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What happened when The Blonde Vegan wasn’t vegan anymore

(Photo: Tynan Daniels)

(Photo: Tynan James)

On a recent night in her New York City apartment, Jordan Younger found herself frantically calling her web designer and buying up new domain names. The 23-year-old food blogger was in a state. She’d just received anonymous threats saying that someone would kill her if she refused to change her current blog name, The Blonde Vegan.

“I had been warned by a friend that that might happen,” she says. “I was prepared but still shocked.”

The threats were in response to the fact that Younger had recently revealed in a June 23 blog post that she was no longer vegan. After ultimately admitting that she had orthorexia, a total obsession with eating healthy that’s categorized as an eating disorder, she made the personal decision to transition away from the lifestyle.

But her public profile, which hinged on her vegan identity, meant that the transition would be a tumultuous one, played out in the vicious land of Internet commenting, infused with complicated vegan politics and her fans’—and critics’—ideas about what she should eat to get healthy.

(Photo: Tynan James)

(Photo: Tynan James)

When diets go wrong

Younger originally declared herself vegan after trying a plant-based cleanse in December 2012 to combat chronic bloating, nausea, and stomach pains, which immediately went away. Inspired by how great she felt, she started an Instagram account under the name The Blonde Vegan to document her recipes and lifestyle—now with over 70,000 followers—and its success prompted her to start a blog of the same name in June 2013. But her perfect-photo Internet success hid a darker personal truth.

“From day one of the plant-based cleanse, I started my obsession with health,” she admits. “I was fixated with juice cleansing. I started getting free juice cleanses from companies wanting me to review them. It was a gateway to thinking it was okay to do all these cleanses all the time. Until April, I was on a juice cleanse more often than not.”

Of course, eating vegan does not equal constant cleansing, and it’s more than possible to live as a balanced, strong, meat-free eater (see Rich Roll). But for Younger, the diet’s limitations and the public eye created a pressure that began to crush her. When she did decide to eat, she recalls standing in front of the fridge for 20 minutes deciding what was “okay.” When she made recipes for the blog, she says she would give all the food away immediately after, or eat it all just so she didn’t have to be in the presence of food.

“Going into any restaurant would fill me with complete panic,” she remembers. “If it was a vegan restaurant, I felt compelled to order something that wasn’t just a kale salad with nothing on it because we went there for me. I would always end up ordering the kale salad and saying I wasn’t hungry. At a non-vegan restaurant, nothing was comfortable. I’d eat plain lettuce or something before or after dinner.”

Younger says the fear came from being scared her stomach problems would return, in addition to gaining weight. The breaking point came in mid-June, when she had dinner with a friend who was in recovery from orthorexia and it became clear to her that she had the same eating disorder.

(Photo: Tynan James)

(Photo: Tynan James)

Making a change

The next day, Younger decided to eat salmon for lunch, and her period, which had stopped for several months, returned two days later. She soon incorporated eggs, and says she instantly had more energy, stopped getting as sore from her workouts, and experienced fewer stomach pains. It was her personal decision to not first try adopting a healthier approach to veganism.

But she was “filled with so much anxiety and fear about telling my followers,” Younger says. “I promote honesty on the blog all the time. I felt like a total liar. Since my blog has to do with my lifestyle and not just food, it was important to be honest.” When she “came out” to her followers, she received an outpouring of support from people who commended her for her transparency and who had gone through similar experiences. But then there were the naysayers.

“Certain leaders in the raw vegan community turned their back on me so violently,” Younger says. “People I know personally, who I have collaborated with. One blogger began lashing out and leading an army, commenting hateful things in the middle of the night. Some vegans have this cult-like mentality—it turned me off of the lifestyle.”

Surprisingly, though, it didn’t turn her off to a life of constantly sharing food choices. She just left New York and plans on settling in Los Angeles to work on a recipe and lifestyle app, studying to become a health coach, writing a book, and continuing her blog and t-shirt line. Her new blog name is still up in the air, although she changed her Instagram name to The Blonde Veggie.

