And today in The Internet is a Mean, Scary, Insane Place, the story of Jordan Younger.
For the past year, 23-year-old Younger documented her all-plant-based lifestyle for her popular blog, The Blonde Vegan. On her Instagram and website, she reviewed cleanses and exercise routines, posting about the things she ate and the lengths she went to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
But in June this year, Younger made a startling announcement, at least to her followers: She had decided to transition away from veganism after recognizing a descent into orthorexia, an eating disorder in which people become overly obsessed with healthy eating. She began having stomach problems, and was tired all the time, stressed out about her next meal. She took to her blog and posted an announcement about her personal choice:
“I started living in a bubble of restriction,” Younger explained. “Entirely vegan, entirely plant-based, entirely gluten-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free, flour-free, dressing/sauce-free, etc. and lived my life based off of when I could and could not eat and what I could and could not combine. There is nothing wrong with any of those things (many of them are great, actually!!) but my body didn’t feel GOOD & I wasn’t listening to it.”
For Younger, the solution was to start practicing “moderation” and to relax some of the food restrictions she’d been putting on herself.
“It’s time to advocate a lifestyle that doesn’t involve restriction, labeling, or putting ourselves into a box,” Younger wrote in a blog post. “My body was trying to speak to me for many months and I did not listen.”
The response from her audience was immediate, and not entirely positive. Younger later collected and posted an array of the insults that she got from the vegan community about her choice: “You were never vegan” and “No wonder you’re so ugly” and “you’re putting down the best diet on earth” and “you’re giving veganism a bad name.” She claims she even received threats.
“Certain leaders in the raw vegan community turned their back on me so violently,” Younger told Well and Good NYC. “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,”
To be open about her transition, but also, perhaps, to distance herself from the community she was suddenly ostracized from, Younger changed the name of her Instagram from “The Blonde Vegan” to “The Blonde Veggie.”
“I am not making a bad name for veganism, because I never blamed veganism for my issues,” she wrote on her blog. “I am stepping away from it for a whole host of reasons. It does kinda sorta make a bad name for veganism when you police people about their dietary choices, though.”
Younger’s dilemma points to one that a lot of women have, hiding disordered eating patterns under the guise of healthy lifestyle. There are, of course, many healthy and happy vegans out there, just as there are legion well-adjusted vegetarian and pescatarian and gluten-free folks. But the militancy of certain lifestyle choices can easily cover up the early signs of a disease, or make it hard to ease out of the mind-set. It’s important to recognize when eating for health turns into an obsession, something unhealthy and unbalanced. And it’s really important to give other people the breathing room they need to make their own choices about what works for their body.
Featured image via Jordan Younger’s Instagram