Inspiration October 18, 2017
"I have control over what affects me, and at the end of the day, that's all that matters."
Jordan Younger’s been through the ringer for her brand. She received death threats. Her health suffered. She even lost her hair (and that IS her brand identity!). But she stuck it out, and four and a half years later she has 179K followers and a full-fledged company to show for it.
She started out as @theblondevegan, posting pictures of her plant-based creations, before transitioning to @thebalancedblonde a year later, after she dropped the vegan label herself. “I’m so happy that it is where it is and people read my blog and they care and are so loyal and listen to my podcast,” Jordan tells ENTITY. “I can’t imagine what else I would want to do instead.”
And though things are going swimmingly now, that certainly wasn’t always the case. Due to her extreme dedication to veganism, Jordan developed orthorexia, which she explains is, “the obsession with health, healthy foods, pure, clean foods from the Earth, fear and avoidance of anything that doesn’t fall into the categories that you’ve labeled for yourself.” Once she realized her veganism was doing more harm than good, she knew it was time to make a change.
“I wasn’t sure if I would lose my whole following, because I was a vegan blogger, and I definitely did lose a lot of people, but I also gained so many readers who were interested in this very authentic way of sharing,” she says. She even documented her transition in her book “Breaking Vegan,” – which realized a lifelong dream of publishing – and led to her blog and Instagram’s change to @thebalanced blonde.
“My blog became so much more accessible and approachable to people who wanted to live this healthy lifestyle, but were turned off by the extremes and the labels. And then I could really talk about what I wanted to talk about all along, which is balance, listening to your body,” Jordan explains. And though she will never be against veganism or any other diet, she admits, “It’s just not something that works for me.”
Jordan was proud of the book’s authentic nature, since it lacked a conclusory update explaining she was A-okay and had made it through — because she’s still striving to maintain balance every day. “I’ve found that it really seems to help people who are going through orthorexia,” Jordan says.
However, while this should have been a celebratory time for Jordan, it set the vegan community on fire. She was taunted online and received so many death threats the police had to be involved. “My address was a widely known thing because of all of the vegan brands that I had worked with who were blasting out my address. They truly wanted to kill me,” Jordan says.
Fortunately, years later the healthy living advocate has made it through the worst to see her company grow into a podcast, yoga classes, books, retreats and more. And the hate has finally died down.
She joined us at ENTITY headquarters to chat about her wild journey, how she handles the haters and tips she has for others struggling with their own health battles.
ENTITY: Did you have an “a-ha” moment that led you to where you are?
JY: Yes, when I first started my account. I got to the airport to fly home from a vacation in Hawaii with my family, and one person somehow didn’t have a ticket, and that was me. That’s when I started the Instagram, because I had taken tons of beautiful food photos in Hawaii.
So while I waited for the next flight, I just started @theblondevegan and followed a ton of people, posted about it on my personal page and by the time I landed in LA, I had, like, 80 or 90 people following. And that was from zero from only a few hours before.
ENTITY: How do you handle the haters?
JY: I would say that if you’re reaching enough people, then you’re going to have people who disagree with what you’re doing, no matter what. It’s just something that you have to get used to and develop a thick skin around. What I really learned was when negativity is being spewed at you by someone, it’s because they are dealing with issues of their own and you’re just the mirror for their own problems.
It really helps to find the tools to deal with it. For me, it was leaning on people in my life, talking about it, not being secretive about it and finding my own self-care tools, like yoga, meditation and therapy. Also, knowing that I have control over what affects me, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
ENTITY: What do you wish people knew about influencers?
JY: That I love when people reach out. And I want them to continue reaching out, but if I don’t get back to them, it doesn’t mean I don’t care or I didn’t see it. I also have to protect my own space and energy and if I responded to everyone, I wouldn’t have a life.
Also that we have feelings, and when people reach out and say awful things, I think half of those people think we’re never going to see it. And we do. Any dedicated influencer reads their comments and reads their emails. We’re not so far-removed.
