From Diet to Disease

Art by Cailyn Talamonti

From Diet to Disease

by Elizabeth Setti

Webster’s Dictionary defines addiction as a compulsive, physiological, or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity that leads to harmful effects. Throughout the course of the COVID-19 government shutdown, citizens battling their existing addictions inevitably struggled with their situations due to various factors. Some may even have developed new habits during their confinement, eventually resulting in an unhealthy fixation.

Personally, I grew addicted to calorie counting—which evolved into severely limiting food intake. Terrified of gaining the “quarantine 15,” I began tracking my calories and increasing my exercise to a harmful extent. Between mid-April until late July, I reduced my intake to only 1300 calories a day. As a 16-year-old girl who is an athlete, this regimen was destroying my body. According to the online platform “KidsHealth,” toddlers should consume approximately 1200 calories a day, making my daily diet one comparable to that of a four-year-old. I grew addicted to weighing my food and logging it into an app, developing anxiety around certain foods and social events involving food. I went from weighing 135 pounds to 115 pounds in the span of 4 months, resulting in many health problems and a toxic relationship with my body. I would subsequently be diagnosed with Anorexia-Nervosa.

Feeling irritable and drained in every aspect, I could no longer live with the same zest for life. My mind revolved around food. I would think, “How many calories do I have left for today?” or “You can’t eat that!” Finally, I realized I had a severe problem and built up the courage to open up to my mom about after listening to an inspiring podcast. My mom helped me by
scheduling an appointment with a therapist who guided me in my recovery journey.

“Diet culture” is everywhere, but it has particularly infested social media, impacting susceptible audiences with the harmful content of fad diets. Eating disorders are too serious to just consider it “healthy eating,” or “awareness.” The obsession with the quality and quantity can become destructive to a person’s wellbeing. Diet culture encourages this behavior by advertising fad diets and harmful products.

Today I am still in recovery and mending my relationship with food while spreading awareness about the commonality of these disorders. 9% of the world’s population, including 30 million Americans, face an eating disorder in their lifetime. Additionally, eating disorders cause 10,000 deaths a year, which is one death every 52 minutes. Spreading awareness about the normality of eating disorders is crucial, especially among teenagers.

Like others who are recovering from an eating disorder, my entire life will now be a journey to healing and dedicated to relearning normalized eating. As a community we need to advocate for the awareness of eating disorders and actively support all who may be struggling. Therefore, we need to stop following diet culture which romanticizes starvation, practically promoting a deadly addiction.

If you or a loved one is struggling from an unhealthy relationship with food go to for free counseling and guidance.

About Elizabeth Setti

Elizabeth Setti is a junior at Richwoods High School in the International Baccalaureate program. Setti plays volleyball for both Richwoods and Central Illinois Elite Volleyball Club, where she has the opportunity to travel throughout the Midwest and compete at high levels. She is the editor (and previously a writer) for the sports section of “Richwoods Shield,” her school’s newspaper. Setti serves on the student leadership team and Noble Knights, and is a member of her school’s science club. She was recently diagnosed with AnorexiaNervosa, which she developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. She feels it is important to share her story and spread awareness about eating disorders. As such, Setti created a blog called “A Hidden Addiction,” where she tells her story and her journey to recovery.