Back to Basics: My journey to real health (Part III)

Back to Basics: My journey to real health (Part III)

Be sure to read Part I and Part II first.

As I have continued on my journey I can say with a full heart that I am grateful for my body and grateful for those shifts in perspective that have brought me to this place. I am thankful for motion. I am thankful for real food. I am thankful for the good resources of the earth. You know what else I’m grateful for? My acne.

That’s right. I’m grateful for my acne.

An ad from Mademoiselle, July 1965

This is actually a difficult thing for me to write about. I have struggled with acne since I was 11 (I’m 30 now).  It was a constant source of frustration and embarrassment. I never went anywhere without makeup on. Dance became my sanctuary because the only time I felt beautiful was when I was onstage and the focus was off my complexion. You can imagine how difficult it was when I started gaining weight. The only thing going for me, it sometimes seemed, was dance, my grades, and my (awesome!) sense of humor (ba-dum-dum-ching!).*

I had tried all sorts of “stuff”: over-the counter creams, prescription drugs, online remedies, etc. In high school my mom had the dermatologist put me on birth control, which just made me crazy (stupid pills). Thankfully I avoided Accutane, but only because my older brother had such a horrible experience with it.

I remember once during my freshman year of college looking online for some sort of solution to my skin woes. I was getting desperate and it seemed my doctor couldn’t fix my acne. Maybe some sort of “miracle” treatment online would do the trick.

Then I found it: My acne “miracle” cure.

It wasn’t a drug or a cream. It was a way of life—mostly about diet with some stress topics as well. But the author promised a cure to my acne. Interesting, I thought (with a lot of skepticism).

I showed my mom and she consented to pay the $30 and we downloaded the massive book. The next morning I woke up and found my mom looking through the many printed pages. Apparently she had read through most of it before she went to bed.

“This would probably clear up your acne,” she said (with little excitement). “BUT, there’s no way anyone could live a life like this. It’s just too complex and requires too many weird things.” I don’t remember all the particulars, but I do remember hearing the phrase “cod liver oil.” That was enough for me to blurt out “gross” and move on.

…aaaand there went another $30.

Some years later, when I was beginning my journey into natural living, I came across an article with the statement “why you should be thankful for your acne.” By this point I was nearing my mid 20’s and was sick and tired of feeling like a greasy teenager. In a bitter tone I said sarcastically, “Oh yeah, I am sooo thankful for my acne.” Still desperate for solutions, I continued to read the article. The main point being this (very much paraphrased):

Be thankful for your acne. It’s your body’s way of telling you something isn’t right. Most of us are experiencing ill health due to poor nutrition and unhealthy lifestyles. Some people are “unlucky” enough to not show symptoms, riding some “genetic inheritance” that keeps their skin perfectly clear. Be thankful that your body is sending you a message to change.”

This article didn’t make me stop in my tracks, but I had started my journey… even if I wasn’t aware of it yet. Eventually, step by step, I moved closer and closer to the way our bodies were designed to connect to the world. Changes came in my movement and diet. I started giving up our toxic cleaning supplies for homemade “green” versions. My husband finally convinced me that I was beautiful without my makeup so I gave that up, too (mostly). I tried to listen to my body, move it and energize it.

I’m grateful for my acne because it told me I needed to change.

I just started to “let go” of all those things our society tells us we need. I trusted the wisdom of those who lived before our lives were cluttered with products, fads, and chemicals. (Interestingly enough, so much of the things I now put into my body reflect the wisdom and advice of that ebook I bought those 10 or so years ago. Just goes to show that sometimes we need more time before we are ready to take the necessary steps. I take my cod liver oil every day now.)

Like I said, it’s been a very gradual journey with some major acceleration these past two years. But little by little I transformed. I wish I had the pictures to prove it. I threw out most photos of me between the ages of 19 – 22 because I couldn’t stand the way I looked. Sad, huh? All I have is a handful of photos, most of them professional and touched up. Even then, you can see a difference. Or at least I can. What do you think:

My high school senior portrait: my skin has been massively touched up here.

Me and The Hub, at my sister’s wedding (straight off the camera) – Eleven years later.

