There's never a short of inspiring people! Ever since I started my blog and Instagram, I've connected with such amazing and successful people who challenge themselves, inspire, thrive and face their fears! Surrounding yourself with goal diggers and hard working individuals truly makes a big impact. I personally feel more optimistic, excited to start new projects, take greater risks and set bigger goals!
Today, I want to introduce you to Jordan from The Balanced Blonde, who is no stranger to many who look for guidance on eating a balanced diet, working out and living a balanced life. On her blog, she shares recipes, personal stories and lifestyle posts (more specifically her clothing line - The Blonde Vegan Shop).
So without further ado, I would like to present you my Q&A session with Jordan.
You started The Blonde Vegan Instagram account in 2013 — when did you realize that people were really excited about your posts and recipes, enough to build an entire health brand around, create and sell plant-based cleanses, and design an apparel line? I started The Blonde Vegan Instagram account in June 2013. I started it for fun as a place to share my plant-based creations and my newfound passion for cooking. I started it for friends and family to follow, and I figured I would get a few followers who were interested in veganism but I had no idea what the scope would be. One night in July 2013 I got 4,000 followers overnight after a big vegan account shared my account with their followers. That was the first time I had an inkling that I had something going that people were very interested in and excited about. Throughout the fall I knew the blog was demanding more and more of my attention, but not until January 2014 did I realize that if I wanted to keep it up at the level I was trying to that it would need to become a full-time job. It was clear to me that growing the blog was what I was most passionate about, so I made the decision to leave graduate school to pursue the blog full-time. At that point I worked with a designer to create the apparel line, and I continued to lead The Blonde Vegan Cleanse Program the first week of each month. I'm now enrolled in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to get my health coaching certification, because coaching people toward the healthiest version of themselves has become my greatest passion of all through the blog.
How long had you been vegan and what inspired you to make that decision? 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.
Did anyone close to you mention any concern before you realized that your “bubble of restriction” had become an illness? Yes, people had expressed concern here and there, but it was a very tricky subject because veganism was my life (and my entire career!), so it was hard for my friends and family to distinguish between my eating disorder and my extreme passion for veganism. They couldn’t necessarily bring it up and insult my everyday life and what I chose to build a brand around. They told themselves that my stomach problems were partially to blame for the overboard obsession and restrictions, which is also something I told myself. But they certainly noticed that things had taken a major downward spiral in the last few months of my veganism.
Did you get a lot of response from people struggling (or have struggled) with orthorexia or other eating disorders? Yes, a huge response from people struggling with orthorexia and other eating disorders. It blows me away how many people are suffering, and/or know and love people who are suffering and who have found something in my story that has resonated with them. It helps to hear from people who are in similar boats, and it also breaks my heart to realize how prevalent eating disorders are in our diet-addled society. It’s not right. It’s also very taboo to talk about eating disorders, because people tend to feel ashamed. I am trying to break that mold.
Do you have any advice for people who may be struggling with the same illness? What would you say has been most helpful in your transition to broadening your diet? 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.
How difficult was your decision to move away from strict veganism (especially since you've built a successful brand around the lifestyle)? It was incredibly difficult. My body started showing signs that it wasn't satisfied by a fully vegan diet almost a year ago, and it took me up until a month ago to come to terms with the fact that changes needed to be made. I tried everything under the sun to make changes to my vegan diet to make it work for me like it did in the beginning, including trying every cleanse and variation of plant-based dieting that I came across. I ended up losing my period for several months and also injuring my ankle running on the treadmill, which are two things that had never happened to me before. Both of those things opened my eyes to the fact that I had vitamin deficiencies. I tried a small piece of wild salmon in an effort to get more vitamin b-12 into my body, and when I got my period two days later I knew I needed to quit the denial and start making some changes.
Obviously, with 90,000 IG followers of @thebalancedblonde, you were bound to have some angry fans following your big news. What are the craziest things people have said to you? Oh, absolutely. 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.
Juice cleanses are obviously a hugely popular trend, and you've mentioned that you actually became addicted to them. Do you think you'll still do cleanses in the future? Or are they a thing of the past for you? That's a good question. In the first few weeks of my recovery process I decided I was going to do a weeklong cleanse that was half liquid and half solid raw vegan food. I knew I was resorting back to old habits to try to control the disorder I felt in my life through my food... but I did it anyway. I got through about 3 days of the cleanse before realizing it was doing me much more damage than it was good. I started feeling extremely deprived and knew the moment the cleanse was over I would feel compelled to stuff my face with something non-cleanse worthy! So I made the decision to stop the cleanse midway through which I was very proud of, because any time I had dedicated myself to cleansing in the past I stuck with it to the very end. If I ever do a juice cleanse again, I'd better have a good reason and also do it for just one day instead of ten! I definitely appreciate the benefits of cleansing, but I'm not sure it's the smartest choice for my personality.
What inspired your clothing line? Oh, fun question! I was inspired to start a line that promoted health and fitness in a cute and trendy way. I grew up in a very stylish household (my mom is the hottest woman around with the best fashion sense of all-time), and I have always found it surprising that there aren’t very many health bloggers out there who have started their own lines. The idea struck me while I was in a yoga class, so I called my friend who is a t-shirt designer and we made it happen in a matter of months. It’s been a dream come true!
Most important, how are you feeling? What else is next for you, your brand (now The Blonde Veggie) and TBV apparel? I am feeling so much better. Psychologically, it's amazing to be able to let go of the intense restriction and allow myself to breathe. I am working on my memoir, Breaking Vegan, about my transition that will be out in October 2015. I am focusing on putting new content out on the blog every day, working on The Balanced Blonde App and growing TBV Apparel.
I want to thank Jordan for taking the time to answer these questions, share great tips and inspire others! I encourage you all to check out her blog for delicious and nutritious recipes and lifestyle tips!
Thriving and Inspiring series is my way to share inspiring stories and connect with like minded individuals. If you (or someone you know) would like to share your story, let's connect! I'd love to hear from you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for my next interview!