“From now on, I’m not going to impose any restrictions,” Younger says. “I’m going to Italy in a couple of weeks. A month ago, I thought, ‘Next time I go to Italy it will be sad.’ Now I’m thinking I will try a gelato. And maybe a little pizza and pasta. I’ve come a long way.” —Jamie McKillop

For more information, visit www.theblondevegan.com and for help fighting an eating disorder, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.com

 

 

41 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. July 9th, 2014 at 10:39 am

    I commend her!!! To be young and start a healthy lifestyle is hard enough. To realize you have an eating disorder and do something about it takes guts. I’ve been eating healthy since I can remember (I’m a little older than her:)) and I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in the spot light and judged in this manner. She is far ahead of the curve. Those that are in the vegan community and lashing out are missing the point.

  2. July 9th, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Maybe people are upset because articles like this imply that eating animal products is what made her feel better–not the fact that she was restricting her food intake across the board and then started taking in more calories.

    Eating only kale salad and not eating the food you cook is anorexia in addition to orthorexia.

  3. July 9th, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Wanted to add — good for her for being willing to change her diet to something that is working for her. I’m sorry for the criticism she is getting (it is not OK to attack anyone for their food and health choices). My comment was to suggest a possible reason why her story might upset vegans.

  4. July 9th, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Is this satire? please tell me this is satire.

    “orthorexia, a total obsession with eating healthy that’s categorized as an eating disorder”

    REALLY??? what kind of first world upper west side cockamamy bull$hit is this? is there a word for an unhealthy obsession with needing a unhealthy obsession to obsess over?

  5. July 9th, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I think that the title of this article is grabbing yet slightly misleading. However, I feel for this blogger, and I understand that food obsession is real and can lead to unhealthy choices. But food obsession afflicts omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike. I was obsessed with food for most of my late teens and early twenties, and went through bouts of bulimia during that time as well. The obsession had nothing to do with my consumption of meat or eventual lack thereof. On another note, I also can’t image what kind of vegan would threaten someone’s life – killing another being is diametrically opposed to the precepts of a vegan lifestyle.

  6. July 9th, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    The body doesn’t lie. I think she is brave to come out, come what may from the Internet community. It is scary to go against what one formerly embraced, especially with harsh backlash. Being true to ourselves and our bodies requires listening and appreciation for what is. By her coming out, she gives permission to those afraid to go against other people’s opinions about what is healthy. I can’t wait to hear more of her insights and reflections on her journey!

  7. July 9th, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    In response to Jay, as a physician I would point out that although this sounds like a joke, it is not. It is similar to obsessive compulsive disorder, and is probably a self-treatment for underlying anxiety. Unhappiness is unhappiness, whether you are living in a third world country or on the upper west side of NYC. As a long practicing Buddhist, I would suggest that compassion for all living beings (including upper west siders) goes a long way towards helping overcome unhappiness.

  8. July 9th, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Good for BV for coming clean. My sympathies to her. But it’s time to come clean on another topic: you can not be that thin, workout, and be vegan unless you are ok being hungry and malnourished. Vegetables are incomplete proteins. You have to consumer large quantities of grains, legumes, tofu (thyroid issues!) and nuts to get enough protein. Do the math on calorie requirements and RDA of protein to maintain a weight of 115lbs. Glad she’s moving toward being a vegetarian and not a vegan. Much better for your health if you want to be that thin.

