Those words grace the screen at Kirsten Haglund’s website, the entry point for many seeking help in treating their eating disorders under the guidance of the former Miss Michigan and 2008 Miss America. They are a mantra for women to repeat, to embody, to embrace as they take the difficult steps toward getting healthy and loving themselves.Â “The most important thing for women to hear is that they are enough,” says Kirsten Haglund, the 21-year-old former Miss America 2008 and Michigan native who speaks out about eating disorders, including the one she battled as a teen.
“Especially at midlife, women are exploring, prioritizing. The world tells us we are not enough the way we are, that we must do more, be more, be prettier,” Haglund says. “We have enough the way we are created. Women must find what gives them peace and joy and stop worrying about meeting anyone else’s standards.”
It’s a big message for a young woman. But Haglund has accomplished much in her 21 years, motivated by the “tremendous blessing” of being crowned Miss America two years ago and using that as a platform to speak out about an issue that has been close to her heart for years.Â Now an Atlanta resident, monthly guest on the Sean Hannity Show and a soon-to-be student at Emory University, Haglund is busy with the several non-profits she started and continues to lead, including the Kirsten Haglund Foundation for eating disorder support and treatment.
“I love non-profit work,” says Haglund. “I started going to school for musical theater and lived in Los Angeles for a year, but it was not fulfilling. It was not sustaining — it was toxic, the business of show business — I found it superficial and not creative, actually. So I changed my path.”
Inspired by the mandatory community service required of Miss Michigan and Miss America pageant competitors, Haglund realized that the “substance and vitality of life” comes from finding a cause greater than herself.Â “Finding a cause you can pursue gives you drive and purpose,” she says.
While competing for the beauty pageant title, Haglund says she chose eating disorder awareness as her platform “simply because I never thought I’d win!”Â And then, at the age of 17, she was put in a position of leadership and found herself glad to have chosen a platform she could get behind — and hopefully help women improve their self-image and their health.Â “I’ve had an incredibly positive response from people and gratitude for sharing my personal experience of struggling with an eating disorder,” says Haglund. “When you bring the darkness into the light, it makes us throw off the veil of perfectionism and connects us as humans.”Â In the process, she began learning more about the nature — and extent — of eating disorders in America.
Today, Haglund speaks across the country at least four times each month. Her foundation, created in 2009, after she gave up the Miss America crown, has awarded five scholarships of between $25,000 and $100,000 each to help women afford treatment for their eating disorders.Â The foundation provides financial assistance for women who need it; acts as a third party negotiator with insurance companies and treatment centers to get lower treatment rates for women; covers travel, as necessary, for treatment and acts as advocate for women in any way they need it while trying to get help for eating disorders.
“These women are alone — there is no one to support them, they’re not thinking clearly because their brain is warped from lack of nutrition or binging and purging,” she says.
Kirsten Haglund is a member of the Michigan Coalition on Midlife Eating Disorders, created by Allison Kaplan and ASKInYourFace.com.