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home : news : news Friday, April 29, 2016

12/8/2012 Email this articlePrint this article 
What to wear? Tammy Brown of DeWitt recently gets some fashion advice from The Family Tree owner Kelly Rathje as she shops for new clothes after shedding 40 pounds and 60 inches. Brown says since she has lost weight, “Shopping definitely is a more positive experience.” Photo by Kate Howes
Brown begins new chapter; urges others to hold onto hope

By Kate Howes
Staff writer

When Tammy Brown set out to lose weight and exercise, she knew it wouldn't exactly be a walk in the park.

But given the overwhelming obstacles she already had overcome in her life, Brown was bound and determined to do whatever was necessary to be healthier and happier.

Even if that meant putting herself out there and sharing her experience with thousands of people - on television, no less.

Brown was named the winner of WHBF-TV 4's weight-loss contest, "New Year, New You."

When Brown heard about the contest in December 2011, she weighed a little over 200 pounds.

Standing at just 5-feet tall, the excess weight made life very difficult for Brown.

"I was depressed, very ill, had migraines and couldn't walk 20 feet without getting winded," she shares.

Brown never had been overweight a day in her life and having gained so many pounds in such a short amount of time - 70 pounds in just seven months - was devastating. After trying to stick to all kinds of diets and not succeeding, she opted to enter the contest.

After all, what did she have to lose?

As it turns out, 40 pounds and 63 inches - so far.

When Brown found out she was selected the winner out of dozens of other contest entrants, she was amazed.

Brown also found herself facing a challenge very personal to her. She wanted to succeed for herself as well as countless others who know what it's like being overweight and overwrought with self-doubt.

"No one wants or deserves to go through life feeling like that," Brown says.

So, not only has her objective been to achieve better health, but also to help others who are fighting the same battle and instill in them the courage and encouragement they need to overcome feelings of hopelessness.

Over the last few years, Brown has come to realize how much even one individual's support can empower a person to turn her life around.

Rising up from rock bottom

It was nearly seven years ago when Brown felt her life had hit rock bottom.

The mother of three was a victim of domestic abuse, drank excessively, smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, had no education beyond high school and had lost her job.

Due to her troubled lifestyle, her children spent most of their time with Brown's parents.

However, Jan. 14, 2006, after Brown suffered a very brutal, physical attack in her own home with her young children in the very next room, she decided enough was enough.

"It was then I realized I had to put that life behind me," Brown relates.

She moved in with her parents and started college just a week later. However, Brown endured a setback in February when she developed an infection due to the severity of the internal injuries she sustained from the attack and had to be hospitalized.

Yet, with the love and support of Mike, the man who now is her husband and faithfully sat by her bedside every day, Brown finally healed - not just physically, but emotionally as well.

The couple married in 2008 and together with Mike's two children, Jarrett and Jennica, and Brown's three children, Leighana, Steven and Krystina Franks, they all became one big, happy family.

Finally, Brown had the kind of life and love she'd never had.

"(Mike) was with me every day while I was in the hospital and has been every day since," she shares. "He has seen me at my worst and my best . . . he is a wonderful father and the best man I've ever known."

Though slight in build, Brown found the inner strength to survive the torment of abuse and unhealthy addictions and ended up with the man of her dreams.

Yet, the happier she was, the more comfortable she became and began eating more than she used to.

Her wake-up call came the day she visited her grandfather who made no bones about his feelings regarding her weight gain.

"He looked me right in the eye and asked me, 'How'd you get so fat?'" Brown recalls. "He looked over at my dad and asked, 'Why'd you let her get like that?'"

Her grandfather's words wounded and depressed her deeply. Yet, doing the work to lose all the weight on her own proved too daunting a task. No diet she tried seemed to work and Brown once again found herself feeling hopeless.

The "New Year, New You" contest winner would be awarded with the tools and resources needed to make the necessary changes in his or her life to get healthy and stay healthy.

A free, 12-month membership to Fitness Xpress - which included enrollment in their Thin and Healthy Total Solutions Program, as well as access to a personal trainer and nutritionist.

The winner's journey also would be documented in a series of news reports throughout the year.

Although it wouldn't be easy to do the work and lose the weight - even with the help of professionals - Brown was sick and tired of feeling inadequate and being treated like she was a bad person.

"Last year I went into a department store, and the sales lady basically told me 'We have nothing here for you,'" Brown relates. "I had a panic attack I was so upset."

With five children, Brown says her family is careful to stick to a budget. So, about a year ago when she needed to find some dress clothes for a special event she decided to try The Family Tree, a consignment shop in downtown DeWitt owned and operated by Kelly Rathje.

Unfortunately, Rathje says, the larger-sized clothing in her store tends to get picked over and the day she met Brown for the first time, she could see her sadness.

"She came in and looked around and I think it just really hit her because she couldn't find anything," Rathje relates. "I really felt for her. After she left she went out and sat in her car and cried . . . that was something she told me later. It made me cry."

While Brown wasn't able to find any clothes in Rathje's store, she did find some much-needed comfort and understanding.

Nothing but a number

Once her diet and exercise regime began and the weight gradually began to come off, Brown made it a point to shop at Rathje's store.

Not only could she find good bargains, she also unexpectedly gained a new, very supportive, friend.

"Every step of the way, (Rathje) has been here for me," Brown shares. "That's why I come in here. She's been so helpful to me."

"As her clothes have been getting too big, she's been shopping here on and off throughout the past year," Rathje says. "I'm just so happy for her. It was so hard for her . . . she just wanted to look nice. It's been great to see her progress. I'm so happy for her and inspired by her journey."

She adds, when shopping it's important for people not simply to focus on the size of the clothes. Wear what fits well and looks good, Rathje notes, and don't worry about the number on the label.

Brown says she is grateful for Rathje's fashion sense, professional expertise and her constant support throughout the past year.

While she has dropped from a size 22 to a 12 in pants, Brown says her losing weight and exercising has been an almost daily struggle.

Yet, the rewards she now is reaping have been well worth all the hard work.

"I feel so much better," Brown shares. "My self-confidence is much better . . . this whole thing has been life-changing. I ran a half-marathon in September and the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. It's been an amazing year. The way I feel - it's like a night and day difference from a year ago. I tell people frequently I am so blessed."

Brown even has been shopping for dresses - an article of clothing she says she hasn't worn since her wedding day five years ago.

The finale show capping off Brown's year-long weight-loss experience will air Thursday, Dec. 13, on WHBF-TV 4 during the 5 p.m. newscast.

Brown says she welcomes people to ask or talk with her about her experience. After all, having someone in your corner can make all the difference.

"I want to help people," she says. "I know it's not easy . . . to lose weight and get into shape, you have to change everything about your life. It's hard. There's not been one day when my body hasn't hurt from exercising. You need to surround yourself with positive energy and positive people.

"Everyone who wants to lose weight tends to say, 'I'll start tomorrow.' I say, a year from now, you'll wish you started today."

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