Not too long ago, I was talking to my husband about this whole transformation that I wasn’t really trying to make, but that happened anyway.   The words that came out of my mouth surprised me, but got to the core of what I was feeling:  “I finally feel like the real me is out.  The me that I always felt was inside, but that nobody else could see.”

This is the power of basic health.  When we strip away all the clutter, trends, and guilt and then give ourselves time to refocus, go back to basics, and respect the wisdom of the body/nature, that is when the “real me” is able to come out. For someone who always struggled to feel beautiful, for the first time in my life I knew that I was beautiful. (I’m not planning on entering any beauty pageants or anything, but you get the point.) I also realized that there are probably lots of people out there who feel the same way I did: trapped under layers of “not me.”

I’m still on my journey. I am not perfect, and don’t plan on being perfect in this life. But I am trying to keep moving in the right direction. Little by little. There are no easy fixes or instant pills to real health. It’s a process, a challenge, and an act of courage. It’s extremely personal with no “one size fits all” approach. It requires us to be “okay” with being weird. It requires us to slow down and reconnect. But it’s a worthwhile journey full of balance, energy, and joy.

What do you think? I’d love to hear about your journey.

*For the record, despite my body image issues, I really had a happy teenage and young adult life. I was very lucky to be surrounded by people who never made me feel ugly. I was blessed with many friends and opportunities despite bad skin. (And I had plenty of ego to make up for my lack of idealized “beauty.” Ha!)


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As always, the standard disclosures apply.

About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie


  1. Heather

    Robin, you are AWESOME!!!!! and you’ve ALWAYS have been beautiful to me. And if you want some pictures from 18-20 years old, I still have plenty! :)
    I feel like I’m on a similar journey as you. Ever since I turned 21 I’ve gained weight and since 25 have struggled with acne. I’ve slowly been making changes like you have. I’m still struggling to make those changes right now. I wish I had adopted these changes earlier in life because it’s a real challenge with 2 kids and another on the way! But I WILL DO IT!!!
    Love you so much, thanks for always being an inspiration to me!!!!!

    1. Post author

      Thanks, Heather. You are definitely one of those people who made that whole “awkward” phase of my life amazing. You continue to be an inspiration to me.

  2. summerharms

    Robin! Thank you so much for sharing your story!!! (i found you via Kendahl, from our nourishing roots. she shared your post on twitter. so thankful!)
    I couldn’t wait to sit down and read all 3 parts once my baby started her nap. SO good! I feel like I just want to spill my entire story to you now. :) I can relate to so much of what you said. I am about 6 months in to a realllly radical change in my diet, but it’s been a gradual eye-opening experience over the past 3 years. Sadly, I am still battling those pesky dry hands (which sounds like a lame symptom, but I am sure you totally get how awful they are.) and a bit of acne. Anyway, I feel encouraged by your story and can’t think of giving up at all. Thanks again!

    1. Post author

      Thanks for stopping by, Summer. It’s always encouraging to hear about the many people trying to make positive changes. It’s one of the things I love about the “blogging community.”

      (and by the way, your blog is beautiful!)

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  4. Crystal Nilsson

    Robin–You’re amazing! I love the work you are doing–both for yourself and for this blog and for everyone who reads it! Any chance you could post recommended readings or sources? Much love and respect to you friend!

  5. Shelley

    Robin! I love that you are on this journey for real health and am sure I have so much to learn from you. I feel like I started a similar journey about 2 years ago before I got pregnant and am continuing to try to improve they way we eat now that my husband is on board with it too. He makes fun of me for being a “hippie” but I love knowing that I’m providing superior health to myself and my family.

    1. Robin

      Thanks, Shelley! I’ve actually read your blog and found myself so aligned with your ideas on pregnancy and birth. You are pretty much amazing.

  6. aliza

    Why don’t we live closer! We too have been making changes at our house and I love it. love the new look on your blog

    1. Post author

      Seriously, Liza. I so wish we lived closer. Thanks for stopping by. Maybe we can meet up soon in “real life.” :)

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  10. Jonathan

    Thanks for the inspiring article and for sharing your journey. I’ve struggle with my skin for the past 4 years now. And I too have been working to live a healthier, more natural life. Your article really helped me put my experiences into perspective and opened up another door for gratitude in my life.


