Katharine McPhee Reveals 5-Year Struggle With Bulimia

"American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee finished second to Taylor Hicks, but she still counts herself as a victor in her five-year bout with bulima.

McPhee, 22, tells People magazine that she's been struggling to cope with the binge-and-purge eating disorder since she was 17. At her lowest point, she was throwing up seven times a day - something that could've permanently damaged her vocal cords.

"When I made it onto 'American Idol,' I knew that food - my eating disorder - was the one thing really holding me back," she said in the issue that hits newsstands this week.

"I was binging my whole life away for days at a time. ... So when I got on the show, I said, 'You know what? I can do well in this competition. Let me give myself a chance and just get a hold of this thing.'"

After successfully auditioning for "Idol" in the fall, McPhee sought help. She credits her parents and her boyfriend, Nick Cokas, for helping her face the problem.

In October, she enrolled in the Eating Disorder Center of California in Los Angeles and spent three months undergoing therapy for six days a week.

In December, when she returned to "Idol" for more taping, she told the producers about her eating disorder, but kept it a secret from everyone else.

"She says that around the time that she auditioned, it was at its worst and it was really out of control," People magazine senior editor Galina Espinoza said to ABC News Radio.

"She held off until after the show ended to go public because she didn't want it to influence the voting. She wanted the audience to vote for her because they thought she was a good singer, not because they felt sorry for her or in any way made her seem more sympathetic," Espinoza said.

During the competition, judge Simon Cowell called McPhee's voice, "the best of the competition."

These days, McPhee says she's practicing something called "intuitive eating," which teaches you to eat small amounts of food that you crave, and how to stop eating when you're full.

"I learned that there's no such thing as a bad food," she said in the interview. "If you look at a doughnut, people think it's a fattening food. Why? Because if you eat it, you'll get fat? No, you'll get fat if you eat 10 doughnuts."