  9. July 9th, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    I think it is sad that some folks feel justified to openly threaten and judge her for her choices. She is not affecting anyone but herself, it just happens that she blogs about her choices and folks started reading about it. Eating disorders can happen in numerous ways. I am a vegan for health reasons, the ethical ones just being a bonus. I think her being open and honest about her choices / decisions is brave of her and hope she seeks a little counseling to better be able to understand herself. Good luck :)

  10. July 9th, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I wish that people would stop conflating veganism to restrictive dieting. Veganism is a lifestyle choice that includes not only healthy food but also ethical choices and compassion for animals and our environment. As a lifelong healthy vegetarian of 23 years and a vegan for 8 of those, it saddens me when “bloggers” decide to adopt a vegan identity – i.e. labels such as the “Blonde Vegan” – after eating this way as a fad diet, and then they later blame veganism for potentially pre-existing orthorexic tendencies. This only perpetuates the stereotype that vegans are a bunch of crazy, restrictive dieters when in actuality the vegans I know are balanced and tolerant people who yes, eat kale, but also cake and chocolate. My issue with this article, and Blonde Vegan’s entire series of blog posts justifying her “coming out,” is that first, she is unintentionally vilifying the vegan community at large (by using sensationalist statements such as “they sent me death threats”) and second, dissuading a lot of followers from continuing their efforts at a compassionate lifestyle. We don’t need more hate and lies in this world, and it seems to me that she is not entirely the victim in this situation as she has also contributed to the incendiary debate through her constant series of posts related to the topic.
    If you want to eat meat, that’s fine, it’s your body and your choice, but do not try to justify to yourself that you are eating “free range” and thus remaining compassionate, or that adding animal products is the only way to become healthy again. If she had truly believed in veganism, rather than using a clickbait name to generate more followers and jumping on the trend of eating plant-based to get more likes, she would have sought other ways than simply reintroducing meat and dairy to combat her orthorexia.
    I hope that this article does not convince others to throw the towel in on their efforts to incorporate more plant-based elements to their diet. For balanced, heartfelt, healthy bloggers, you should look at people such as Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Kathy Patalsky, Angela Liddon, Mary Mattern, Elenore Bendel Zahn, or Terry Hope Romero. These are the true role models. Because honestly, who would want advice from this girl?

  11. July 9th, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    This article is very real. I’ve struggled with the exact same issues, it is anorexia and orthorexia. I went on a health journey, discovered veganism, lost more and more weight, and become obsessed with everything. I remember convincing my family to take me to Greens in San Francisco for brunch, but all I had the guts to order was a cup of tea and fruit plate. When I stopped being vegan it was extremely relieving, but also very difficult. I thought I would be vegan forever and I knew others would judge me for my decisions. I’m sure it is way more difficult when you have thousands of followers. I’m proud of you Jordan for speaking your truth. Just realize that even though you are no longer vegan, the struggles do not go away. Even though you may think it’s easy to do on your own I HIGHLY recommend getting treatment. Sending love and hugs your way (and to anyone else who has struggled with the awful battle of an eating disorder). <3

  12. July 9th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Three words: First World problem.

  13. July 9th, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I have read through the comments and I agree with so much that has been said regarding the vegan lifestyle. It is simply unbelievable to think that vegans would threaten anyone as the lifestyle is based on compassion and non violence. This person co-opted the word vegan and became a fake 15 minutes of fame celebrity living a terrible and sad life. She clearly has an eating disorder – vegan or not. No one could survive eating just kale. And to think that she gave away the food she cooked for her blog. What a joke. And now she is going to write a book? What about all of the healthy happy long time compassionate vegans who are real honest and down to earth. They would be much more interesting to hear from. Plus this is not the first time well and good has written a sensational piece about an ex vegan. You need some balanced reporting here.

  14. July 9th, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    I give her alot of credit for telling her story. I wonder how many people are suffering eating disorders under the umbrella of ‘health junkies’? Think about just how much easier it is to say you are eating healthy than to admit its really just to be skinny? Good luck to her. That took balls.

  15. July 9th, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    To Sarah calling her too “thin” — you are part of the body image problem. Why is it OK to call people too thin but not OK to call people overweight? Looking at the pictures on her blog, I see muscles, I see “curves.” She is not emaciated.

  16. Marissa @ Where I Need to Be
    July 9th, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    I’m not a vegan. I eat a plant-based diet and don’t think I could have said it any better than Lila did above. I would add that in an age of social media proliferation we really need to be careful about from where we take advice on the internet and make sure that we are doing so from credentialed professionals. Someone who experimented with veganism for a year as a fad diet is likely not the best source of information.