  11. Rebecca

    This was a fun read for me, thank you, all 3 parts of it :)

    My mom was pregnant with me when she was diagnosed with Leukemia in her 1st trimester. In the 70s they did a lot of not so good things for the fetus, trying to help my mom… she was able to deliver me (a bit early and with a ripped and scarred placenta) but she passed away when I was a baby.

    In steps my new stepmom when I was 3 years old. I recall being so excited to have a new mom. She taught me about natural health and eating healthy and made meals from scratch, from real food vs. processed junk. We had dessert and sweets and soda pop only on special occasions.

    I now am addicted to natural health, and DIY beauty products. I admit that in my college years and throughout most of my 20s I reverted to the SAD (standard american diet) and used a lot of commercial products. But I got back on track when my body started telling me it wasn’t feeling right.

    I am 37 years old, drink raw milk, make my own kefir that I drink daily, ozonate my water and eat coconut oil daily. I garden and grow my own produce, have a dozen fruit trees, and get grassfed beef and pastured eggs, and feel healthier than I have ever felt before. I use french green clay on my face and coconut oil, and ozonated olive oil… my skin looks so young and fresh, no wrinkles or blemishes. (I just point this out because nobody believes I am 37, and that living healthily makes you look and feel younger).

    But my stepmom, at the tender age of 62, has been diagnosed with dementia. (Fronto temporal dementia). And it is devastating to see that wonderful woman declining like she is. Worse even, to see my dad (my mom has no clue what is going on, she is “happy” and giggles all the time).

    We were so lucky to be able to move to Utah (my hubby and I both work from home and came from Minneapolis) to be able to help my dad out.

    But it is devastating. I owe a lot of my knowledge to that one amazing lady.

    1. robin

      Hi Rebecca,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom and step mom. It’s a good reminder that ultimately our health is not in our own hands. Like you, I just noticed how much better I feel when I am living a more natural lifestyle. This doesn’t guarantee that I’ll live forever, but while I’m alive I feel so much better.

      Best wishes to your family. I can only imagine how hard it is to watch your step mom in her current condition. Blessings to her for giving you such a rich knowledge.

  12. Jamie

    I totally loved reading this, Robin. Thanks for sharing your journey! I started about a year and a half ago with an “aha” moment after a nutrition class to get rid of anything processed and unnatural. I love making things myself anyway, whether it be food or any other household products. I like the combination of being healthy and self-reliant.

    I’ve been slacking the past several months, though, being pregnant with #5 and finding out that my 4-year old daughter has a tumor on her optic nerve. We spend one day a week doing chemotherapy and will continue for over a year. It’s taken awhile to feel like I have things under control enough (and have enough energy) to get back on the ball and be better with all my diy projects and good eating habits.

    I have been watching your posts for months thinking, I really want to read that. . . I will come back to it. Well, I am finally coming back to it and excited to start some new baby steps. I have learned a lot from you already and am prepared to become even more “weird” to my family and friends. :)

    So, thanks for inspiring me to get it together and try out new things! You are awesome!

    1. Post author

      You are so kind, Jamie. Thanks for your sweet words.

      Congrats on baby #5! You are the inspiring one! I can only imagine how stressful it has been having to help your 4-year old daughter. So rough. So sorry you guys have to go through that. I hope everything is okay. Sending lots of positive vibes, good thoughts, and prayers to your family.

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  14. Kelsey

    I have so enjoyed perusing your site and hearing about your journey to health. I LOVE the way you communicate all these truths as well. You have a wonderful way of communicating simply some out-of-the-box thinking, yet with a healthy dose of wit 😉

    I am 23 and on a type of health journey myself. Women like you encourage me to stay strong and diligent for the years to come. Thank you for sharing your life and the wisdom you are finding. I’ll be following your blogs in the future!

    Peace and Blessings,

    1. Post author

      Thank you Kelsey. I really appreciate your kind words. It’s been so helpful having such a supportive online “gang” to keep me going strong. Best wishes in your own journey. :)

  15. Natalie

    Thanks so much for this great website. I am on my own similar journey. It’s great to find another resource to help me :)

  16. Post author

    Oh, thank you! I appreciate your kinds words. So glad you stopped by. Good luck on your own journey. It’s wonderful to look back and see progress!

