It took not one but two seasons on The Biggest Loser
for Daniel Wright, 20, finally to have what he calls his "big, big breakthrough." Thinking back on all the times his mother pushed him to lose weight, "It made me feel like she didn't love me–and that made me rebellious and disrespectful," the college student explains. "But then I realized everything she was doing was actually out of love. It wasn't that she was trying to change who I am; she didn't want me to die!" The epiphany helped Wright–who first appeared on Loser
in January as the show's then-heaviest-ever contestant, weighing in at 454 lbs., before returning in September for season 8–make it to week 9 on the show, five weeks longer than the last time. "I look in the mirror and see stuff that I used to never see–like a neck!" says Wright, who is 5'8" and started the season at 312 lbs. and ended it at 256 lbs. "There are different muscles coming out. I love it!" Now back home in Willow Spring, N.C., Wright has dropped another 27 lbs. with regular exercise (he recently ran a half-marathon) and by communicating more with his family: "They've become like a support group." And he'll be counting on them to help him hit his goal of getting below 200 lbs. for Loser
's Dec. 8 finale. "Everything that I wanted from this journey I've now got," he says. "It's an incredible feeling."