Facebook was taken over today by a beautiful young lady called Jordan Younger, who is writing a memoir called Breaking Vegan, claiming that a focus on eating clean nearly killed her.
Whilst this story initially seems like a huge blow for plant based diets and is being touted by moderation lovers everywhere as a cautionary tale, actually READING her blog and the articles provides us with a huge red flag.
“What began as an attempt to get healthy, morphed into an unhealthy regimen of food restrictions, 800-calorie-a-day juice cleanses and exercise.”
She got sick because she developed orthorexia, and started limiting herself to 800 calorie a day juice fasts, cleanses and excessively restrictive regimens. Which honestly has nothing to do with veganism at all. In the words of a friend, “this story has as much validly as an alcoholic promoting a glass of wine with dinner as being treacherous.”.
In her interview Jordan writes: “Six months into the vegan diet…everyone was worried about me. There wasn’t a single time I saw my dad and he didn’t say, “Just try some egg or fish.” My mom came to New York and the whole trip was miserable because I was so restrictive. I had ordered oatmeal in a restaurant and realized it was cooked with milk and not vegan. I freaked out and threw a tantrum. I was such an unhappy person.”
Whilst I do empathize with Jordan’s eating issues this comment puzzled me, as New York is one of the easiest places to eat vegan. It not only has multiple vegan restaurants, but regular restaurants that offer dairy free/gluten free pizza. Vegan sushi is awesome and almost everywhere has salads, baked potatoes, vegetables. In fact there are MORE vegan choices than not in most restaurants… people are just used to thinking they need meat on their plate. Most Thai restaurants have vegan menus.. I have even found amazing salads at steakhouses.
Personally, I came to veganism 6 years ago for the animals and stayed for my health. I haven’t always been strict, between working in restaurants and being addicted to cheese, I can say the reason why I always come back to it was because it means something to me to not be a part of an industry that frankly is industrialized animal abuse. It just is.
I wouldn’t want my dogs to be dipped alive into boiling water or my cats to wait in line for a stun gun so it would be ridiculous to prioritize my inconvenience over theirs. So it’s OK if it made Jordan unhappy as we all have free will, but in addition to the animal issue I also like knowing my food is healthy… which I don’t believe meat and dairy is. You can read The China Study or go to Nutritionfacts.org for current science backing this. Dairy has been linked with multiple health issues, as has meat.
Unlike Younger, veganism actually became a health lifeline for me when I was cripped two years ago with debilitating autoimmune diseases and fatigue. After reading about Venus William’s success reversing Sjogrens with a raw vegan diet – I dropped grains and processed foods and jumped into a raw fruit and plant based lifestyle and not only reversed all my health issues, but show good bloodwork thanks to eating a balanced diet and supplementing key vitamins. My issues remain in remission as long as I limit my cheating and make sure the bulk of my diet is produce. Which I have come to love and don’t feel limited at all.
My concluding thoughts are these. Jordan Younger is a lovely young lady, but she is also very young. The media is using her experience to counteract the growing movement towards eating real, natural foods and limiting consumption of animal products. It’s also another reason why people should never blindly follow bloggers – do your own research and find those who have years of success or studies to back up their claims. She’s young and beautiful which is why so many people followed her, but she didn’t do enough research or seek help when she needed to. I think she should take time and work out something that gives her long term success before encouraging others to eat like her or writing a book.
Jordan is welcome to eat anything she likes but any diet should be balanced. Just as meat heavy diets can cause heart disease, vegan diets need to be well planned and contain adequate calories, nutrients and variety to be sustainable and healthy. I highly recommend Dr Fuhrman’s Eat To Live program as a basic blueprint, although as always I would modify it to limit grains which can trigger anxiety, mood disorders and magnesium deficiencies. Vegans should also supplement B12, Iodene and D3 which are common deficiencies in all diets which is why they are added to milk, salt and breakfast cereal.
A vegan diet in itself is not an eating disorder. Nor is a plant based vegan diet shunning processed food. However, if you feel yourself becoming obsessive about ANY diet, be sure to talk to someone even if it’s just a health coach and join appropriate support groups before serious damage and deficiencies occur. No one should feel guilt or panic if they eat something that’s unplanned. Nor should people attack Jordan if she wants to eat meat. We all have free will and need to use it to be kind to ourselves and others.