ATLANTA - For the first time, the reigning Miss Georgia is revealing a potentially deadly secret.
Miss Georgia 2012, Leighton Jordan, told Channel 2’s John Bachman on Tuesday that she’s spent years battling bulimia. Until recently, even her family didn't know she has an eating disorder. She said she's coming forward because it's a serious problem affecting millions of Americans with deadly consequences.
"It started when I was 12 years old, when I got really involved in ballet. By the time I got to 14, it was full blown anorexia," Jordan said.
And from there she moved to another eating disorder.
"The bulimia set in when I was 15 years old and that has been a constant until now," Jordan said.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 1 million people die from eating disorders each year, more than from breast cancer.
"I was spiraling downhill very quickly, and it was scary, for someone who has faith and the life I do to have the thoughts I was having," she said.
Jordan got professional help from Dr. Linda Buchanan, the founder of the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders.
"They are very tuned in to what other people think and feel, and they want only to make everybody around them happy," Buchanan said.
Jordan said she expects backlash for sharing her secret, but cites scary numbers for coming forward. Studies show 50 percent of elementary school-aged girls are concerned about their weight, or being fat.
"This was a battle I sincerely planned on keeping quiet, something (to) keep within family," Jordan said. "It's a very real and very serious issue that needs to be talked about more."