Just three years ago, Kirsten Haglund was eating tiny portions of food and became so thin her concerned parents "dragged me to the doctor."
The ballet dancer was diagnosed with anorexia, and the lack of nutrition caused her collar bones to stick out, her heart rate to drop and her relationships to suffer.
"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."
On Saturday night, it was a different Haglund than the depressed girl who was obsessed with her body weight as a high school junior.
The Farmington Hills, Mich., native sang "Over the Rainbow" and walked a crowd-pleasing strut in a black and gold bikini to clinch the title.
"You have to have curves," she said proudly. "You can't look like a stick-thin model."
The aspiring Broadway star even ate the silver medallion chocolates left on her pillow at the host site, the Planet Hollywood Resort.
"Yes, omigosh, yes," she said. "I love chocolate. Chocolates are a girl's best friend."
The 5-foot, 8-inch blonde doesn't talk about her weight in numbers to avoid setting standards for other troubled youths still obsessed by losing it.
She even stopped pursuing her dream to become a professional ballerina to escape an environment in which she was rewarded for being slim and an industry that Haglund said sweeps concerns about eating disorders under the rug.
Haglund says she is going to maintain her healthy lifestyle of Pilates exercises and treadmill workouts during her reign, as she tries to raise awareness of eating disorders.
The National Eating Disorders Association estimates eating disorders affect 10 million girls and women and about 1 million boys and men in the United States.
Haglund's job begins right away, and on Sunday she caught a plane to New York for an interview the next day on "Live With Regis and Kelly."
While the teen said she wasn't about to "let myself go," she didn't plan to skip any meals over her crowning year.
"I'm going to enjoy my food," she said.