By Elaine Aradillas Cynthia Wang
September 28, 2009 12:00 PM

Abby Rike, 35

MABANK, TEXAS

ABBY: OVERCOMING TRAGEDY

247 lbs.

Nearly three years ago, Abby Rike faced almost unbearable heartbreak: Her husband, 5-year-old daughter and 2-week-old son were killed when a speeding driver struck their car head-on. The grief, says Rike (who was not in the car), was “brutal. There was nothing people could say, so they were bringing me food to comfort me.” But the teacher is finally ready to get healthy: “There’s got to be more to my life for being here.”

Shay Sorrells, 30

NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF.

SHAY: HEAVIEST COMPETITOR

476 lbs.

There was a time in Sorrells’s childhood “when my family was homeless,” she says. “So when there was food, you’d eat it all. I didn’t see it as fuel, but as a desire.” Now Sorrells, a married social worker, is hoping to change that view—and with good reason: Last year her mother (who weighed 300 lbs.) died at age 48. “She didn’t see me get married,” says Sorrells, who wants to start a family. “I want to break that cycle.”

Daniel Wright, 20

WILLOW SPRING, N.C.

DANIEL: RETURNING CONTENDER

312 lbs.

Sent packing in week 4 last season after dropping only 60 lbs., Wright—then 19 and starting at 454 lbs.—lost an additional 82 lbs. on his own with exercise and by eating right. “I’m still obese,” the college student says. “But my diabetes is gone. My sleep apnea is getting much better.” So why return to the show? “It’s a chance to lose another 100 lbs.,” he says. “There’s still another half to my journey.”

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