Brothers shed pounds together

Jonathan Nelson spots his brother Nick at their workout at North End Fitness Center in Oak Harbor.  - Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times
Jonathan Nelson spots his brother Nick at their workout at North End Fitness Center in Oak Harbor.
— image credit: Liz Burlingame/Whidbey News-Times

Two Oak Harbor brothers are living a real-life version of “The Biggest Loser: Couples” after losing about 100 pounds each since December.

The popular NBC weight loss show, which featured cousins, sisters and best friends last season, inspired 33-year-old Nick Nelson and his brother Jonathan, 35, as they began to shed pounds.

“We were going down the wrong path,” Nick said, who began at 345 pounds. His brother was formerly 486 pounds.

Nick works as an independent caretaker and Jonathan is currently on disability. For years, the brothers led a sedentary lifestyle, involving fast food and limited physical activity. They favored pizza and soda.

“For me, I was probably going to die soon. I was almost 500 pounds and was out of breath walking to my mailbox,” Jonathan said.

The brothers joined the North End Fitness Center in Oak Harbor eight months ago. It’s a gym popular for its free weight equipment and “everyone knows your first name” atmosphere, manager Jodi Smidth said.

Jonathan did body building in his teens and early 20’s, and was able to teach his brother various exercises. They started walking on the treadmill for one hour, five days a week.

“It was hard at the beginning to build stamina,” Jonathan said.

“It was more mental for me, as far as getting focused and saying ‘I can do it,’” said Nick.

There was also a radical change to their diets, which had them eating high protein foods and fewer carbohydrates and fats. Many of their meals included chicken breast, brown rice and cottage cheese.

“We had a cheat day every ten days where we could go off our diet. It was something to look forward to and it helped a lot,” Jonathan said.

The brothers read fitness magazines for tips on nutrition, and were able to calculate how many calories they could take in each day. For Jonathan, it’s about 2,000.

“This is a life changing process. You can’t go back to eating bad once you’ve lost the weight,” Nick said.

In his first month, Jonathan shed 20 pounds and each month following, the brothers steadily lost about 10 pounds. They always work out together, to help spot heavy equipment and for motivation. Today, their routine is to visit the gym four to five times a week.

“We knew if one of us did it, the other one would,” Nick said.

Since they’ve dropped the weight, the brothers say they are feeling more confident. Last month, Nick said he ran into some old friends who didn’t recognize him.

Nick was also dealing with Type II Diabetes and borderline high blood pressure at his former weight. Now, both have vanished.

In the upcoming months, Nick hopes to lose about 20 more pounds and add muscle, while Jonathan hopes to reach 240 pounds.

For Jonathan, losing weight has given him new mobility and renewed his passion for life. The man who once was short of breath while he was shopping at Safeway, can now walk two miles on a track before breaking.

“It’s never too late to start doing something like this,” Nick said. “Just don’t think that you can’t get this done. Take it slow and you’ll find out it’s working.”

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