Does it get any better than getting to know a terrific woman than breaking bread and giant shrimp cocktail at PJ. Clarkes in Manhattan and going to a Saturday matinee of the New York City Ballet? Initially I wanted to interview Kirsten for my Dance Book in progress, however the more I listened to her narrative the more I realized, this is a gal here making a very passionate big difference in girls, boys, women and men’s lives that struggle with Eating Disorders!
I first met Kirsten Haglund at NEDA, National Eating Disorder Association, where she was talking about her personal struggle with anorexia. Kirsten works and represents Timberline Knolls, an eating disorders facility.
Recently, my Summer intern Neelam Mahtani, had the occasion to listen to Kirsten speak at a Senate Briefing in Washington D.C. with the Eating Disorder Coalition, and National Council about how crucial it was to pass The Mental Health Reform Bill. She is an activist and advocate of early detection for the prevention of anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders. Looking back she realizes that her eating disorder was not recognized by her family, nor in school. That with early detection, awareness of warning signs and an emphasis on prevention, can make all the difference.
As an eating disorder, body image expert, I would agree with Kristen. She is all about preventing years of suffering and derailment from living one’s life fruitfully and with passion.
Me: “Tell me about you, your family background, What interested, inspired you as a child, teen, young adult?” I adore the performing arts, the sweat, hard work, discipline is admirable. What inspired you to dance? The pitfalls and the accolades?
Kirsten: “I started dancing at the age of 3 and just danced ballet from the age of 12-17. During a Summer program in Pennsylvania I met Ashley Bouder, NYCB. At the age of 12, I started to throw away my lunch and that was the beginning of my eating disorder. As a ballet dancer, I saw myself in the mirror all of the time. Food was an issue! I started to hate ballet. This was a dark period in my life. I was perfectionistic and restricted my food intake. I started to see a nutritionist and went on a food plan. I realized, How could I continue ballet and stay on a food plan? It wasn’t possible. I dropped out of ballet. I started working on changing my mindset and moved to Musical Theater. While I had no real voice in Ballet, I found my voice in Musical theater. I made a choice, I wanted to have more fun again.”
She also connected family stresses at that time. “My mom had breast cancer, my brother was struggling with OCD and I became anorexic.”
“In my darkest times, I used to think that taking care of myself was a sign of weakness, going soft. Once I left ballet slowly I realized that it takes a lot of strength to take tender loving care of myself, that’s about being more highly evolved.”
On a lark, Kirsten at the age of 19 entered the Miss Michigan local pageant and won. She went on to win the State and in 2008 she won both Miss USA and Miss Swimsuit.
Kirsten spoke fondly of her Maternal Grandmother, literally following in her footsteps and taking it further. “Grandma was Miss Michigan, sang, danced as a teenager into her early 20’s and got married before her husband went into the service.”
Kirsten continues to find her voice in a bigger way on Cable T.V., CNN as an advocate, activist and commentator for millennials. She regularly appears on Fox 5 as well.
Kirsten is a dedicated, hard working, beautiful gal inside and out with a big compassionate heart! I feel so blessed to call her my friend and dance buddy!