. It’s about giving your body the nourishment it needs so that you can tackle the day, feel good and bounce back when that burger comes a-calling.
Yes, I’m addicted to green smoothies and try to eat a mostly plant-based diet, but I also treat myself to burgers and pizza and one-too-many glasses of red wine every now and then. And that’s exactly what Root + Revel is all about: striking the balance between good and good for you.
While food is a huge part of the Root + Revel lifestyle, I don’t stop there. In the past few years, I’ve found that nourished living extends to many parts of life, from embracing natural skincare products and DIY beauty recipes to traveling to and learning from cultures around the world and creating a safe, welcoming home, full of music, books and charm, sans toxic chemicals and harmful products.
So take a look around, settle in and enjoy. You’ll find that everything looks and tastes as good as it will make you feel. Cheers!
Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser
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