American mum Laura McNemee shares how she was forced to lose weight to look after her son who has severe autism


Laura McNemee can point to the exact day she knew she needed to do something about her weight.

In the summer of 2018 her son Jacob, who has severe autism, ran away from her.

“I almost couldn’t catch him. And I realised if I didn’t change something, I wasn’t going to be able to take care of him. For him to be safe, I needed to change,” she said.

McNemee’s weight gain followed her son’s diagnosis with autism.

“I was in a pretty dark, depressed state because of his diagnosis,” she said.

Laura McNemee can point to the exact day she knew she needed to do something about her weight. 
Laura McNemee can point to the exact day she knew she needed to do something about her weight.  Credit: Supplied

“I dove deep down into trying to help him and forgot about myself. I was eating my feelings and my stress rather than dealing with it.”

By the time Jacob ran off, McNemee’s weight had climbed to more than 136kg. She made a deal with herself. For two weeks, she was going to get up and exercise in the morning, and she was going to eat better. “I told myself if I didn’t feel better, I could stop,” she said.

McNemee focused on clean eating, exercise and building a community as part of her weight-loss journey. She ate clean, whole foods and started walking.

“To be honest, the first two or three days were pretty rough. I was still kind of detoxing, I guess. But I made myself that promise. And after that, I started feeling more energy,” she said.

And she noticed something that surprised her — she felt happier.

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“I wasn’t as depressed. I wasn’t as anxious. The mental health benefits were a shock to me.”

She added weightlifting to her workout routine.

“That was a big game changer for me, building muscle,” she said. And thanks to the mental health benefits, it’s been easy for her to stick with her weightlifting routine: “I work out every day when I get up. It’s my favorite time of the day sometimes.”

She built friendships at work with people who wanted to get healthy. “We would take walks at work and meet after work to play volleyball or whatever. That support and friendship definitely helped me along my way,” she said.

In the first nine months, she lost 100 pounds (45kg), and the remaining 37 pounds (17kg) came off slowly and gradually. She uses an app to track her eating and exercise and to maintain her weight loss.

“When I started using the Lose It! app, I would put in something I ate and I’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, that was almost my entire workout.’ That’s not worth it,” she said.

What she eats in a typical day

McNemee has a meal routine she usually follows: “People call me boring because I kind of stick to the same plan, but it works for me.”

  • Breakfast: A whole-grain muffin with eggs, bacon and cheese. “People are surprised that every morning I have bacon. I just can’t give up bacon,” she said.
  • Lunch and dinner: Some kind of protein, whole-grain rice or a sweet potato, and about two cups of vegetables.
  • Snacks: A protein shake or bar, yogurt, bananas, apples, or popcorn.

How losing weight has made a difference in her life

McNemee said, “You don’t realise how much you hold yourself back when you weigh that much, when you’re not feeling like yourself. I would be tired by lunchtime or two o’clock. Now I feel like my energy is through the roof, like before.”

What’s easy for her now? Everything: “Groceries, playing with the kids, working — every single aspect of my life is easier because I lost weight.”

She said a lot of people ask her what her secret is. “There really is no secret. It’s just that you have to want it enough to be committed to it,” she said. That means finding a reason that goes deeper than, “I want to lose weight.”

“That’s not good enough. You have to find your ‘why’. In the beginning, Jacob was my ‘why’. He’s still my ‘why.’ But it also evolved into finding myself again, wanting to be happier, and wanting to be the old me again,” she said.



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