Jeff Nichols may have lost the title of Biggest Loser by one pound, but he gained a roommate, co-worker and girlfriend: fellow contestant Francelina Morillo.
“We literally spend 23 hours a day together,” Nichols tells PEOPLE. “When one of us has to go out of town you would probably be disgusted with how much time we spend on the phone with each other. She really is my other half.”
Nichols and Murillo began dating at the beginning of the year, moved in together in Chicago this past March and now work together for Biggest Loser RunWalk, a race series designed to challenge Americans into getting fit.
“There is no other couple who could spend this much time together and not kill each other,” says Morillo. “Over this past year we have realized we are best friends and truly blessed to have each other.”
Holding each other accountable has been the key to keeping off the weight the couple lost while competing on the NBC reality competition, according to Morillo, who is now facing the next chapter in her body transformation – surgery to remove the extra skin that remains since dropping more than 160 lbs.
“You lose the weight and you look fantastic, but the reality of weight loss is that sometimes you have extra skin,” says Morillo, who now enjoys running but is hindered and sometimes injured by her excess skin. “I did my first half marathon in Chicago in the summer and I had to wear all black long sleeves and pants so my skin wouldn t rub together, and I was still all cut up from it.”
$14,000 in Costs Remain
After the half-marathon, Morillo contacted Dr. Jennifer M. Capla, who specializes in plastic surgery for patients who have experienced massive weight loss. But while Dr. Capla has donated her time and services, Murillo’s next goal will be saving up the roughly $14,000 needed to cover the remaining costs.
“I’m not rich, but I’m saving as much as I can and being very careful where I spend money and asking for help,” says Morillo, who is also fundraising to cover the expense. “I need to move forward with this surgery to feel like my journey is complete.”
And although Nichols says he too needs the surgery, he is opting to put his girlfriend’s needs before his.
“Since I made it to the finale of our season I feel like I had my [moment already], says Nichols. “I’m not really worried about myself. Once she is all better we can think about her taking care of me when I go under the knife.”
As for plans for marriage and a family?
“In the future that is definitely likely and we are thrilled, but we are young and have really only been dating around 10 months,” Nichols says. “And I’ve got to wait for the big money to get her the ring she deserves.”