  17. July 9th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    When you make a lot of money claiming to be something that you are not, and people react negatively when you finally stop lying…you brought it all on yourself. Someone made a comment about feeling bad for her being under such scrutiny in the spotlight of public opinion..excuse me but WHO put her there?? She did! When people blog for a living they are INVITING readers and comments, looking to create interest and in many cases controversy. There is no cult like culture to being vegan, I’ve been vegan for almost 10 years..no cult, no “dark side”. Additionally when you blame an eating disorder on being vegan, you are doing all the hard honest work many of us do advocating on behalf of animals at risk. Tell your followers (who lived without you before and will live without you after) you are taking a sabbatical, and be done with it. Believe me there are PLENTY of others right there waiting in the wings to blog- and perhaps they will be mentally stable, honest bloggers. Unbelievable how people become the instant victim when their dishonesty catches up to them.

  18. July 9th, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    What about the animal cruelty?
    Read “World Peace Diet” by Will Tuttle.

  19. July 9th, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    I admire her courage and honesty. Her story is important. I was vegan from 18 to 29. I often fibbed about it because I noticed the cult like mentality of vegans/vegetarians back in the 90′s and I never embraced it.

    After a serious head injury, I found that I craved meat and eggs for the first time in my life. I believe that we crave what we need, so I started eating organic eggs, organic meat and continued with a high raw diet that included juicing and lots of wheat grass. It turns out that people with brain injuries need cholesterol to heal the brain. That is only found in animal foods.

    Too many of my vegan/vegetarian friends cut me out of their lives because they felt betrayed because I was eating animal products.

    It turns out that I’m highly allergic to seeds, soy, beans and all nuts except for peanuts. How in the world would I get protein on a vegan diet?

    Why would anyone judge me for eating in a way that is healthy for my individual cellular reality?

    I think those who judge people for doing what works for them are a bit obsessed with an ideal that has little to do with love, compassion or reality.

  20. July 9th, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    I have to agree with Lila and others. This article made it sound like she had to leave vegan-ism to become healthy again but it had nothing to do with eating vegan, she was eating unhealthy-period. She could have continued on plant-based and left behind the ridiculous “cleanses” and felt better immediately. The references to the threats made for a sensational story but damages a movement toward healthier plant based nutrition and the benefits to the animal world. Truly disappointed in this article.

  21. July 9th, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    a lot of people go vegan, then don’t. She’s no different than thousands of others except that she made a platform from taking pictures of veggies on Instagram lol.. She has no credentials or nutrition background, just experience being plant based for a bit. I think this is just a ploy to give her material to write a repetitive book since she has nothing interesting to share lol.. (I mean all of this in the nicest way)

  22. July 10th, 2014 at 12:03 am

    What the article above has shortened to “Orthorexia” is more properly termed “Orthorexia Nervosa”—the important part of the phrase being “Nervosa”—an unhealthy obsession. THAT is what needs treatment —and has absolutely nothing to do with her diet, but with her psychology, her childhood, her brain chemistry. Why is there no term for an unhealthy obsession with bacon? Or Krispy Kreme donuts? Or seeing who can eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes? Or any one of a number of more mainstream eating practices that are unequivocally destructive to one’s physical and mental health?

    Because these practices, extreme and self-destructive as they are, are in line with the prevailing social order and the way good “citizens” of late capitalism are expected to participate and support our economy of means. Think about Neo in the Matrix: the vegan—the responsible vegan—choses to be awake.

    I sympathize with her desire to get healthy, but the problem here is food neurosis, not food. The source of her problems is precisely that her eating decisions have not been “personal” and “private” but a kind of public performance that plays itself out on the internet in a cycle of confession and approval. The healthiest thing she could do for herself is swear off blogging about her eating habits for at least a year—if not forever.

