At about 6 feet and 251 pounds, former North Bend resident Nick Keeler knew he had to do something about his weight.
His fiance Lael, carrying 164 pounds on her tiny frame and having a family history of high cholesterol, felt the same way.
So last year, the couple auditioned and were selected to compete in a special overweight engaged couples edition of the reality television show “The Biggest Loser” on NBC.
The show aired Feb. 8.
“It was kind of surreal,” Nick said. “We went into this to make it a positive experience.”
Now living in Hawaii, Nick and Lael met in 2001 while both were working for a large department store. While Nick still works for the store as vice president of marketing and sales, Lael is currently opening her own wine store.
The former triathlete and 1988 Mount Si High School graduate was attracted to Lael’s “Mona Lisa smile.”
“Eating was entertainment,” he said about their dates.
And as they fell in love, they put on the pounds, eventually totaling in at a combined weight of 415 pounds.
Last year, when they heard about the opportunity to go on television to lose weight, work with a professional trainer and potentially win a dream wedding, they met with a casting director for “The Biggest Loser.”
Six weeks later, they were told that out of more than 125,000 applicants, they had been selected.
“It was about a positive lifestyle change,” Nick said. “We were in denial [about the weight] … It was a positive show, regardless of the outcome.”
Filming started last May. The couple spent 11 days on a ranch in California alongside their competition: Bruce and Kimi, a couple weighing in at 482 pounds. Each couple had a trainer to help them with exercise and eating habits.
Participating in challenges for mini-prizes along the way, the couple with the biggest percentage of weight lost after the initial two weeks would win a free honeymoon; the couple losing the most weight by September would win the wedding.
The couples weighed in at the end of the two weeks, then were on their own until September for the final weigh-in.
After the two weeks at the ranch, Nick and Lael lost a total of 44 pounds and had an 11-percent weight loss; Bruce and Kimi lost 37 pounds and had an 8-percent weight loss.
Winning the honeymoon, Nick and Lael also won complimentary meals from a personal chef for a month after filming and before the final weigh-in.
They have yet to go on their all-expense-paid honeymoon to Jamaica, as NBC (the station that airs “The Biggest Loser”) wanted to keep all details of show results secret before airing.
Married Oct. 14, 2005, at a winery in California, the couple took their first honeymoon in Paris. For the Jamaica celebration, they have decided to invite their friends.
On the evening of Feb. 8, Nick and Lael gathered with friends at a Mexican restaurant in Hawaii to watch their appearance on television.
Though they did not win the grand prize of their dream wedding worth $50,000, the couple lost a total of 111 pounds. Nick’s final weigh in was 183 pounds; Lael’s was 121 pounds.
Still living in North Bend, Nick’s parents, Chris and Dennis Keeler, were also watching.
“I thought it was funny … really strange [to see her son on television],” Chris said, noting that the evening following the night the show aired she went to play bingo and someone came up to her to announce they had seen her son on television. “I think they had a good time; that’s the main thing.”
“I was proud, let me tell you,” said Nick’s father Dennis. “He looks fantastic.”
After high school graduation, Nick studied at Shoreline Community College before deciding to attend Hawaii Pacific University in 1990. Quitting his job, he moved to Hawaii 30 days later and has lived there ever since.
“[It] is an active lifestyle out here,” Lael said, noting that the couple continues to work out almost daily, even competing in triathlons.
Gifted with exercise equipment (courtesy of NBC), the couple said that the show has been a positive experience and that maintaining their weight has been much easier than losing it in the first place.
The couple is set to appear in an upcoming issue of People magazine.
“You have to make the time,” Lael said about exercising and eating right. “We had such a great time.”
“We have learned that life is about balance,” Nick added.