Obesity doesn’t have to be your destiny


Nicole Neimeyer decided early in life that she was destined to be fat. Even though her mother cooked healthful meals, Neimeyer was always hungry. She was tall and athletic but seemed to gain weight at twice the rate of other kids.

“I used to think something was broken inside me,” she says. “Everyone would be full and leave the dinner table. I didn’t have a switch to tell me ‘I’m full.’ ”

High-fat, sugary diets and waning physical-activity patterns are largely blamed for the outbreak of obesity that has swept the United States since around 1980 and now encompasses one-third of all Americans. But more researchers are coming around to Nicole Neimeyer’s point of view, which is shared by many failed dieters: Some people seem programmed to become overweight.


Old family photos tell the story in Neimeyer’s family, just as they do in many American families.

The 29-year-old, 5-foot-8 Riverside woman sorts through photo albums on her kitchen table one weekday morning while keeping an eye on her two young sons, Matthew, 4, and Nicholas, 3. Almost all of the photos of relatives taken before 1960 show people who are normal-weight or even skinny.

Neimeyer picks up a photo of herself in her cheerleading uniform, age 9. She’s hidden behind huge pompoms, but her face is a giveaway — round and full.

Despite eating family meals and avoiding soda and fast food, Neimeyer weighed 165 pounds in sixth grade. In the year following high school graduation, she gained 60 pounds.

She tried numerous diets, exercise regimens, acupuncture and vitamin shots to lose weight.

After the birth of Nicholas in July 2008, she reached her heaviest — 279.9 pounds.

“I thought there was no hope for me,” she says.

Neimeyer’s mother and sisters also battle their weight. (“I think she felt guilty, like it’s her fault I was overweight,” Neimeyer says of her mother.) The women often discuss their weight battles.

“We’ve wondered if it’s plastics in the environment that changed hormones,” Neimeyer says. “Not to pass the buck — that we’re not accountable — but how has this happened? I used to feel like it was just me. But it’s not just me.”


The birth of her own children compelled Neimeyer to take another stab at weight loss. Both of her boys are big for their ages, and she feared they would become obese. She joined Weight Watchers in March 2009 and began to reshape not only her own health but that of her family. They walk every day, and Wii dance games are now a favorite pastime. Neimeyer paid close attention to her cooking — as a result, her husband, Matthew, lost 65 pounds.

Now svelte and toned, Neimeyer wears a Bodybugg, a device that keeps track of her caloric intake and calories burned. If it’s 10 p.m. and the Bodybugg shows she has burned 2,200 calories — instead of her daily goal of 2,300 — she rises and starts cleaning the house until the goal is reached.

“My kids are what changed my life,” she says, cutting up an apple for Matthew’s morning snack. “I don’t want them to deal with what I deal with.”

Now more two years into her lifestyle changes, she has lost 120 pounds and has reached her goal weight of 160.

“I had tried all sorts of things,” she says. “But I credit my weight loss to diet and exercise and just making better choices.”