Social media sensation Jordan Younger opens up about her struggle with the eating disorder orthorexia. By Li Yuling
Instagram star Jordan Younger (@thebalancedblonde) struggled with orthorexia and suffered multiple nutrient deficiencies as well as hormonal imbalances that stopped her period for several months. Photo: Jordan Younger
Described as an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating, orthorexia nervosa literally means “fixation on righteous eating”. The term orthorexia nervosa was first coined in 1997 by American physician Dr Steven Bratman. Initially, he used it to tease his diet- obsessed patients. But over time, it has assumed “a more significant place as a description for a type of obsession with healthy food that is psychologically or even physically unhealthy,” he writes on his website.
Recently, orthorexia made the headlines again when social media sensation Jordan Younger, better known by her Instagram monikers, The Blonde Vegan (then) and The Balanced Blonde (now), opened up about her struggle with the eating disorder.
When Jordan started on a vegan diet, she was delighted to find that it didn’t upset her usually problematic stomach. In fact, she had never felt healthier, and was so convinced by its health benefits that she decided to spread the word – and pictures of her vegan meals – on social media.
At the peak of its popularity, her Instagram account @theblondevegan had amassed more than 70,000 followers. But she found herself spiralling into extreme behaviour that restricted her diet – and lifestyle – even further. On her blog, 23-year-old Jordan describes in detail how her obsession developed:
“I started fearing a lot of things when it came to food. Having grown up with a sensitive stomach, I already avoided wheat, fried foods, sauces, oil, flour of any type, some legumes and many grains.
“Then I read about raw foods, digestion, food combining, the space at which meals should be eaten apart from each other, and the dangers of even all-natural fructose.
“I started living in a bubble of restriction. Entirely vegan, entirely plant-based, entirely gluten-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free, flour-free, dressing/sauce-free… I lived my life based on when I could and could not eat, and what I could and could not combine.
“When my mum and sister were in town, I don’t think I enjoyed a single meal with them. I ate before or after seeing them. I panicked that the food at the restaurants we were going to was going to make me feel like crap and throw off my system.
“I was also addicted to juice cleanses. I felt that if I cleansed my body like I had done successfully so many times in the past, my cravings and hunger pains, and disordered habits would go away.”
For Jordan, her wake-up call came in the intimate revelation of a close friend who had also been struggling with an eating disorder. She writes: “I knew I had disordered eating habits, but until I was willing to admit I had developed some variation of an eating disorder, I wasn’t going to be able to do anything about it. Then [after my friend’s sharing], I started to accept it.
“It’s not healthy to feel guilt for listening to my body. I should be thanking myself, not telling myself that I had done wrong – or that I had sinned.”