  17. ShayLynn

    I just stumbled upon this site but so enjoyed reading your journey! I have wanted to get rid of the processed foods but feel so overwhelmed with how to do it. I wouldn’t say we eat unhealthy but we certainly don’t eat a lot of what you do. What would you recommend for me to read to help start?

  18. Jessica

    I just found your website recently and this post, linked from the one about homemade foundation where you said you have gotten to the point where you don’t wear makeup and asked if anyone understands how huge this is. I understand! I’m still not there and it’s about the biggest dream I have for myself. I got acne at 11 and I’m now 39! I took three full courses of Accutane. It’s pretty amazing. Sadly I have yet to figure it out. I am mostly paleo these days (intolerant of gluten, dairy, potatoes and refined sugars) but haven’t noticed a remarkable shift which surprised me. I still dream of some day having skin clear enough that I can not wear makeup. Someday. Thank you for the post and the inspiration. I do know how huge it is. Good for you!

    1. Post author

      Aw, thanks Jessica. I appreciate your kind words. You’ll get there. Skin can be so tricky because it really does manifest things that are happening on the inside… and there’s so much complexity to what’s going on inside. Good luck!

  19. Jill

    Thanks for sharing your story! I feel that over the years I’ve definitely begun a similar journey, but I’m not quite where I’d like to be with it. There’s always obstacles and challenges, and I’m working with them, because I’ve learned that’s all part of the process. I’ve lately taken some steps to help me work on where I want to be namely in practicing yoga regularly (this is helping me work on patience with myself and accepting what is) and I recently started teaching a fitness class called Bellyfit. Bellyfit is a dance-based fitness class, but it’s really more than that. It focuses on the beauty of women, and what we’re capable of. (anyway, if you’re interested in more about that: It’s my new favorite thing to teach, and I teach a lot of different fitness classes! (Zumba, Group Power, Group Step, muscle sculpting…..)

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for both sharing your story, and all the wonderful things you post on your site I really enjoy it!

  20. Meagan Claire

    This is super, Robin. I’ve had a very similar journey, and I’m still working on it ( now 29). I had bad acne in my teens and was put on BC for twelve years (furious). My brother did accutane, but I never did because I knew I’d be having kids any year now (still waiting). It wasn’t until I was 19 that my mom, brother, many other family members and I were all diagnosed with Celiac Disease. My mom has always been kind of a modern hippy (cloth diapers in the 80s), and we should have realized on Diagnosis Day that you are what you eat, but we didn’t. My parents started farming five years ago and our collective interest in natural living has exploded. I recently came across OCM and am trying to get the proper ratios for me. I’ve eaten GF for years now, but I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I can’t replace wheat with chocolate. Eating healthy is hard for picky taste buds, but 30 year old acne isn’t pretty on anyone. My Auntie used to tell me, “God gave the Camp girls acne to keep them humble.” It certainly shaped my life, and still does.

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  23. Regina

    Robin, I came across your site via facebook. While I live on a farm, raise our own veggies, cows, goats, chickens, and milk cows, my husband and I have only recently started trying to get rid of toxins. At 54, I have given up both make-up and coloring my hair. I live so far away from my family that I only go “home” to see them once a year. Last year, my dad paid me $100 to cut and color my hair. LOL, I cut but didn’t color. I am now trying to get rid of other toxins by making our cleaners.

    My biggest problem is sugar! I’m working on it but haven’t given it up completely. Your story has encouraged me to try harder. Thank you for sharing your story. Your exercises look like something that I want to try. They might help both my husband and me ease into “middle age” with less pain!

    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Thanks for your kind words, Regina. Just remember: Any progress is progress. Slow and steady wins the race. :)

  24. preeti

    Hie Robin,
    I stumbled upon your blog while checking something about mascara and i read other posts too.I must say you are doing a remarkable job.
    I just love your blog..
    It is really inspiring.Im 23 years old and i was suffering from acne and open pores all over my face since i was 13years..I have faced similar problems like you did i never felt beautiful because of the pimples n open pores..I have a lot of open pores all over my face..After taking treatments the acne has reduced considerably but the pores are still there,I have no idea as to what to do..I hope trying your method of eating healthy n listening to the body would bring some difference.
    Keep up the inspiring work. :)

    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Thanks for stopping by! Good luck. I know how frustrating it can be.