    Being vegan is sadly not only a question of health and appetite, but is unavoidably charged with political and social energy that have not only to do with animal cruelty, but with exploitation of workers, resources AND CONSUMERS—as well as unfair distribution of land and wealth, and the conversion of food from a source of nutrition for all to a source of capital for a few. But that is all really beside the point at the moment—setting yourself up as an icon of health and as a public figure is something that one should only do when one is healthy. Pretending to be something or someone other than what you are is guaranteed to end badly because it increases self-loathing and it is just not possible to be good to your body and respect yourself when you are full of self-hate.

    PS–to SYNC: There are plenty of sources of iron and protein that are available to Vegans beyond those you list—If you really were interested in a cruelty-free lifestyle there are qualified experts all over (including on the web) who could advise you how to proceed. There is no medical reason to NOT be vegan. Period.

  23. July 10th, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Jays comment is the best. This article reads like satire. The things upper middle class people do with their time..

  24. July 10th, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Not sure I agree with the comments of Lila, Charlotte et al. I didn’t get the impression she blamed the veganism for her health concerns. I got the impression that she jumped on a health bandwagon and had an eating disorder. I think the point of the article just highlights something we all know: the internet is a cruel place. Veganism isn’t a “compassionate” lifestyle. it’s whatever someone who eats a vegan diet wants it to be. To that end, there are plenty out there who would make death threats, but there are plenty of crazy people in the world.

    This woman has done well to go out there and make a health blog (I would question her credentials, as her experience doesn’t really give me the confident to follow her). Those of you who say anyone could do it, should do it.

    And any vegan (or meat eater, or vegetarian) who goes out on the net with their BS about “a healthier diet” is utterly misleading themselves. Vegan or otherwise, our bodies are all different, our lifestyles are all different. Eat what works for you, and stop preaching to other people about your holier than thou choice – yes, meat eaters are just as bad as vegans.

  25. July 10th, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I honestly do not think she intentionally tried to jump on the ” look at me! I am the blogger who is cool and pretty and blonde and a trendy hipster vegan” bandwagon.
    In certain areas (sadly) it is cool to be living the lifestyle she perpetrated in her blog.
    I do not think she blames her eating disorder on being a vegan. It seems as if being vegan made it more obvious.
    Let’s face it being vegan is not an easy choice to make. As much as you may love animals, and want to live a lifestyle where you do not contribute to their pain and slaughter, and bank in on the benefits of a proper vegan diet, It’s still is not an easy choice to make. Emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually.

  26. July 10th, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Becoming vegan, staying vegan was not and is not hard at all. I have no problems with it- others do, but that’s their problem . Additionally purchasing produce is way less expensive than purchasing meat . Hands down a less expensive way to eat- unless one considers the dollar menu at McDonalds eating.

  27. July 10th, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    I’m incredibly proud of Jordan for coming out and being real with her followers on her blog. Obviously she was having some issues with the way she was eating which led to disordered eating. She’s doing what’s best for her and if that means no longer being Vegan than so be it. I just want her to be healthy and happy.

  28. July 11th, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Her original symptoms sound like Celiac disease.

  29. July 11th, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Please, the issue the vegan community has with her is that she jumped on a bandwagon, it make her famous, and now she’s jumping off and telling you how evil vegans are. She was never part of the vegan community, just a self-obsessed pretty girl with an eating disorder and low self-esteem. No one is surprised she’s not following a vegan diet anymore, and she shouldn’t be surprised that vegans aren’t supportive of her flop.

  30. July 11th, 2014 at 10:59 am

    I suspect the reason her period came back and she had more energy was because she ate SOMETHING (as opposed to juice cleansing for a year) — not because that something she happened to eat was salmon and other animal products. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible reporting.

  31. July 11th, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    To all of the “X-Vegan” bloggers of the world:

    It hurts to see the titles of your recent blog posts. It seems like you are sensationalizing the “X-Vegan” part of your story and not the “recovery from an eating disorder” part of your story. In fact, I’m not sure if you can accurately call yourself “Not a Vegan.” What is that? Someone who used to care about the welfare of animals but not anymore? Is that a thing now?

