A blogger and author of a new memoir is speaking out on the harm caused to her body by her formerly vegan diet.
Jordan Younger is the 25-year-old behind The Balanced Blonde, her popular blog on which she used to extoll the benefits of veganism. Younger decided to became a vegan in her senior year of college after having experienced “lifelong indigestion issues,” she wrote in a post on Refinery 29.
A month after she graduated, based on an Instagram account of the same name she had built up to 70,000 followers, Younger started The Blonde Vegan — the original name of her blog — to share her experiences with, as well as tips and recipes for, a plant-based diet.
At first, the dietary switch helped her bloating and abdominal discomfort. “Veganism gave me a feeling of physical wellness and complete control,” she said. “But, it had triggered an even deeper issue — one I didn’t even know existed.”
Veganism eventually became an “obsession” that took up her “every waking hour,” she told the New York Post. “It was stopping me from leading a normal life full of social activities and other interests.”
Even after moving to New York City to pursue an M.F.A. in creative writing, her diet still took up the majority of her time. Offered free cleanses by juice bars in exchange for reviews, Younger consumed nothing but juice for three days or more every week.
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She soon found, however, that after eating solid, plant-based foods after cleansing, her stomach issues would return. “I started avoiding solid food more and more, until I had so much eating anxiety that I was an absolute wreck to be around.” she writes.
Younger suffered from so much anxiety over what to eat for meals that she couldn’t sleep. Her diet left her feeling tired for an entire day after just one yoga class, caused her hair to fall out, her skin to become a “mess,” and her face to look “gaunter than gaunt.”
At 5’4”, the then-23-year-old weighed only 105 pounds, having lost 25 pounds over the course of the diet. “I looked and felt like a shadow of my former self.” she said.
At the same time, a year after she started the diet, Younger stopped menstruating, a condition known medically as amenorrhea. “At first I told myself it had nothing to do with the way that I ate, but as the months wore on and nothing came, I started to worry,” she said
It wasn’t until six months later, during which time she had no periods, when she had a conversation with a friend who shared the disorder that she discovered she had orthorexia, which the National Eating Disorders Associations defines as a “righteous fixation on healthy eating.”
“My issue didn’t fall into the traditional categories of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating,” Younger said. “Mine was an obsession with healthy, pure, clean foods from the earth, and a fear of anything that might potentially cause my body harm.”
The friend advised her to introduce wild salmon into her diet, and after a week of the fish, her period returned.
“It showed me how my body was dying to get back on track,” she told the Post.
Shortly after, Younger announced that she was “transitioning away from veganism” in a blog post. “I have changed, and I ask for your support and acceptance, which I can most assuredly tell you I will give to all of you.” she wrote.
Two minutes after her post, however, her site crashed and 1,000 followers left her. She also received death threats from hardline vegans who said that she was promoting the killing of animals.
“It was shocking,” Younger told the Post. “It made me realize how elitist some of the people within that [vegan] world could be.”
Sixteen months later, Younger’s blog posts still garner around 350,000 views and her Instagram follower count has ballooned to over 122,000.
She is also promoting a new memoir
on her experience, “Breaking Vegan: One Woman’s Journey from Veganism, Extreme Dieting, and Orthorexia to a More Balanced Life,” released earlier this week.
“I’m no longer the aunt who paces the party table, agonizing over whether to take a slice of her niece’s birthday cake,” Younger said. “Now I’m all about balance.”