Francelina Morillo and Jeff Nichols
Trae Patton/NBC (2)
02/21/2013 at 07:00 PM EST
Francelina Morillo may have lost the chance to win the title of Biggest Loser
, but she has found love.
"We have something special," Morillo said Tuesday about falling for fellow constant Jeff Nichols
while on the ranch. "I have found a bond with him that I haven't had with anyone else. It's like a mirror when I look at him."
Morillo, 26, and Nichols, 25, both lost their fathers while in their teens and bonded in the gym as they began to shed their weight – and emotional baggage.
"You get to see the person at their worst and you see them blossom and grow and become this better version of themselves. You learn to appreciate and admire them in a different way," Morillo says of her time with Nichols on the show.
But the couple was temporarily separated when Morillo was sent home for losing the least amount of weight in the episode that aired last Monday
"I knew I had gathered the tools in there that I needed to survive in the real world," Morillo says of her tearful sendoff. "I've learned I can do this for the rest of my life and that I can keep the weight off – which is my ultimate goal."
Morillo returned home to New York but soon joined Nichols in Chicago. Now the couple are motivating each other to continue to lose weight.
"We balance each other out. He has the nutrition down pat and I am an exercise junky," Morillo says about working out with Nichols, whose status as a finalist or contender for the at-home prize has yet to be revealed. "It's just so much easier when you have the support of somebody else that knows exactly what you're going through."
Morillo arrived at the ranch weighing 267 lbs., after having lost 100 lbs. at home on her own, and now continues to lose weight by working with a trainer, spending two hours a day on the stairmill and monitoring her portion sizes.
"I was eating a lot of healthy stuff, but I was binging on everything," says Morillo, who used to eat large amounts of apples or oatmeal throughout the day. "If you have too much of good thing, it's also bad. Now I'm all about portion size."
With her eye on the $100,000 at-home prize, Morillo is also looking forward to applying to medical school and eventually fulfilling her dream to become a doctor.
"The new me is positive, outgoing, always smiling and wants the best for me," she says. "I've learned the best way to do that is to surround yourself with positive energy, positive people. That's who I am, and that’s what I radiate from now on."