'The Biggest Loser': Jeff Nichols on finding love on the ranch, responding to haters, and post-finale plans

the-biggest-loser-makeover-jeff-nichols.jpgIf you're anxious for Monday night's live finale of "The Biggest Loser" Season 14, you're certainly not alone. Jeff Nichols is one of the remaining contestants working hard to shed every last pound before the final weigh-in that will determine who walks away with a quarter of a million dollars.Jeff took some time to chat with Zap2it and explain why he got everything he hoped to from his experience on "The Biggest Loser" ranch -- and a whole lot more.

We found love in a weight loss place

Jeff and fellow contestant Francelina Morillo found love at the ranch, and for the past six weeks, they've been staying together in Chicago as Jeff prepares for the live finale.

"We bonded early on," Jeff says of Francelina. "We have very similar stories when it comes to the fact that we both lost our dads at the same age, and we both kind of dealt with our emotions the same way. We were both quick to shut down and get on the defensive, and I think that we recognized that very early in each other." Though they bonded on the ranch, Jeff says it wasn't entirely clear the pair would be more than great friends until Francelina was eliminated. "We were there to lose the weight and not have a romance, if you will, or a 'showmance.'" That's one reason this "Biggest Loser" couple believes they're in a better position than some others who find love on reality television.

"You see reality shows like 'The Bachelor' or 'The Bachelorette' that have had 23 seasons and one successful relationship out of it," Jeff says. "Then you see a show like 'The Biggest Loser' that has had 14 seasons, and maybe 10 successful relationships out of it, and I think the reason for that is we don't come here to find love, we don't come here to find a relationship; we come here to work on ourselves.

jeff-nichols-francelina-morillo-kiss.jpgJeff believes the "Biggest Loser" journey is actually "the perfect platform" for building a relationship. "When you see someone at their worst, in that state that they don't even know they're gonna be able to get out of, you see them grow day-by-day, week-by-week and become this better version of themselves, that's inspiring and that's powerful and it just helps you go through that journey so much more."

Though their relationship is still in its infancy, Jeff doesn't rule out the possibility of a sealing the deal in front of the cameras. "If it ever came to that, why not," says Jeff. "We've done everything else on TV -- why not have a TV wedding?" Though Jeff and Francelina don't live in the same city now, he's quick to point out the $250,000 "Biggest Loser" winnings "would make relocation a lot easier."

Haters gonna hate

Jeff says his fellow finalist Danni Allen has a bigger fan base than he does, and he thinks, like most of America, that Jackson Carter will probably win the fan vote to become the third finalist. But Jeff has gotten his fair share of attention on social media as well -- from both supporters and detractors. Jeff's personal story has hit home with a lot of people who can sympathize with him losing his father at a young age. He even had trainer Bob Harper in tears during the last chance workout on Monday night's episode.

"People have lost loved ones, which have put them in this corner or made them become more defensive, and made them shut down and eat their emotions," says Jeff. "So I think a lot of different parts of my story have hit home with a lot of people, at least based on the messages that I'm getting. I think that they're seeing that it's not easy and it's a long road but it is possible to make a change."

Coming home to a fan base has been somewhat of a surprise to the 24-year-old self-described hard head. "I truly love and appreciate every person that has come on board to support me," he says. "I get emails, I get Facebook messages, posts on Twitter -- it's just overwhelming, and I would have never imagined that."

Jeff may also have never imagined himself having to respond to so-called haters, who send cruel messages via the same social media avenues his supporters have used to reach out. His responses to the nay-sayers have been impressively diplomatic. "Sometimes when they're extremely harsh I let them know that they're not appreciated," says Jeff. "But at the end of the day, I'm still a normal person and it's hard when people criticize you for the small things you've done that they didn't like ... But they don't see the drastic changes that you're trying to make for the positive in your life."

A future without failure

Early in Season 14, viewers saw Jeff face his most steadfast fear: failure. It's a fear Jeff says his time on the ranch has helped him overcome. "I  feel like I was more weak mentally at the very beginning of this," Jeff explains. "As soon as my mental clicked, the weight loss clicked. I don't see myself losing my mental stability going forward, and I think if anything it's only gonna get stronger." Plus, he says Francelina will be there to help keep him in line.

biggest-loser-season-14-jeff.jpgTo prepare for the final weigh-in, Jeff is spending four hours per day working on his fitness. He does two spin classes back-to-back at 6:00 and 7:00 a.m., then returns to the gym later in the day for two hours of stepmill, jogging, and incline interval training. He's eating a "lean and green" diet, consisting of lean proteins and plenty of green vegetables, eschewing carbs, fat, and sugary sweets.

As for his post-finale plans, Jeff knows exactly where he's headed. "Win or lose, I'm going to take a trip to somewhere tropical so I can sport the new smaller, skinnier me," says Jeff. "Hopefully with Francelina, if she'll join me." He also plans to go skydiving, a goal he has had since he was too big to meet the weight requirements.

Jeff says he's not nervous about whether he'll be named "Biggest Loser" at the weigh-in. "I think that I've worked incredibly hard at home and I think that everyone will be able to see the effort that I put in and it will all definitely pay off," Jeff says. "If I walk away with the money and the title, that's just the icing on the cake. At the end of the day, I've already won more than any money could buy me. And I feel like that's the same with all the contestants."

Tune in to NBC Monday night at 8/7 central to see Jeff's final physique and find out who is named "The Biggest Loser."
Photo/Video credit: NBC, Instagram
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