Miss America kicks off eventful week: Lecture and films explore eating disorders

Former Miss America Kirsten Haglund visited the College on Monday, Feb. 27 as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

The week was designed to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with eating disorders, according to the College’s Counseling and Psychological Services peer educators who organized the event.

“Through the events we also hoped that individuals who suspect that they have an eating disorder or friends concerned about a friend will look to Counseling and Psychological Services at TCNJ for support and resources,” said Angela Chen, senior psychology major and CAPS peer educator, who helped organize this event.

CAPS registered with the National Eating Disorder Association and organized three events, with many cosponsors; Haglund’s lecture was the first.

“We thought that (Haglund), who is both a college student and a high profile figure, would bring attention to eating disorders on a college campus and be accessible to TCNJ students as well,” Chen said.

Kirsten Haglund shares a story of resilience as she fought anorexia before becoming Miss America. (Photo by Amy Sachs)

The Business Building Lounge filled up as people came out to hear Haglund share her struggles with anorexia, which lasted from age 12 to 17 as she dealt with the competitive world of ballet.

“This job is more than a crown,” Haglund said of her experience as Miss America. “It’s an opportunity to help other people in life.”

Haglund advocated for eating disorder awareness and spoke about what she saw as the pillars of approaching eating disorder awareness.  Among these were: if you see something, say something; taking control of the media and being “fat talk” free.

By avoiding crazy diets and exercise routines, thinking about what you’re watching and absorbing from the media, and removing talk of being fat from you’re daily conversation, Haglund contended that the stigma surrounding eating disorders can be greatly reduced.

“I really learned to redefine beauty on my own terms,” Haglund said. “If you’re trying to be perfect, you’re going to fail.”

After kicking off with Haglund’s lecture CAPS organized two film screenings in the Library Autitorium to complete the week.

On Wednesday, Feb. 29, a screening of the film “Someday Melissa” explored eating disorders on a personal level and how they affect the individual’s family. The screening was followed by a question and answer session with the two filmmakers, Judy Avrin and Danna Markson. The following day “America the Beautiful” was viewed by a sizeable crowd, contributing to a what Chen saw as an overal successful week.

“The events were highly attended and participants expressed their interests through their questions directed to the guests,” Chen said. “Attendees left with tangible information as well as new perspectives presented through personal stories.”

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