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  26. Jenn

    Hi Robin – thanks for this article. I still struggle with acne at the age of 26. I eat, what I feel, is a very healthy diet (plant-based/vegan.. with an emphasis on plant-based), but still struggle with my skin. It’s cleared up significantly since I switched out of processed foods, but I still can’t get a total grip on it and hate the constant disappointment with the newest breakout. I know that your lifestyle is the lifestyle for me (even if my friends think I’m nuts) but my main struggle is time. How do you find the time, or how did you find the time, to start this journey and stick with it? I won’t lie, I’m one of those jump from fad to fad types of people, always seeking instant gratification from my newest plunge into a healthy lifestyle. I also have an incredibly busy life that makes eating healthy and being healthy difficult.

    Any advice? I sure could use it.

    Thanks for this website!

    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      It’s so easy to fall for the instant gratification promises, isn’t it? :)

      For me keeping an 80/20 rule (throughout the week) helps me stick with things. I also find that eating real quality and traditional fats helps keep cravings at bay, fills me up, and provides wonderful things for my skin. Plants are awesome and do a great job cleansing the body, but be sure to include quality fats and proteins to nourish the skin, organs, and repair cells. Good luck!

  27. Kate

    Thanks for sharing your journey. I’m always curious to know how other people “woke up” (as I like to call it).

    I’ve suffered with acne ever since I was 12 (I’m now 31), and more than that, when I was about 18 I also started to suffer from excessive sweating. After searching in vain for ways (products!) to “cure” the sweating and acne, I resigned myself to a lifetime of sweaty, pimply discomfort…At least I could kind of hide the sweaty armpits by wearing black tops, but the acne was a different matter.

    Then my second son was born. He was a “difficult” baby (that’s what one nurse called him). He was constantly colicky, awoke and fussed constantly through the night. Then he broke out in eczema, which just made him more uncomfortable and miserable. At times I felt I was going insane from sleep deprivation, but I was determined to help my son heal. I took him from doctor to doctor and none could seem to offer any help whatsoever. Finally, I drove him over three hours to see an old man who is a trained kinesiologist/naturopath and homeopath.

    Within a few minutes, he told me that my son had candida overgrowth in the gut. He taught me many things about food, and when I went home I began to research for myself. I began to make massive changes to our diet, our cleaning products, our bodycare products, my beautiful little boy began to blossom. His eczema disappeared. He began to sleep through the night. My older son, who was often hyperactive and couldn’t concentrate, began to excel in school. My husband’s hayfever went away. After a few months, I realised with great astonishment, that I was no longer sweating like a polecat!! You can imagine how pleased I was by this..

    Although my skin improved a lot, the acne has never completely gone away. I’ve now just cut out gluten from my diet as well, too see if this is affecting my skin. I’m forever grateful for that difficult experience with a “difficult” baby. Thanks for the reminder to be grateful for the sweaty armpits and the acne – my body was talking to me for years (in symptoms), and instead of listening, I berated it for doing such embarrassing things…

    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      It’s hard when your body is doing things you don’t want. I berated mine for so long. But ultimately, our bodies are really wise in trying to give us as much information as possible to help them be healthy. :)

  28. Aud

    I still also have acne and can tell when my monthly cycle is or when I’ve had too much dairy. It’s a frustrating thing to not know exactly what triggers my acne to flare up and some days I just pile on the makeup to make myself normal looking.

    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      I totally get your frustration. You know what helped my acne the most? Letting go of makeup…. which I know seems like the LAST thing you want to do when your face is having issues. But if you ever have a week or a few days where you can just get away, stop using the makeup. It usually does more harm than good. Besides, I LOVE the way my face feels and looks now… even with all its imperfections.

  29. Allie


    This is the first time I’ve stumbled across this blog. What brought me here was a post about getting rid of PMS. I’ve been looking through your articles for almost an hour now, and I’m BLOWN AWAY. I want to start living this kind of lifestyle. To say the least though, I’m OVERWHELMED. Where do I start?!


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Start simple. What seems the most doable? For me it was slowly upgrading my food. Start adding in more fresh produce to your diet and slowly start taking away anything that comes in wrappers with lots of ingredients. Simplify. I really think baby steps is the best way to stay consistent and make real changes. Good luck! So excited for you!

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