Everyone, please meet Jordan. You may know her as The Balanced Blonde. I am lucky enough to know her as my friend. I met her through social networking, as a lot of us do these days, and we really connected. We've had similar pasts with disordered eating, and learning what works for us in a healthy way.
What I really admire about Jordan is her graceful way of being unapologetic about her choices and about being herself. She sticks to her guns, and there is an enormous strength in that. You will learn more about this in my interview with her!
Which happens NOW...
1. What made you decide to become vegan?
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.
2. How long were you vegan?
Two years. Vegetarian for 10.
3. What made you decide to change to a new lifestyle, away from veganism?
It took over a year for me to begin feeling unsatisfied by the vegan diet. I think that’s when my b-12 and protein deficiencies really started to surface. It was a vicious cycle because my deficiencies lead to feeling unbalanced, and feeling unbalanced lead to wanting to control my diet more and more. I tried radical diets like 10 day juice cleanses, 80/10/10 raw veganism and extended restrictive plant-based diets because I was desperate for a solution, which only lead to things getting more out of hand.
I had known in the back of my mind for a while that I had developed many fears surrounding food, and it was clear to me that I was becoming more and more limited in what I was comfortable eating. I even joked about it with my close friends, calling certain foods, like, eggs, "fear foods" because I had stayed away from them for so long. It was easy to high behind the shield of veganism when I was at a restaurant with friends or even when I was grocery shopping for myself. Anything that wasn't completely clean, oil-free, sugar-free, gluten-free and plant-based I dismissed because it wasn't within the dietary label I had given myself.
There were two events that shed light on the situation for me and made me realize that I had developed a serious problem. One event was when my best friend visited me in New York and we went to get breakfast before spending the day in Central Park. We went to a juice bar near my apartment because we both knew it was one of the only places I would be able to find something to eat. I knew which juice I wanted, a green juice with no fruit in it, and when we got there they were out of that particular juice. Even though there were several other green juices, smoothies and raw food options to choose from, I felt completely panicked by the thought of eating or drinking something I hadn't "planned." Instead of choosing another juice and going with the flow, I insisted that we walk a mile out of our way to the juice bar's other location to get the juice I wanted. My body was already starving from days of restriction and crying out to me that walking a mile without any sustenance would be a bad idea, but I did it anyway. I was determined, and being unable to shake that feeling scared me.
The second event was when I actually came to terms with the fact that I had an eating disorder. I was out to dinner with a close friend of mine in the city who also runs a health blog. We have bonded over the similarities in our jobs ever since we met each other when I first moved to New York. That night she confided in me that she was in recovery from an eating disorder, and she described all of her symptoms and food habits to me. While she spoke, I started to get a lump in my throat because I knew that everything she was discussing was dangerously similar to what I had been going through. The moment I opened up and told her that I could relate, it was like I had released a flood gate. We talked about it for hours, and I had never felt so relieved and so terrified about something at the same time. I called my mom afterward, afraid to tell her that I speculated that I had an eating disorder... and when I finally blurted it all out to her she was so relieved because she had been noticing my habits around food worsening for months. I couldn't believe it. In the past few months I've come to realize that I was pretty much the only person in my life who was blind to the fact that I had a problem.
4. What sort of backlash did you receive when you made the switch, being that you were a prominent blogger and advocate for veganism?
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.
5. How did you deal with that backlash?
Developed a thick skin! I understand that I was a face of veganism for many people, so some of the negativity and disappointment I understand. No one likes change. When people are downright nasty I’ve learned to just ignore what they have to say and remind myself that often they don’t know the whole story, and it’s clear that they have a lot of negativity and insecurity in their own lives. I feel bad for them. But it’s no excuse to be so mean to others.
6. What sort of advice do you have for those on listening to their body and doing what’s right for them?
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.
7. What sort of advice do you have for those dealing with negativity and critics?
Remember that people who are getting down on you are upset because you’re holding a mirror up to their own lives. People lash out based on their own insecurities. If you believe in what you are doing, what other people have to say doesn’t matter.
8. How do you find balance in your life?
By doing what I love! Friends, family, writing, yoga, working on the blog, taking a walk on the beach, hiking in the mountains, connecting with inspiring people – all of these things have been known to bring me to tears of happiness! I’m a passionate person, so it’s all about igniting those passions and treating life as an adventure. Life IS an adventure, and we have to follow our dreams and chase, chase, chase them!
9. What are some of your favorite vegan and non-vegan snacks?
Raw, unsalted nuts are a favorite. I love cashews, Brazil nuts, walnuts and almonds. Also green juices, fruit and chai tea lattes. Anything with nut butter. Raw vegan peanut butter cups!
10. What are some of your favorite exercises?
Power vinyasa yoga! It’s a rigorous, cardio-based type of yoga that I absolutely adore. I also love running when I am in the mood and when I really need to relieve stress. Working out with friends is always a blast. Running on the beach with friends is a definite favorite. I like to switch it up.
I want to give a huge thank you to Jordan for opening up about her experiences.
You can find her in all these wonderful places:
App: The Balanced Blonde
She also has an amazing clothing line with the softest tees and best quotes for those leading a healthy lifestyle. I have a few myself, and they are definitely favorites of mine.