"American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee struggled for years with bulimia before seeking help, the singer said in an interview published Thursday.

At her worst she would throw up as many as seven times a day, putting her singing career in jeopardy.

It was like "putting a sledgehammer to your vocal cords," McPhee told People magazine in an interview published on its Web site.

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Attempts to reach McPhee Thursday were not successful. Phone numbers for her, her family or her publicist could not immediately be located.

McPhee, 22, told the magazine she sought help last fall after successfully auditioning for "American Idol." She enrolled in an eating disorder center in Los Angeles and spent three months in therapy.

"Growing up in Los Angeles and spending all those years in dance class, I'd been conscious of body image at a young age, and I went through phases of exercising compulsively and starving myself," she said.

Now McPhee said she's healthier thanks to the "intuitive eating" approach she learned in therapy.

"If you look at a doughnut, people think it's a fattening food. Why?" McPhee said. "Because if you eat it you'll get fat? No, you'll get fat if you eat 10 doughnuts."

McPhee lost to Taylor Hicks in the top-rated FOX show's finale last month. She has signed a record deal with music mogul Clive Davis in conjunction with 19 Recordings Unlimited, the label managed by "Idol" creator Simon Fuller. Her recordings of two songs, "Over the Rainbow" and "My Destiny," will be released next week.