    That’s not you, is it?

    It’s not just you, obviously. This seems to be a “thing” on the internet right at the moment. And boy are news outlets jumping on the “X-Vegan” bandwagon. What a story!

    So please. I am begging you. Stop sensationalizing this. Eat whatever you want. But don’t add fuel to any fire that Veganism was the problem or defective. Because that is what you are promoting by continuing to sensationalize it this way. Maybe extremely restrictive plant based dieting was a problem. I don’t know. But Veganism is a whole different animal (sorry about that) and the two cannot be lumped together.

    Please, talk about recovery from your eating disorder. I can sympathize with you on that. But don’t hurt the Vegan movement any more, and don’t hurt innocent animals either.

  32. July 12th, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Come on people, eating disorders exist, have some compassion. I stopped reading the blog No More Dirty Looks (which used to be advertised her, thankfully not anymore) as they promoted “healthy” eating that sounded disordered. Smoothies replaced meals. Whole postings were devoted to how to deal with Thanksgiving and telling people you ate a restricted diet. I’m glad Jordan is speaking out and getting help.

  33. July 12th, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I hope she seeks the treatment that she needs.

  34. July 14th, 2014 at 6:12 am

    “is there a word for an unhealthy obsession with needing a unhealthy obsession to obsess over?”

    Yes. “Narcissism.”

  35. July 14th, 2014 at 10:52 am

    So, now she is “studying to become a health coach”? I have no idea what qualifies one to be a health coach, but I pity anyone who would follow this woman’s advice on healthy living. It reminds me of the old saying, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

  36. July 15th, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    i only have one question. why would any of you think she or anyone owes you any explanation as to how she lives? did you pay her to blog? did she make you follow her blog?
    i’m confused.
    you enjoy sharing this person’s personal experiences as long as they agree with yours and she can’t change her mind? make mistakes? live her life without your approval?
    i don’t know, i don’t follow her or anyone, but based on the sheer bad taste of some comments here, the lack of willingness to accept someone’s personal choices, i conclude veganism is an excuse for compassion for animals and NONE for fellow human beings.

    GET a life and do what’s best for you.

    FOLLOW, LEAD or GET OUT OF THE WAY

  37. August 9th, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    So, we have decided that she did or didn’t blame the veganism for being unhealthy and we have hurled the insults of being a fame-whore and an animal abuser and a privileged white girl from a country that (unfortunately?) doesn’t have problems of the third world. And we have done it all in the name our ability to think critically and be good people who understand the world around us.

    And in saying this, I am being pompous. And we are all jerks who ought to consider being quicker to listen and slow to speak.

  38. September 1st, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I became vegan only to severely limit my cholesterol intake when my number hit 300 and I was allergic to all the lowering meds. I worked my into it after several years, and now only allow myself egg whites once a week if that. Problems I’ve run into is a loss of Vit.D which can be fixed by sitting in the sun a short time each day. However, I haven’t lost any weight at all. I still believe in hunting and fishing for someone who can eat meat. I don’t recommend this vegan regimen for everyone. If it isn’t as necessary as mine was, go ahead and eat meat. Wear leather too!

  39. September 1st, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I think the big problem is that Jordan Younger was only a vegan for a relatively short period of time before sharing her lifestyle from the position of expert. Food choices can exist on a continuum, and health and animal rights should be a part of everyone’s choices. There are many motives here, many personal and genuine, but PR is also one them.

  40. September 1st, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    This is advertising, marketing and slaes at it’s best.
    Peaking interest neg or positive that drives responses, thus exposure.
    As Rod Stewart use to croon, “every picture tells a story don’t it?”
    And stories sell, done Well & Good, with positive intentions, we hope.

  41. September 2nd, 2014 at 8:21 am

    @AbigailSimon “There is no medical reason to NOT be vegan” One word – bacon.

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