ENTITY: How do you handle the awkward times when a brand reaches out or you’re working with a brand, but your values don’t align?
JY: Yeah, well that happens all the time. Not only when they reach out, but sometimes after I’m already committed and quickly realize or not so quickly sometimes that it’s not going to work. And that’s not always because the brand is not aligned, it is occasionally because they are very rude to me.
I can’t feel comfortable representing a brand, even if I love the product, if their marketing team or their founder has completely disrespected my content. I make decisions at the end of the day for the brand and for my audience. And I’m not going to show them something I’m not proud of.
ENTITY: That’s great that you will stand up for yourself like that.
JY: You don’t have to do anything that people tell you to do. And if they’re not happy, that’s okay. Then walk away. They don’t have to pay you. It’s not the end of the world. And if you represent yourself authentically, then there really shouldn’t be an issue.
ENTITY: Have you come across women who felt they couldn’t share the space, as if only one of you could succeed?
JY: I see the competition in the blogging world, and in everything. But I also see the supportive people. I think when you have a radar for this kind of stuff, like if you’re a highly sensitive person or just in tune in general, then you can almost see it from 10 miles away. I try to surround myself with people who lift each other up.
ENTITY: What do you mean by living a label-free life?
JY: I just don’t believe in defining your identity as a label. Because I have been defined so much by myself and by other people, as something very specific; as a vegan, as a health coach, as a blogger, as a yoga teacher, and those are not bad things. But it’s just not who I am. I’m always evolving.
But I am drawn to labels. They make things easy. They make things clean-cut. They eliminate decisions, and I’m always working to just be balanced, striving to live in that. I haven’t found my perfect balance with it.
ENTITY: What advice or tips would you give someone else trying to get over food fears?
JY: Listen to your body above all else. The body knows what it needs, and it’s very easy to turn those signals off. I’ve done it… I was starving. I was very weak. But now I listen to my body every single day and it makes the process of eating more joyful and more fun, the way that it should be.
And for people who are really struggling with an eating disorder, I highly recommend seeing a therapist who specializes in eating disorders and/or a nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders. That’s really different from just your standard therapist and nutritionist, because these specialists can really help you realize and unveil what’s going on in your life and what has gone on maybe in your childhood that contributes to your relationship with food.
ENTITY: What would you say to people who struggle to balance healthy living and a productive career?
JY: I will say, ever since I have taken self-care and spirituality a lot more seriously, and realized how my focus on that impacts everything I do, I work fewer hours, but much more productively. I think when you’re taking care of yourself, then your success with your work will come.
And you can only go so long, so hard before you burn out or before your body rejects what’s happening. Sleep is so important. Exercise is so important. Balanced, nourishing meals are so important.
ENTITY: What advice would you give to someone just starting out on Instagram?
JY: It’s not too late. That is a myth. There are people who have been doing this for a long time who are no longer interested in it and don’t put their heart in it. And there are people who are just starting out today who are so passionate and put their all into it, and there’s so much room to cultivate an audience and to grow and to develop your brand.
My biggest advice would just be to not lose sight of why you’re starting and what’s important to you. Because if your goal is to create a career, it will come. But the real goal should be to share what you love. Because I think if you focus too much on, “This has to be my career,” or “This has to work out,” then that infuses itself into your content, and it’s very stressful.
Jordan says it’s still a daily effort to maintain her balance and not fall back on those neat, albeit dangerous, labels. But she has specific daily regimens to keep her on track, such as writing a to-do list first thing in the morning, sage-ing herself and her cat each day and adhering to a routine that hails back to the ayurvedic principles. But she’s quick to note that her rituals aren’t for everyone, “I think it’s really important to find what works for you and not try to ascribe to what works for someone else.”
And the most important message Jordan wanted to stress – aside from the fact that she really doesn’t have a beef with veganism – is that we all need to listen to our bodies. Forget arguing over which diet is best. Jordan says, “I think it’s much more important to listen to your body and to be active and be consistent with moving and exercise and treating your body well.”
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