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Former Miss America Opens Up About Anorexia Struggles

| Filed under: InspirationDietsEating DisordersWellness

Miss America eating disorder story

Ugh! Such a sad story, but thankfully it has a happy ending.

2009's Miss America winner Kirsten Haglund is a true inspiration to anyone who has ever suffered from an eating disorder because she not only beat one as a teenager, but went on to use her pageant success as a means of helping others struggling with same issues.

Her descent into anorexia began at just 12-years-old after falling victim to pressure of being the perfect ballerina with the perfectly thin figure. She began trading lunches for "coffee, Diet Coke and gum," which eventually led her to lose 30 pounds from her ALREADY skinny body.

It wasn't just her either. Haglund revealed in a recent interview that the majority of girls at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet School — where she studied in hopes of becoming a professional dancer one day — engaged in this behavior as if it was normal, explaining:

"You were seen as elite if you engaged in some of those kinds of behaviors. It was something that most girls did, and if you ate like a normal person, you were looked down upon."

For the future face of the "perfect" American woman, it was a combination of peer pressure, fear, and anxiety that contributed to her downward teenage spiral, saying:

"I became more self-aware and all of the sudden felt this panic, like maybe I wasn't good enough or maybe my life was going to collapse around me and I couldn't accomplish this dream."

Thankfully Kirsten's mother finally noticed something was wrong and, despite an angry resistance, forced her into treatment. After quitting ballet and spending two years in intensive outpatient treatment, she ended up focusing her time on beauty pageants.

The new interest prompted concern for her physician because it "could be triggering for someone who has a history of an eating disorder," but Kirsten countered that by publicly speaking about her experience as a recovering anorexic. Her mission to educate others, in effect, helped her continue to move forward with her new healthy life and she won Miss Michigan at 18. Then, in a fantastic surprise, she became the youngest Miss America in the history of the pageant when she was crowned at just 19.

Thanks to the spotlight, the beauty queen has launched the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, which provides financial aid to those seeking treatment for one of the hardest addictions to overcome — eating disorders.

"Those who struggle with substance abuse can get off their drug and never face it again," Kirsten points out. "But for somebody who overcomes an eating disorder, you have to face it every day, multiple times a day."

[Image via Wenn.]

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