'Biggest Loser's' Francelina Morillo talks Jeff Nichols, skin removal surgery and life after the ranch
Morillo is referring to Jeff Nichols, the runner-up to "The Biggest Loser's" latest grand prize winner. The pair found love while struggling to win each weigh-in at the Biggest Loser Ranch, but they kept their relationship low-key until after "Francy" was eliminated.
"We were there to lose the weight and not have a romance, if you will, or a 'showmance,'" Nichols told Zap2it at the time. But, he says, "When you see someone at their worst ... you see them grow day-by-day, week-by-week and become this better version of themselves, that's inspiring and that's powerful."
Ten months and nearly 200 lbs. later, Francy is living in Chicago with Jeff, who is campaigning to help his love crowdsource the necessary funding for two major skin removal surgeries. After first asking for donations to Francy's Go Fund Me page for his birthday, Jeff recently wrote on Twitter, "Less than 2 months until surgery day, if you got some loose change from those new year celebrations, send [some] over to [Francelina]."
Morillo has been very open with fans about her weight loss journey, recently going so far as to post revealing photos of her excess skin. "It's everywhere," Morillo writes on Instagram. "Legs, arms, back etc. It's uncomfortable, painful (certain parts are paper thin and literally split open) but despite all that I have not given up (as u can see from all my post! I am working hard CONSISTENTLY) There are many steps to #weightloss and I am on this final step."
Francy took some time out from her busy job at "The Biggest Loser" Run Walk Series to answer our questions about her upcoming surgeries, her future with Jeff and life after the Biggest Loser Ranch.
Zap2it: How much weight have you lost in total?
Francelina: My weight loss journey is a little different than most who were on "The Biggest Loser." I lost close to 100 lbs. on my own before ever auditioning for the show, and while on the show I lost another 95 lbs. So that brings me to about 190 lbs. lost in total.
What are the details of the surgery you are going in for?
As you can imagine, when I went from over 350 lbs. to literally almost half that size, I ended up with a lot of excess skin all over my body. The skin is a big discomfort to me when it comes to working out, choosing an outfit, and just seeing all the progress that I have made. I knew when I started losing weight that the skin would be an issue, but I never knew it would be this intense.
I found an amazing surgeon named Jennifer Capla in New York City, and she is going to help me with the final stage of my transformation by removing the excess skin I have all over my body in two separate procedures. The first procedure is going to focus on my upper body -- mainly my whole mid section and my arms. The second surgery will be my lower body lift.
Why did you decide to go ahead with this surgery?
There was no other option for me really. My skin was stretched to the point of no return. No matter how much training I do, skin treatments, wraps -- nothing is going to tighten the insane amount of skin I have. I think there are many factors to whether or not you will end up with excess skin after massive weight loss -- one of them being genetics -- and my skin just hasn't recovered. Surgery is an important part of my continued success. I have heard many stories where people couldn't "see" all their progress because of the excess skin, and that inevitably lead to depression and, unfortunately, gaining a lot of it back. I want to set myself up for the best odds.
What difference will it make in your life to have the surgery done?
The difference this is going to make in my life is literally something I don't even know if I can put into words. I have so many dreams and goals, a lot of them fitness related, and with the skin gone I can finally achieve them.
I remember when I ran my first half marathon here in Chicago with Rock 'N' Roll. It was summer time, and I had to wear all black and long pants and sleeves to prevent my skin from chafing, tearing, and getting rashes. I can't wait to run my first full marathon and not have to worry about that! I also want to become a personal trainer, which I am studying for. But I don't tell many people about it because I worry that I don't fit the typical mold of someone that you would trust with your fitness.
I also think that I would like to share with the word that having surgery is okay. I worked out hard to take the weight off, and this is a necessary part of my journey. And there should be no shame in that.
What made you choose to go the crowdfunding route?
I come from a humble background where we never wanted for things but there wasn't a lot of extra to spare. I also have tons of student loans, and normal every day bills like everyone out there, and knew it wasn't something I was going to be able to afford on my own very quickly. Had Jeff won the grand prize, I would have batted my eyes at him and hopefully he would have paid [laughs]. Honestly though, I just hoped that if maybe each of my followers on Instagram could donate just one dollar, I would be so close to my goal. I have received so much support from my fans and supporters because of my honesty and because I have shared my journey, so I figured I would just be honest again and ask for help.
Are you confident you'll reach your fundraising goal?
My first procedure is scheduled for March, so with the money I have managed to scrimp and save, and with the donations that keep coming in, I think I'll make my first goal, which is about $10,000 of the total $19,000. I'm just not sure how long it will take to come up with the rest for the second surgery.
How has your life changed since going on "The Biggest Loser?"
My life has changed in every way imaginable since "Biggest Loser!" I have found a new love and passion, both in Jeff and in fitness. I now believe in myself to be able to do things that I never thought possible. I know what it's like to push yourself to the brink of destruction, and then keep pushing. I am just really proud of myself for the first time in a long time, and I know that this is just the start for me.
You know, when I was over 350 lbs., I had no hope for myself. So many things were out of reach for me because of my weight. It was literally destroying me. I hoped and prayed for change many times, and I cried myself to sleep many nights. I think back to those days many times because I feel so incredibly blessed --- blessed to be present in this moment, blessed to feel alive, and blessed to be doing the things I am doing today.
Not only am I completely in love with my best friend, but I work for Biggest Loser Run Walk Race Series where not only do I get to run (which is my new found passion in fitness), but my job is literally to inspire and motivate people. I am paying it forward in many ways. It is truly amazing how life works. I truly had to go to "that place" to get to this one.
What are your plans with Jeff for a future life together?
We ideally want to end up in Southern California. We spent a lot of time there for the show and we love the outdoor fitness activities that are literally right in your back yard. It's also really important to us both to remain focused on fitness and in good health.
Do you have any fears about the surgery?
Of course -- I'm terrified! I don't like the idea of pain, which this will definitely involve, but I'm so ready to get rid of this skin and move on to the next chapter of my life.
What do you hope the outcome of the surgery will be?
I'm not doing this surgery to look better in a bikini because, honestly, there will be lots of scars that may look worse to some than the skin. I just hope the skin removal will allow me to be more functional and to accomplish my fitness goals. I think the best part will be finally being able to see all the progress I have made.
What does your new lifestyle look like?
If you follow me on Instagram ( @franmo42) that is exactly what my new lifestyle looks like. I love to run and do it all the time with Biggest Loser Run Walk and I do Crossfit with Crossfit Mokena. I have tried to make the best out of the experience I was given. I maintain the things I learned before and while on "Biggest Loser" and I never stop pushing, and never stop trying. I have a new lease on life and I plan on using it.
To track Morillo's progress or donate to her fundraising campaign, visit her page at Go Fund Me. After Francelina's surgeries are complete, Jeff tells followers on social media he too will go under the knife. "There are a lot of people that think skin removal is cosmetic," he writes. "But as you can see it makes me less functional than I should be, and also makes it hard to really appreciate all the hard work I put in."