People opt for a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Some forgo all animal-based products because they support an animal-cruelty-free lifestyle. Others do it for health reasons. And some, like Jay Z and Beyonce, try it part-time to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle, commemorate a major life event like a birthday, or even help lose the baby weight.
For Jordan Younger, the popular blogger known as The Blonde Vegan, it was for health reasons. So it came as a shock to her nearly 70,000 Instagram followers when she announced she was moving away from a vegan diet for precisely the same reason—health concerns. In an interview on Good Morning America, Younger revealed that she had come to realize that she actually had an eating disorder—and not one many people had heard of.
You see, almost everyone knows that anorexia is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder caused by a fear of being overweight. Younger, however, wasn't concerned about weight gain; her focus on healthy eating had become an uncontrollable obsession that led her to restrict her diet to the point that she was becoming malnourished.
It's called orthorexia, and it's a fixation with healthy eating that leads to more and more restrictions on food, often to the point of vitamin deficiencies, weight loss, or crushing anxiety related to food. Orthorexia is not recognized as an eating disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) but it does have some similarities with other disorders like anorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“I would just stand in front of the refrigerator for 20 minutes totally panicking that I wasn’t going to be eating the right thing for my body,” the 23-year-old told ABC News. “I was a slave to food.”
In her blog Younger recounts how, after days of barely eating, she walked more than a mile to a second Juice Press location because the first one didn't have the specific type of green juice she was seeking. In addition to being "addicted" to juice cleanses, she had skin rashes, weakness, and her period stopped. It took months, and a friend's help, to realize she actually had an eating disorder.
Younger noted that vegan diets can be healthy, if done correctly. "Vegan diets can absolutely work if you’re eating a balanced diet," she wrote in her blog, and wished her followers well. But sadly, many were angered by her decision. "I got death threats," she told ABC.
Vegan diets can indeed be healthy (check out 12 Things You Need to Know Before Going Vegan). However, it's safe to say that Younger made the right decision, given that eating disorders are dangerous and the exact opposite of healthy eating.