Kirsten Haglund was crowned Miss America in early 2008. Prior to assuming that prestigious title, Kirsten Haglund was Miss Michigan. She...

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Kirsten Haglund was crowned Miss America back in 2008, but she was hardly the vision of health and happiness she appeared to be, by her own admission.

The blonde beauty has suffered from severe anorexia-nervosa most of her life.

The Michigan native, 23, has opened up to CNN about the shocking details of her illness, which she says began to take its toll when she was only 12.

Haglund says she picked up bad habits from other aspiring ballet dancers.

Kirsten Haglund Image

"I was in ballet from just 3-years-old. So from a very early age, the ideal female body type was very thin," Haglund says. "That was the first image I had."

"I always equated beauty 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 diet. "Every once in a while, I'd have vegetables, fruit or a spoonful of peanut butter."

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

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by Free Britney at . Comments

Just three years ago, newly crowned Miss America Kirsten Haglund was eating so little her concerned parents "dragged me to the doctor."

She was diagnosed with anorexia after the lack of nutrition caused Kirsten's collar bones to stick out, her heart rate to drop and her life to suffer.

Kirsten Haglund Image

"I would feel fatigued walking up six stairs," the 19-year-old Haglund said Sunday, a day after being crowned Miss America 2008.

"I was a completely different person. It's not a pretty sight."

Kirsten Haglund plans to spend her yearlong reign trying to raise awareness of eating disorders, promoting the pageant and helping the Children's Miracle Network, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and exercise.

To clinch the crown, the Farmington Hills, Mich., native sang "Over the Rainbow" and strutted around in a crowd-pleasing strut in a black bikini. Hot!

"You have to have curves," a victorious Kirsten Haglund said proudly of winning her battle with anorexia. "You can't look like a stick-thin model."

The aspiring Broadway star even ate the silver medallion chocolates left on her pillow in her suite at the host site, she said.

"I love chocolate," she said. "Chocolates are a girl's best friend."

A 5-foot 8-inch blonde, Haglund said she doesn't disclose her weight to avoid setting standards for youths obsessed with getting lighter.

After the crazy stories about Tara Conner, Katie Rees and other troubled beauty queens, here's hoping Kirsten Haglund sets a great example.