Simone Biles’ Mom, Nellie, Opens Up About Managing Type 2 Diabetes: “I Try To Mirror Simone”

Updated: Jun. 28, 2024

The woman Simone Biles has credited for her gymnastics success reveals one sweet way her daughter has been sure to return the love.

In 2016, Simone Biles gave an interview revealing one of the secrets behind her ambition: “At the beginning of the year, my mom would always make me write down goals on a piece of paper and take it to her,” she said. “That’s kind of how I always was very well-driven, because I always had the next goal in mind.”

Then age 19, she was referring to Nellie Biles, who adopted Simone in her toddler years and raised her alongside Simone’s maternal grandfather, Ron Biles. Their ways of parenting raised a champion and inarguably required sacrifice. As Simone, now 27, prepares for the 2024 Olympic Trials starting June 27, Mrs. Biles is stepping into the spotlight—but not for herself. In partnership with Mounjaro, the tirzepatide injectable for diabetes that’s also being prescribed off-label for weight loss, Mrs. Biles is opening up about her experience living type 2 diabetes. While a representative tells us Nellie does not take Mounjaro, Mrs. Biles says she wants to encourage others to speak with their doctor about available treatment options.

That led to a spirited early-June conversation with this remarkable mother figure who raised a family valuing self-discipline and self-care—but most of all, care for each other.

Simone Biles Mom and her momJohnny Nunez/getty images

The Healthy by Reader’s Digest: Thanks for joining us today, Mrs. Biles. This has to be a thrilling time for you. Please tell us: What is an Olympic summer like for the family of Simone Biles?

Nellie Biles: (Laughs.) I must say, exciting. It’s hard sometimes to put into words—I mean everyone is so excited: Excited about the competition, excited about the fact that we know somebody, or we believe we know someone leading right now, because we are definitely going to trials in two weeks. It’s exciting [not only for] Simone, but we have four other girls from the gym that are going to be competing at trials. So my prayer and wish is that we have two on the Olympic team, and also one as an alternate. Am I asking for much? (Laughs.)

The Healthy: We think the mother of Simone Biles is allowed to ask for much! Anyone with a loved one who’s type 2 diabetic intimately knows that it can take the love of family to navigate the condition. What role did taking care of everybody else play in the development of that? Is that something you can speak to?

Mrs. Biles: Well, I must say that I received my type 2 diabetes diagnosis in my early fifties—so when I think back to that time, that definitely was a defining moment for me. In a way I was not surprised, simply because I do have family members that also have type 2 diabetes. Now, here I am, this was back then when I was diagnosed, and I know how hard I worked to do all the right things in terms of eating properly and exercising, consulting with my physician to make sure that I do the right thing to maintain my A1C level. So that was a lot of work for me.

And yet, besides me doing the proper things for my health, there’s also a family that still needs to be taken care of. My family are definitely aware of the fact that I have type 2 diabetes, and so our lifestyle has changed somewhat.

I cook healthy foods and I definitely make sure that for me, I manage my portion size. So when I am cooking, when I’m serving food—I mean the main thing is to try and make sure that what we do as a family doesn’t change.

The Healthy: Are your kids supportive in recognizing the adjustments you’ve had to make over the years?

Mrs. Biles: They are supportive. One example of support is when we travel, and before we get on the airplane and Simone is picking up her junk to snack on the plane, she will pick up things for me—but she will make sure that they’re healthy options that she’s choosing for me so that I could also have something to snack on.

Again, eating healthy, we pretty much do that in the family, but making sure that we eat at the right times and that we’re not going for hours and hours before we get something to eat because it’s important with the timing—at least for me it is. So she is mindful of that.

I will say that what I admire is the fact Simone is consistent and she’s dedicated to her sport. So when I’m watching her, I can see that she is achieving her goal with that dedication and with that consistency. So I sort of try to mirror that with what I do in terms of my lifestyle to make sure that I myself am also consistent—with my eating habits and my exercise, with making sure that I follow up and consult with my physician to make sure that I again achieve my goals, which would be to maintain my A1C level.

The Healthy: Hoping that all goes well at the trials, will you plan to go to Paris?

Mrs. Biles: Definitely so. Yes, without a doubt. Matter of fact, there are family members that are planning on going to Paris if all goes well.

The Healthy: How do you manage when you’re on the road, even considering factors like changes in time zones?

Mrs. Biles: When I’m on the road, I try to still again be consistent with what I do. I think by doing that, things are not really hard to manage. I mean exercise—not that I’m looking for a treadmill or any equipment—but just mere walking. Let’s just for example say that we end up in Paris: Walking would be something that I definitely will be doing. I love walking because that’s one of the things that I do pretty consistently. So that would not be a problem.

And again, eating healthy, you could go to a restaurant, you could go to a store wherever you go. You just have to make sure that the choices that you are making are healthy choices and that should not be difficult to make.

It’s a lot of hard work to make sure that you’re consistent with your diet and … not to forget working with your physician.

The Healthy: Good luck at trials and beyond, Mrs. Biles. We’re cheering right along with you.

Mrs. Biles: I thank you very much.

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This interview was edited for length and clarity.