banner
Family

Former Miss America reveals struggle with anorexia - and the moment that changed everything

Posted September 4

Kirsten Haglund was only 19 years old when she went from "a relative unknown to one of the most recognizable faces in the country in a matter of seconds."

Haglund was catapulted onto the national stage in 2008 when she won the Miss America competition, a victory that came after a yearslong struggle with anorexia — an issue that she has since passionately addressed.

The former beauty queen recently sat down with faith-based nonprofit "I Am Second" to share details of her harrowing battle, explaining how she eventually overcame her eating disorder and found solace in her Christian faith.

"For someone who's severely struggling from an eating disorder, your mind doesn't act normal," Haglund said. "You really see yourself as horribly disgusting."

Watch Haglund share her story here.

The 27-year-old, who is now a TV commentator and analyst, said many of her problems began when she turned 12. She felt her life at the time was imploding amid her mother's breast cancer diagnosis and her brother's battle with OCD.

Haglund had a passion for ballet, though — a hobby she started to pursue more enthusiastically amid the chaos. But that's unfortunately when some of her body issues also started to take form.

"I started to feel very insecure," she said. "One summer, when I went away to study at a very competitive ballet school, I realized ... 'I don't look like these other girls. Maybe I'm not thin enough. Maybe I'm not good enough to be a professional dancer.'"

It was at that point Haglund said she made a personal decision to do whatever it would take to make it in the ballet world, including training hard and depriving herself of some of the fried foods she occasionally enjoyed.

Then, one day she made another decision that set her on an ever-troubling path: Haglund decided to throw her lunch in the trash.

From there, she began to make and adhere to restrictive eating rules, with her anorexia tragically overtaking various aspects of her life.

"By the time I was 15, I was just a total shell of my former self," she said. "The lie of anorexia said to me, 'If you just stick with me I'll give you everything you want.'"

Eventually, Haglund's concerned parents took her to a pediatrician, who diagnosed her with an eating disorder. At first, she said she was screaming and crying in anger, feeling as though her mother had betrayed her.

"I was so mad at my mom that she betrayed me — that she took me to the doctor," Haglund said. "(I felt) I was just doing what I needed to do to be a professional ballet dancer."

Anger soon turned to acceptance, though. She secretly planned to play along with the doctor's recovery plan, plotting to gain a little weight to appease everyone before slipping back into her anorexic habits.

But then something else happened that forced Haglund to reconsider. While she was intensely running on the treadmill one day, she fell and almost blacked out. It was a "hugely scary" moment that served as a wake-up call; her body was reacting to her disease in a terrifying way.

As she sat down and gathered her thoughts, Haglund said that she was suddenly flooded with emotions, hopes and dreams — feelings that she hadn't had in years.

"Out of the pit of my stomach, out of nowhere, three years of basically feeling so few emotions just came, like this desire — just like a volcano erupting out of me," she said. "All of the sudden I realized I wanted to eat pizza again, I wanted to eat birthday cake and I wanted to travel the world."

Aspirations for finding love, learning another language and helping people overtook her; it was a truly defining moment, as Haglund found herself asking, "What if there's more to life? What if I could do other things?"

"It was that moment that I really realized I wanted to change," she said.

That's when Haglund decided to take her recovery seriously, embarking on a two-year plan to get healthy. During that process, she said she discovered some helpful Bible verses that led her to dig deeper into her faith.

Perhaps the biggest change in her life came not long after when she was 17 and decided to enter a beauty pageant in hopes of winning some scholarship money. She won, and that victory set her on the path to become Miss America 2008.

Haglund continues to use her platform to share her story in an effort to help change hearts and minds.

Email: bhallowell@deseretnews.com Twitter: billyhallowell Facebook: facebook.com/billyhallowell

Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all