Blogger Jordan Younger had almost half a million followers of her blog The Blonde Vegan hooked on the benefits of a “clean” and “plant-based” lifestyle. Then she stunned them with some news in 2014: Her passion for health eating had turned into an obsession, blossoming into an eating disorder and endangering her health.
The eating disorder is known as orthorexia, an unhealthy obsession with food purity and “goodness.” While this isn’t an officially accepted eating disorder in the authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more researchers are wondering if it should be.
In Younger’s case, her obsession with avoiding processed food, gluten and meat meant that during the lowest point in the disorder, she stopped getting her period and started losing her hair.
"It was just this whole spiral of horrible, horrible things," Younger told the "Today" Show.
To get healthier, Younger started introducing more kinds of food into her diet -- including fish. Some of her readership turned on her. And one follower reportedly told her she "didn't deserve to live."
But despite the bullying, Younger continued toward a more balanced diet, and has just released a book called Breaking Vegan: One Woman’s Journey from Veganism and Extreme Dieting to a More Balanced Life. She's still a lifestyle trendsetter, but now she’s promoting a more balanced outlook on diet and exercise that rejects compulsion and embraces joy. Instead of the "Blonde Vegan," she is now the "Balanced Blonde."
"I’ve learned that to be happy is so much more fun, and to have confidence is so much more amazing,” Younger said.
Of course, veganism can be a perfectly healthy lifestyle for people who wish to avoid eating animals and animal products for ethical or health reasons. Vegans who are diligent about getting sources of protein and fat from plant-based sources like beans, vegetable oils, nuts and nutritional supplements can be incredibly healthy.
Conversely, orthorexia is an eating disorder that is distinct from anorexia for its emphasis on health food. It involves self-punishment for "slip ups," the need to be better than others when it comes to diet and exercise and deriving one's self-esteem from the purity of one's diet, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.
Need help? Call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
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