Cover – Traci Brown – Jan/Feb 2020

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TTraci spent her early years in San Antonio, and then moved to Boerne when she was a freshman in high school. Her mother had a wonderful job at USAA while her father lived in Arizona. With a rather uneventful teenaged years, Traci’s life would soon experience some hard changes, and send her down some dark paths.

She begins, “I wanted to go to nursing school and got into Angelo State. I was very happy. But then my mom died. My life spiraled completely out of control. I was drinking and partying in the short time I had from moving there until she died and then her death just put me over the edge. I moved up to the Pacific Northwest because that’s where my brother was stationed in the Navy. My little brother had to go live with our grandparents, and so I just wanted to get close to what family I had.”

She continues, “I needed family and I needed to be close to someone. I didn’t really do much. I got there to just visit in July, and met Mike. He was my brother’s best friend. We dated casually for just a month, and then I broke my pelvis so I had to stay for a while because of the injury. I was living with my brother, but he was married, and I knew I had to get out. Mike was in the Navy so he moved me into his place.” With a healthy relationship in place, Traci was still floundering with her direction. “I tried community college up there, but wasn’t focused. I lost my whole drive and I think I was in college to be a nurse, because in my family higher education was a big deal. It was important to her that I finished, but then losing her, I just said forget it.”

Mike’s job in the Navy quickly relocated them to Phoenix, and the couple jumped at the chance to give life a try together. However, life took another turn as they welcomed their first son Blake in 1998. She continues, “Mike stepped up so much in his role as a father, and we really began to try to put together a life. He grabbed hold of his responsibilities as a dad, and it helped me so much to refocus and get a direction in life. I’m completely depressed, however. I’m isolated. Alone. The only people that really stepped up were Mike, his parents, and my real dad – and hat was crazy cause he was pretty uninvolved in my life.”

However, determined, the couple buckled down and worked tirelessly to find some stability in their lives. “We found a church and started to build a life. I was Catholic growing up and I didn’t lean on the church at all going through all this because it wasn’t part of my life. I remember telling Mike “Maybe we should go to church, but I don’t know what that means” and we’d just try all these random denominational churches. One of our neighbors invited us to a church, a non-denominational, and we fell in love.I think it was when those same neighbors were around after Mike and I finally got married at the JP; my friend asked “When did ya’ll get married?” and I said “Oh, last week” because we were embarrassed. She was so supportive and they were devastated that we felt embarrassed and Mike and I began to understand what grace looked like and that had a real impact on us.”

Through all of this Traci’s weight was getting out of control. Packing on over 60 pounds with her pregnancy, it became a serious issue for Traci. “I hid behind it. I put on weight, and I was ashamed, and I became a wallflower and I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t know what to do about it, and had nobody to really talk to me about it. I dropped some weight after Blake, and then put on another 50 with Colby 5 years later in 2003. I was 235 lbs. I was maybe 125 in high school. I was miserable.”

The family moved to Texas in 2003, and ultimately back to Boerne in 2009. She continues, “I wanted to come back to Boerne. Mike didn’t know anything about the area, but I wanted to be closer to my family. From the minute my family had met Blake, they were in love and I wanted to be back around them. Mike took a job with my uncle’s company so that was able to move us back here. He has moved back into oil and gas now and its’ been wonderful.”

Her weight still an issue, Traci still struggled deeply with the issue. “I understood grace for others, but it didn’t apply to me. I knew what it meant to give it, but not how to receive it. I literally felt like a 125lb person hiding in a shell of 230+ pounds. That’s how I felt at that time. I was in there but I was hiding in this whole thing. I didn’t want anyone on the outside to see that I wouldn’t give myself grace and love on myself.” After a high school reunion in 2015, Traci received a picture of herself that was taken and, for the first time, knew that her weight must be addressed.

“I had a friend that took me to an Ideal Protein meeting in 2015. She was doing this program and kept telling me how much she was enjoying it, and of course I scoffed at it and she said ‘This one is different – just come try it with me.’ I fell in love. I threw the idea in front of Mike and like everything he said “We’ll figure it out!” I liked that it was easy – I was addicted to food and it took 75% of the choices I had to make about food away from me. The program involves packaged meals, so it was easy. I thought that if I could lose 20 pounds, I’d be happy. I had tried every diet imaginable. It really taught me how to use food for fuel, instead of just abusing it. If I was going to eat 1 cookie, I’d eat a dozen. Now I understand how my body works and what food does for my body. Everything is either moving you forward or away from your goal. I know what a cookie tastes like – do I REALLY want one?”

And quickly, Traci enjoyed results. She continues, “The first few days were tough, but it became so easy. I figured that even if I don’t lose weight, I’m eating better so I just kept going. I started losing weight and ultimately dropped almost 90 pounds! I started liking being in pictures again. I wanted to go to events. All of a sudden, the person that used to hide wanted to get out there and live a life. That’s what I tell women all the time – ‘I want you back in the picture, in the Christmas card, being an active part of your kid’s life. I stood on the sidelines watching for 15 years, don’t do that’.

While the weight loss helped her attitude and outlook on life, the change is more spiritual for her. “It really helped me be able to accept what people were trying to give me like grace and love. I began to see that these things are for me, too. Instead of pushing people away, I began to let them close. My mom was a caregiver, and I took that on – I made everyone else happy and neglected myself. In losing the weight, I became a priority and was able to accept that and it was life-changing.”

In April of 2019, Traci along with local Dr. Ben Stahl, have opened her own program of Ideal Protein to help others. Her passion is infectious: “It has literally become my passion – to help people change their lives. Watching these women come to me where I was and watching them come out of their shells. They come in and say ‘This is my last chance’ – they’re so defeated. They’re depressed and wiped out. I am excited and am the cheerleader, and they doubt themselves. One client just had her BP and insulin cut due to her gains from the program. When people text me that they’re coming off meds, I get so fired up. I always wanted to be a nurse because I wanted to help people. This fulfills that inner drive that I have to change people’s lives.”

As their children age and they ready for the next chapters, Traci’s outlook remains high. She finishes, “I’m starting to dream, which is something I’ve never really done in my past. We’re finally trying to map out our lives and make dreams. Back in the day, we were broke for 15 years. I’d love to expand the business, but I love it so much I don’t think I can ever be disconnected from it. No matter what, I’m just so excited for what is next for us in life, and I trust that it continues to involve me helping others.”

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