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The first time the "new" Kandra Weber pulled up to the track in her 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass, her car-racing buddies did a double take. "They recognized the car, but not the woman in it," says Kandra, an amateur drag racer who lives in Dacono, Colorado. "I don't look anything like I did before."
By the age of 14, Kandra was already about 15 pounds overweight. "I didn't understand why. I rarely ate junk food, and my mom fixed meals that were mostly low in fat -- roast chicken, potatoes and plenty of vegetables. Now I know the portions were too big."
Still, Kandra maintained her 146-pound weight until she left for college and changed her eating habits. "It was hard to sit down to nutritious meals when I was juggling classes and work. Usually, I'd grab something on the run," she says. She began to put on weight, reaching 169 pounds by the time she was 23. Four years later, she got married, and she and her husband soon moved to a new city. "The change was stressful. To cope, I'd come home from work and head straight for the fridge," she recalls. Within four months, she had hit 184 pounds.
Right after her twenty-ninth birthday, Kandra had an epiphany. "I was watching Contact with Jodie Foster on video and thought, She's in her mid-thirties and looks great -- what's wrong with me? My body was a mess. I could barely walk up a flight of stairs."
Vowing to change her life before she turned 30, Kandra started eating smaller portions. She also began walking for 20 minutes after lunch every day. Even though she still favored calorie-laden foods like burritos and pizza, she lost six pounds in a few weeks.
That small success motivated Kandra to eat smarter -- less red meat and junk food, more vegetables, fruit and high-fiber whole grains. As she got fitter, she gradually doubled her walking time and then started running. On her thirtieth birthday, Kandra weighed 143 pounds. A few months later she reached her current weight of 134.
Achieving her goal bolstered Kandra's self-confidence in other areas of her life. Early this season, she was ranked in the top 25 drivers in her racing class by the National Hot Rod Association. "I feel so much more powerful since I got healthy. On the track or off, I'm ready to take on any challenge—and win."
Pounds lost: 50
Months at current weight: 18
The Workout: Kandra runs three to five miles, six days a week. Four times a week, she lifts weights.
The Diet: Breakfast is a PowerBar, and later a snack of trail mix or fruit, crackers and peanut butter. For lunch, she has a veggie sandwich or a salad with tuna or chicken. Dinner is a salad with either fajitas, a stir-fry or even a small serving of pizza.
Stick-With-It Tip: "Reward yourself when you meet a goal." A new hair color and new gym shoes are just two of the incentives Kandra used.
Biggest Temptation: Cherry ice cream. "I buy myself some once a month as a treat."
Best Compliment Since Losing Weight: Three young women told Kandra that she had the best legs they'd ever seen. "I hugged them," she says. "It was great to get positive feedback from other women."
What She Couldn't Wait to Wear: Miniskirts and high heels. "I've always had nice legs, but now they're really well defined, so I love to show them off."
Originally published in Fitness magazine.