We can’t contain how excited we are to interview the blogging sensation the Balanced Blonde.
Jordan Younger, who formerly blogged under the name “The Blonde Vegan”, built her empire through endorsing her vegan lifestyle, becoming an overnight sensation amassing tens of thousands of followers on her Instagram page. Younger saw a chance to inspire and influence others through her knowledge and creativity within the vegan movement. She then decided to leave grad school to focus on the TBB brand full time, and further develop her website which includes The Balanced Blonde cleanse program and the “TBV Apparel” (which we love by the way – who wouldn’t love fun workout apparel with slogans such as “Yoga Junkie” or Fab’s fave “Is vodka vegan?!”)
However, as Jordan’s brand was growing, she was also developing a very complicated and obsessive disorder which was triggered by the very lifestyle that brought her such happiness and success. After learning to really listen to her body, Younger made the very brave decision to move away from the vegan diet and take a more balanced approach. We here at Health Bloggers HQ think she is awesome and such an inspiration! Read on to find out more about how her eating disorder developed, finding balance, what her workout regime looks like now and much more….
How long had you been vegan and what inspired you to make that decision?
I transitioned into a vegan lifestyle in November 2011 because after doing a 5-day plant-based cleanse I felt incredible. I had suffered from lifelong stomach problems, ADHD and migraines, and eating a clean plant-based diet cleared all of that up for a period of time. I didn’t start to see symptoms of orthorexia until nearly a year and a half later when food became my entire life in a very negative way. My restrictions continued to grow as I continued to get more involved in veganism and do more research on different types of plant-based diets. I then became carried away with raw veganism, the 80/10/10 diet and juice cleansing. I let my fears about impure foods hinder my social life, academic life and my overall wellbeing. It wasn’t good.
Did anyone close to you mention any concern before you realized that your “bubble of restriction” had become an illness?
Yes, people had expressed concern here and there, but it was a very tricky subject because veganism was my life (and my entire career!), so it was hard for my friends and family to distinguish between my eating disorder and my extreme passion for veganism. They couldn’t necessarily bring it up and insult my everyday life and what I chose to build a brand around. They told themselves that my stomach problems were partially to blame for the overboard obsession and restrictions, which is also something I told myself. But they certainly noticed that things had taken a major downward spiral in the last few months of my veganism.
Obviously, with 90,000 IG followers of @thebalancedblonde, you were bound to have some angry fans following your big news. What are the craziest things people have said to you?
Oh, absolutely. I got death threats from hardcore vegans via Facebook, email and Instagram. People still tell me that I was never actually vegan (it took them this long to realize that I was a “vegan” who ate honey, even though I was open about that on the blog since the beginning, so they were enraged about that as well), and some people have said that now they don’t even believe that I am blonde. Some people think I should discount TBV Apparel (makes no sense to me) and that I was “cashing in” on the vegan movement for attention. One woman told me, “I’m sorry reality doesn’t work for you,” and I have definitely gotten my fair share of “animal killer” comments. The craziest thing to me is how some people value the life of an animal above human health. I was having health problems, and serious psychological issues as far as the eating disorder was concerned. Eating some organic farm fresh eggs for breakfast isn’t the equivalent of supporting factory farming.
Did you get a lot of response from people struggling (or have struggled) with orthorexia or other eating disorders?
Yes, a huge response from people struggling with orthorexia and other eating disorders. It blows me away how many people are suffering, and/or know and love people who are suffering and who have found something in my story that has resonated with them. It helps to hear from people who are in similar boats, and it also breaks my heart to realize how prevalent eating disorders are in our diet-addled society. It’s not right. It’s also very taboo to talk about eating disorders, because people tend to feel ashamed.
Do you have any advice for people who may be struggling with the same illness? What would you say has been most helpful in your transition to broadening your diet?
Don’t compare yourself to others, trust your body and your intuition, and know that you are ten times stronger than you think you are. Focus on small victories. Don’t beat yourself up over a bad day. Acknowledge and accept that there will be setbacks and that recovery is not an overnight process. Allow yourself to enjoy the process of recovery by digging deep, looking inward and taking yourself through a personal self-discovery journey. The most helpful thing for me has been learning to trust myself and also to spend less time planning meals and thinking about food overall. It’s a day to day struggle, but every ounce of trying helps.
What inspired your clothing line?
Oh, fun question! I was inspired to start a line that promoted health and fitness in a cute and trendy way. I grew up in a very stylish household (my mom is the hottest woman around with the best fashion sense of all-time), and I have always found it surprising that there aren’t very many health bloggers out there who have started their own lines. The idea struck me while I was in a yoga class, so I called my friend who is a t-shirt designer and we made it happen in a matter of months. It’s been a dream come true!
Don’t compare yourself to others, trust your body and your intuition, and know that you are ten times stronger than you think you are. Focus on small victories.
You’ve mentioned that the positive support has far outweighed the extremists and nasty comments. Has any one message particularly inspired you or validated your decision?
Yes! There have been a couple messages that have actually brought me to tears. Hearing from young girls who have been in similar positions and were afraid to step out of the vegan label and/or come to terms with their eating disorder until they read the post has been by far the most rewarding aspect of sharing my story. A couple readers told me that they had to stop reading my blog a few months ago because it triggered eating disorder thoughts within them… and that scared the crap out of me! I am so happy to have been honest and shared my truth, because I am so ready to start promoting what I really believe in — listening to your body!
Juice cleanses are obviously a hugely popular trend, and you’ve mentioned that you actually became addicted to them. Do you think you’ll still do cleanses in the future? Or are they a thing of the past for you?
That’s a good question. In the first few weeks of my recovery process I decided I was going to do a weeklong cleanse that was half liquid and half solid raw vegan food. I knew I was resorting back to old habits to try to control the disorder I felt in my life through my food… but I did it anyway. I got through about 3 days of the cleanse before realizing it was doing me much more damage than it was good. I started feeling extremely deprived and knew the moment the cleanse was over I would feel compelled to stuff my face with something non-cleanse worthy! So I made the decision to stop the cleanse midway through which I was very proud of, because any time I had dedicated myself to cleansing in the past I stuck with it to the very end. If I ever do a juice cleanse again, I’d better have a good reason and also do it for just one day instead of ten! I definitely appreciate the benefits of cleansing, but I’m not sure it’s the smartest choice for my personality.
Most important, how are you feeling? What else is next for you, your brand (now The Blonde Veggie) and TBV apparel?
I am feeling so much better. Psychologically, it’s amazing to be able to let go of the intense restriction and allow myself to breathe. I am working on my memoir, Breaking Vegan, about my transition that will be out in October 2015. I am focusing on putting new content out on the blog every day, working on The Balanced Blonde App and growing TBV Apparel.