Raleigh native appears on 'The Biggest Loser'

STAFF WRITERSeptember 15, 2009 

You've been reacquainted with Daniel Wright and got to know a little about Antoine Dove.

Now let us introduce you to Tracey Yukich, the third Tar Heel appearing on the latest round of "The Biggest Loser," which premieres tonight at 8.

Born and raised in Raleigh, Tracey attended Athens Drive High School. (Back then, she was Tracey Upchurch.) The homemaker and mother of four says her parents still live in Raleigh, but Yukich lives in Allen, Texas, because her husband is in the Marines Corps.

"North Carolina is exactly where my heart is," she says.

Tracey, who is 37, didn't always have weight issues; she was a majorette in high school. But during her first pregnancy she gained 100 pounds. By the time she got to the Biggest Loser ranch, she had 243 pounds on her 5 foot, 2 inch frame.

She's tried various diets ("Me and Jenny Craig are great friends," she says), and was a sneak eater and an emotional eater. Her turning point, she says, was one day when she was sitting in the bathroom, at 254 pounds, eating cookies, ashamed of herself. Behind that shut door, she cried and thought 'I can't believe my life turned out like this.'

And then she heard about a casting call for The Biggest Loser. She went. "I was on line in the pouring rain," she says. "I mean it was raining cats and dogs."

And then things got worse. So many people came to the casting call, the organizers cut off the line. And Tracey was on the part left outside. "I sat down by a tree and cried my eyes out," she says.

As she sat there bawling, the show's casting director came up to her. "He said, 'Would you like to come inside?' and held out his hand."

Tracey grabbed his hand. "He helped me up and I knew right then that I would give it everything I had to make it," she says. "I knew that by taking me inside, he was going to choose me. It was a gift from God."

Still, even divine gifts come with challenges. Like putting on the revealing Biggest Loser outfit for the weigh-ins. "I had dreams about that tube top and those Spandex shorts. But I think we have to be broken to get out there. You have to focus on the end result.

"It was definitely out of comfort zone. I was always the girl who covered up and wore black."

Another challenge for Tracey was securing her family while she was at the ranch. It took a village to help out with the kids,who are 2, 8, 10 and 13. "I don't think my husband thought I would leave," she says. "But I got a call Friday, and I left early Sunday. The kids were in school four more weeks. I hired a lady to move in and help.

"But on May 28 when school ended, guess where they went? My husband drove to North Carolina with four kids and two dogs for 22 hours. But that's where all our family is."

And, as it turns out, her fellow contestant Daniel Wright is close too. "Daniel lives about 15 miles from my parents," she says. "When I go to North Carolina we're going to work out together." They even have some acquaintances in common.

Tracey calls herself the 'Southern belle with the attitude who grew up on barbecue and Bojangles,' but since she made it on the show, she's used that steel spirit in a different way. Her first bit of moxie was cleaning out her closet even before she left for the ranch. "I got black trash bags and anything that was plus size I packed up. I was a size 22 and I just said 'get these out of here.'

"I got teary-eyed, but I was also kind of pissed off. That's how I am; when I know something good is coming, that's what drives me. I knew I was not going to see that me again."

"Now I love packing a suitcase," she says. "When the clothes are not as big, you can fit a lot in."

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