updated 03/20/2013 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 03/20/2013 AT 11:30 AM ET
Danni Allen went from a size 20 to a size 4, won $250,000 and was crowned The Biggest Loser on Monday. But most important, she found herself.
“I am different in every which way possible,” Allen told reporters Tuesday, the morning after her big win. “The physical transformation is right in front of you, but the mental change that I’ve gone through has been amazing. I’ve been able to change who I am going to be.”
Allen, 26, became the last member of trainer Jillian Michael’s team early in the season, but the adversity she faced on the Ranch allowed her to work through “demons” she says have plagued her throughout her life.
“It was the most heartbreaking thing to lose my team, but looking back, I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me,” she said. “I just had to realize, ‘You are enough, and you can be more.’ ”
For the advertising account coordinator from Wheeling, Ill., becoming more meant becoming less – 121 lbs. less – enough to take the title from Jeff Nichols by one pound.
“I didn’t think I was going to do it because I was up against some big boys this whole season,” she said. “Nothing was in my favor. But all the odds can be against you and there’s still a chance.”
Despite becoming $250,000 richer, Allen just renewed her apartment lease for another year, so she won’t be buying a home or moving anytime soon. But she has planned one splurge – a vacation, on which she’ll be the third wheel!
“The one thing that Jeff and I promised each other is that we would reward the other with a vacation,” Allen said. “We did this together and I’m happy to keep my word and take Jeff.”
But that means also taking Francelina Morillo, whom Nichols met on the show and started dating. “Those two are pretty inseparable,” Allen admitted.
Despite the victory, Allen knows the battle with her weight isn’t over. “One of my biggest fears is putting the weight back on,” she said. “So I have set up some goals for myself past the finale. I want to run the Chicago Marathon in 2013, so I’m signing up for that.”
And while she is proud of all her accomplishments, Allen says she feels her success the most when she is able to put on clothes like the red Halsten Heritage dress she wore on Monday’s finale.
“When I put that on, I knew. My theme song was “Girl On Fire” [by Alicia Keys], and that was my fire dress,” she said. “I tried on hundreds of dresses before that, and once I put that on, I felt like I was on fire.”