The relationship college women have with their bodies, weight and self-image is filled with mixed emotions, former Miss America Kirsten Haglund said at a "Feed Your Body and Soul Week" event on Wednesday evening.
“The world tells us that as a woman you have to be beautiful and thin in order to be successful, and I’m here to tell you that’s totally a big fat lie,” Haglund said. “It’s just not true.”
Haglund represented Michigan when she was crowned Miss America in 2008. During her year of service, Haglund said she traveled approximately 20,000 miles each month across the nation to raise awareness for eating disorders.
When Haglund was 12 years old, she said began her struggle with an eating disorder because she felt pressured to be thin as a dancer.
“As my body started to change, I started to get really scared,” Haglund said. “I started to feel as though my world was spinning out of control, and my dream of being a professional ballerina could maybe not become realized because of my size.”
Haglund said the media and fashion magazines triggered negative thoughts about her body. She said she counted calories and lost weight to look like the models in magazines.
“I swirled down into this spiral of depression and restriction and just a horrible life,” Haglund said. “I became a shell of a person.”
When Haglund was 15 years old, she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Haglund said she started treatment with a pediatric physician, a psychologist and a nutritionist to become healthy, mentally and physically.
Haglund said she had to go off her food diet and go on a media diet.
“So many of those people that are held up in the world as beautiful and as role models are empty,” Haglund said. “So I want to encourage you to find role models of people and women in your life that are real.”
Haglund said students need to seek help if they have an eating disorder, or know someone who does.
Shelley Long, a staff psychologist, said the number of eating disorder cases at the university is higher than the national average.
“Body image concerns are a huge struggle on our campus,” Long said.
Leah Reynolds, a sophomore business major, said college women are worried about the fear of gaining the “freshman 15” and maintaining their body image.
“As girls we definitely compare ourselves to others, and college is such a stressful, important time of your life when you’re figuring out who you are, so that affects your weight and what you look like,” Reynolds said.