Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Miss America 2008 tells women struggling with eating disorders that she has been there herself

Kirsten Haglund, Miss America 2008, listens to women discuss their struggles with eating disorders during a group session Thursday at USF’s Hope House.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Kirsten Haglund, Miss America 2008, listens to women discuss their struggles with eating disorders during a group session Thursday at USF’s Hope House.

TAMPA — She sat before them, shoulders back, a wine-colored pashmina accenting her olive green dress.

The picture of poise, and the girl next door.

But former Miss America Kirsten Haglund had something in common with the clients of University of South Florida Hope House for Eating Disorders. She was one of them.

With help and perseverance, she told them Thursday, they, too, can overcome their potentially deadly fixations with weight and appearance.

"It's a problem, and it's an illness," Haglund said. "It's not your fault. It's not anyone's fault.

"Everyone struggles with something."

Haglund, 20, made eating disorders her platform, then a yearlong campaign after winning the national title as Miss Michigan in 2008. She relinquished the crown in January, but has continued the effort while pursuing acting work in Los Angeles.

Her Kirsten Haglund Foundation provides financial aid to families seeking treatment for disorders from anorexia to bulimia. And Haglund promotes the need for research into causes and treatment.

That brought her to Hope House in South Tampa, which for 2 1/2 years has provided free outreach and supportive intervention groups for people and their families struggling with eating disorders.

Haglund knows the topic well.

As she has described many times in the past year-plus, Haglund went on her first "diet" as a 12-year-old ballerina responding to a changing body. The more weight she lost, the less happy she felt.

Her weight plummeted, and by the time she turned 16 her parents had turned to professional help. Haglund ultimately realized she was seeking to fill an emotional hole by obsessing about her weight.

"There's always something underlying it that is emotional," she said.

She dances, runs and does Pilates now to keep in shape, but said she can no longer participate in ballet because it serves as a "trigger." Her spiritual faith helps fill the hole.

The half-dozen or so young women with her nodded at times, smiled at others. Each shared her own struggles.

Ariane Lowe, 27, was 11 when she went on her first diet, a fixation with eating that worsened with family problems in the years since. Her mother died a few years ago, and "it's been a downhill struggle ever since," she said.

Like Haglund, 26-year-old violinist Leah Rothe also danced ballet. She quit around the same time she graduated from college and her focus "shifted from what my body can do to what my body is."

Karla Olsen, 21, told Haglund how, if she doesn't respond immediately to her hunger, she just doesn't eat. She rings up large bills on smoothies, because she doesn't feel as bad when she drinks her meals.

"It's helpful to be here and see other people who feel like I do," Olsen said.

Haglund said she sees no irony in a former beauty queen telling young women not to obsess about their bodies. Rothe, the violinist, said she could empathize with the pressure that comes with a need to stay fit.

If she had her druthers, Haglund said there would be no swimsuit contest in the annual pageant.

"It's not about beauty to me," said Haglund. "It's not just about having a beautiful bikini body.

"It's about the message and affecting positive change."

Miss America 2008 tells women struggling with eating disorders that she has been there herself 04/16/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 17, 2009 12:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jim Harbaugh's Michigan football team is still hiding its roster

    Blogs

    Jim Harbaugh slipped one more offseason antic in just at the buzzer.

  2. Port Richey man burned, dogs killed in explosion that destroys home

    Public Safety

    PORT RICHEY — A man suffered serious burns and a number of dogs were killed when a house exploded as he was fueling an electric generator, neighbors said.

    An explosion destroyed one home and damaged another on Velvet Drive in Port Richey on Sunday night. One man received critical injuries and a number of dogs died. [HOWARD ALTMAN   |   Times]
  3. In Case You Missed It: U.S. sailors missing after Navy destroyer collides with oil tanker; Comedians Dick Gregory, Jerry Lewis pass away

    Blogs

    Weekends are great for unwinding, and maybe even unplugging for a little while. Here's what trended that you might have missed if you weren't on social media the last couple days.

    Dick Gregory in Washington, March 10, 2009. Gregory, the pioneering black satirist who transformed cool humor into a barbed force for civil rights in the 1960s, then veered from his craft for a life devoted to social causes, health regimens and conspiracy theories, died in Washington on Aug. 19, 2017. He was 84.
  4. Video: How to make a pinhole projector if you didn't score eclipse glasses

    Space

    CAPE CANAVERAL — Solar glasses are a must for safe viewing of Monday's total solar eclipse, the first to span coast to U.S. coast in 99 years.

    Follow these simple instructions to make a pinhole projector out of a cereal box. [Photo from video]
  5. Walmart expands grocery delivery service to Tampa

    Retail

    TAMPA — Walmart is expanding its grocery delivery service to Tampa, the company announced Monday. Five locations will offer delivery for online grocery orders.

    Walmart is expanding its grocery delivery to Tampa, the company announced Monday. | [Times file photo]