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Miss America's Struggle With Anorexia

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Kirsten Haglund

Miss America, Kirsten Haglund recently revealed how she had to struggle for years with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder. Only 19 years old when she won the crown, she shared her story on how the pressure to excel led to her becoming anorexic at the tender age of 12. She said she gave up food and lived on coffee, diet coke and gum.


Anorexia is a secret battle for many celebrities.  Ashlee Simpson recovered after suffering in her teenage years but the Brazilian model, Ana Carolina Reston was not so lucky. She lost her life at the age of 21 while weighing only 88 pounds. There are hundreds of others who succumb  to anorexia. There is, therefore,  an urgent need to identify it properly and root it out gradually. Let's check out a few facts about this deadly disorder that can kill!


What Is Anorexia ?

It is one of the most common teen eating disorders which leads to one being extremely fearful of weight gain. In Kirsten's case she felt that she would be a more successful as a ballet dancer if she stayed thin. Such people are often underweight and  have a Body-Mass Index or BMI lesser than 18.5. They are obsessed about their weight and feel fat even at such a dangerously low BMI. More women compared to men suffer from this although the number of men is gradually increasing.

Symptoms Of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Refusal to gain weight and self starvation.

  • Calorie counting of all meals and complete avoidance of fat in food.

  • Inducing vomiting and taking frequent laxatives to avoid weight gain.

  • Feeling fat and going on a diet despite the thinness.

  • Intolerant to cold and frequent depression.

  • Many even feel a sense of triumph when they severely cut their food intake, which according to Linda Craighead, a professor of psychology is very common behaviour, especially during periods of transition.


Causes Of Anorexia

The fact that 24 million Americans suffer from anorexia is alarming. The cause of this disorder may be-

  • Biological- Genetics could have a role to play in anorexia although more research is needed. Low levels of a brain chemical called serotonin which plays a vital role in mood and anxiety may also be a cause.

  • Environmental- Peer pressure and the false ideologies that promote thinness affect the minds of youngsters and lead to an altered self image.

Health Effects

Kirsten Haglund recalls how she was consuming less than 900 calories a day which massively impacted her health. Her mother forcibly took an undernourished and depressed Kirsten to the doctor and the test results confirmed anorexia. The effects of anorexia can be-

  • Starving reduces iron stores in the body which can lead to absence of normal menstruation.

  • The bones become weak and more prone to fractures.

  • The kidneys can get damaged which may reach irreversible stages.

  • There is increased risk of constipation and bloating.

  • The balance of important electrolytes such as sodium and potassium are altered which can cause a sudden heart attack and lead to death.

Treatment Of Anorexia

  • Psychological counselling and nutrition management are key points of treatment.

  • Therapy is needed to help patients change their perception towards weight and appearance.

  • Zinc as well as essential fatty acid supplements have shown to be helpful.

  • A well planned weight gain program is essential to implement.

A person struggling with anorexia needs unconditional love and family support. As Kirsten put it,  “Those who struggle with substance abuse can get off their drug and never face it again, but for somebody who overcomes an eating disorder, you have to face it every day, multiple times a day." Anorexia is a battle that  needs to be fought from the start to the end. Kirsten's example shows that it is possible to triumph this disorder and that it is a battle that needs to be won.


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Miss America's Struggle With Anorexia