Emily Fonnesbeck says her issues with diet and exercise started after her first son was born. “I was a new mom and feeling pressure to recover from the pregnancy body, and I started eating less and exercising more,” she says. “I’m very much a perfectionist, so if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it one hundred percent.”
At first, 100% meant cardio workouts most days and eliminating unhealthy foods from her diet. But slowly her habits snowballed. Over a period of five or six years, her training progressed until she was working out for at least 90 minutes every day. “There were numbers I had to hit — like a certain number of miles, minutes, calories, etc. — and if I didn’t hit them, my mind would drive me crazy about it all day,” she says.
Meanwhile, Fonnesbeck was also experimenting with elimination diets. First she cut out sugar, followed by dairy and gluten. “I had constant headaches and I was tired and I had digestive issues,” she says. “I thought, well, I’m just not eating the right things — I need to cut out what I’m eating that’s bad.” Eventually, her diet dwindled to just five foods: sprouted-corn tortillas, brown rice, cabbage, tahini, and beans.
Fonnesbeck, 37, is a registered dietician and nutrition therapist. She says she should have recognized, based on her own expertise, that her problem was not eating enough. “I had this idea that there was this perfect way of eating and I needed to find it, and that would fix everything,” she says.
“I think that’s one of the biggest cultural messages — that it’s all or nothing.”
She realized it all needed to stop when her husband approached her about an upcoming vacation. “I was feeling really overwhelmed about going because it meant I’d have to pack all of my own food and try to figure out how to fit in my workouts,” she says. “My husband looked at me and said, ‘Emily, it’s time to get some help.’”
Today Fonnesbeck works with people who have eating and body-image disorders like the one she had. “A common theme [among clients] is that if you’re not obsessive, then you’re lazy…