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Former Miss America Reveals Her Horrific Battle With Anorexia, Survived On Coffee, Diet Coke & Gum

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Mar. 22 2012, Published 7:00 a.m. ET

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By Staff

When Kirsten Haglund was crowned Miss America in 2008, she was a vision of health and happiness, making it hard to believe that the blonde beauty had suffered from severe anorexia-nervosa most of her life.

The Michigan beauty queen, 23, recently opened up to CNN about the shocking details of her illness, which began when she was only 12-years-old, and has the details.

Haglund, who was studying ballet at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet School, says she picked up her bad habits from the other young dancers.

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"I was in ballet from just 3-years-old. So from a very early age, the ideal female body type was very thin," Haglund told CNN. "That was the first image I had in my brain; I always equated beauty and worth with being skinny. I looked at what they were doing and so many of them were throwing away their lunches and not eating. I thought, ‘If I can at least be thin, I know I can be successful at ballet.’

"I was living off coffee, Diet Coke and gum," she said about her dangerous diet of less than 900 calories a day. "Every once in a while, I'd have vegetables, fruit or a spoonful of peanut butter.

“Internally, I knew there was something seriously wrong with me, but I didn't know how to stop.”

Her disease continued to worsen, and in the next three years she dropped over 30 more pounds before her mother intervened and got her help.

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After quitting ballet and focusing on her recovery, she decided to enter a local beauty pageant. While her eating disorder physician was concerned that it would set her back, Haglund saw it as a platform to get the message across about her struggles with the disease.

"I learned so much about the illness; it was a really good educational period for me," she said. "From hearing other people's recovery stories, I learned how to share my own personal struggles."

After winning the crown, the now 23-year-old started the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, a charity that provides financial aid to people seeking treatment for eating disorders.  She is currently a political science major at Emory University.


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