Hugh Hefner's ex-girlfriend has claimed he saved her life by curing her of an eating disorder.

Cristal Camden dated the late Playboy founder - who passed away earlier this week at the age of 91 - for around a year after they met in 2003, and he credits the businessman with inspiring her to undergo treatment for bulimia thanks to his ''loving, kind words''.

She explained: ''He said, 'I heard about how you're suffering ... I don't want you to suffer. I want you to be happy and I want you to be healthy, and I want you to be around for a long time.

'''I want you to be around so you can have a long life and be happy. And also for selfish reasons because I want you here. Can I help you? I want to send you to treatment.'

''And he did. If Hef hadn't pushed me and really been supportive in those loving, kind words that really motivated me to go to treatment, I'd probably still be suffering to be honest, maybe not even here.''

The 36-year-old model moved into the Bunny House opposite the famous Playboy Mansion after she split from Hugh, and admits she had a ''wonderful experience'' with him despite their break up.

Speaking in a TMZ video, she added: ''When I was 16 I developed an eating disorder. What was going on in my life at the time, I used it as a coping mechanism.

''When I moved to Los Angeles I met Hugh Hefner and he asked me to be a girlfriend, and I accepted.

''I had a wonderful experience with him and the other girls. It was fun. It was like family.''

Several Playboy Playmates paid tribute to the star after his death, including Jenny McCarthy, who started her career as a nude model in Playboy magazine in 1993.

She tweeted a picture of her Playboy cover and wrote: ''RIP #Hef Thank you for being a revolutionary and changing so many people's lives, especially mine. I hope I made you proud. #PMOY 94 (sic)''