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"He knew it was hard for me to be made fun of [by the other kids], but he didn't express it the right way. While she never had the chance to forgive her dad before he died, she got the opportunity on the show. Like so many dieters, Johnston had tried everything and nothing worked.

She'd tried Atkin's, Alli (the diet pill), Weight Watchers and going vegan. If Johnston hadn't made the cut for season 9, she probably would have kept the appointment she'd scheduled for "those diet pills that jack your heart rate up." She says, "I knew they were dangerous, but I was just that desperate to change." 5.

One reason Ashley and her mom Sherry teamed up for "The Biggest Loser": To find closure on the death of Ashley's dad and Sherry's husband.

"My dad was hard on me about my weight," Ashley says.

I'll be honest and admit that I have lots of reservations about weight-loss competitions, televised or otherwise.

And yet, I was impressed by Johnston's dramatic success.

Falling off the treadmill on day one wasn't easy, but the hardest part was putting on a sports bra for the first weigh-in.

"It was very scary for both my mom and I," says Johnston. If I have to show the world what I'm most afraid of, I told myself: 'I'll show you. More than getting physical, the secret to Johnston's success is doing "mental work." "I did a lot of mental work," Johnston says of her frequent heart-to-hearts with trainer Jillian Michaels and her weekly consults with psychologist Sean Hogan. It's harder than counting calories or running on a treadmill." Most dieters would rather look for the next quick fix than look inside themselves, she says.

"But," she adds, "if you fix the inside, I guarantee the outside will follow." 7.