Earning her bachelor’s at age 49, Brown is busy aging gracefully and helping others to do the same.
Tammie Brown (’18) knows a thing or two about aging gracefully.
At the age of 44, when some people start occasionally thinking about preparing for retirement, Brown was enrolling as a freshman in Lipscomb University’s dietetics program.
Twenty years in the Army, and the wear and tear on her body that came with it, had taught her how important it was to keep herself healthy in the latter half of her life. Her courses at Lipscomb reinforced her awareness that people need to feed their bodies with exercise, mental wellness activities and healthy foods to overcome both physical and emotional injuries and age gracefully into the senior years.
So there wouldn’t be any slowing down for Brown—a wife, mother and grandmother—who earned her bachelor’s degree through a mix of online and on-campus classes at Lipscomb, which is located two hours away from her home in Huntsville, Alabama.
Even while still earning her bachelor’s in dietetics, she poured what she was learning about health into an entrepreneurial venture, Restoring Bodies Fitness & Nutrition Services, offering classes and services to help people over 40 achieve a healthy and productive lifestyle.
“If you chose to fade into the background, you will fade away,” said Brown, who is choosing to do anything but fade away, having completed her dietetics internship and a Master of Public Health at Samford University this past December. “As you age, there is still a whole lot of life ahead of you. I am approaching my 52nd birthday, and I feel like I am just getting started.
“We have to pay attention to how the body moves and functions,” she said “As we age gracefully, we are going to have aches and pains but we need to know how to accommodate them and keep moving so we can have a rich life.”
Brown played sports as a youngster, and enlisted in the Army at age 23, eventually becoming a maintenance technician. She came away from the Army with post-traumatic stress disorder and injuries that affect the use of her hips and knees. “Simply walking is a battle for me,” she says.
So in her post-military career, she knew that she wanted to get back into good habits and lose weight, but she didn’t realize that she wanted to help others get healthy and stay healthy until she began her journey at Lipscomb through a spin cycling class. She was introduced to Lipscomb when she came to campus to take a spin certification course.
That led to discussions with Lipscomb’s nutrition faculty and enrolling in classes in 2013. She took time off from classes in 2015 to open Restoring Bodies, but returned in the fall of 2016. She completed her bachelor’s in 2018.
Being a freshman in her 40s certainly added to the confidence pitfalls experienced by any college student, she said. “I would look around in my classroom, and I would always be the oldest one in the room. I would ask myself, ‘Am I really supposed to be here?’”
On top of the age gap between she and her classmates and the two-hour commute, Brown was also busy raising her third child, a 7-year-old son.
“In the military, we learned to work under extreme circumstances and in a fast-paced atmosphere, so I didn’t really know how to not do that,” she chuckled.
“When I had to do in-person classes, I would get up at 3:15 a.m. and get home at 5 p.m. But sometimes I had to stay for night classes,” Brown recalls. “I would usually come in to be on campus at 6 a.m., go get breakfast at the Bennett Center and book a study room in the library to do all my homework there.”
I am approaching my 52nd birthday, and I feel like I am just getting started.— TAMMIE BROWN
“If you’ve ever had a coach who emphasized the importance of work ethic, then you understand Tammie’s approach to life,” said Autumn Marshall, chair of the nutrition and kinesiology department. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a student who worked harder, who was more committed to her education than Tammie Brown. Her attitude of gratitude underlies everything she does, and her positivity will carry her into the future.”
Lipscomb’s nutrition and business faculty were a great encouragement to Brown throughout her undergraduate career. “They always had open office hours, and I took full advantage of that,” she said.
When she would tire from the schedule and her responsibilities, she would become more susceptible to PTSD triggers, she said, but the nutritional and health information in her classes helped her learn how to better care for herself during that hectic time.
“Her willingness to share her life experiences in class enriched everyone’s experience,” said Nancy Hunt, associate professor of nutrition who taught Brown in several classes. “She was an inspiration to both faculty and students. Her determination to complete her degree to achieve her goals and the obstacles she overcame to make it happen made an impression on all of us who knew her.”
Even after earning her Lipscomb degree, she continued to overcome hurdles in her graduate studies, as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted her final year of clinical work in her dietetic internship. She continued to persevere and now she is licensed to practice through her company.
“I’m ready to employ my knowledge in real life,” she said in a November 2020 Samford article about her graduation. “I want older people to be comfortable with lifting weights; I want them to know how nutrition affects their bodies as they age. I want to teach them so they not only age gracefully, but they live boldly.
“Who wants to feel defeated when we are living our best life now,” said Brown, noting that many older people are intimidated to go to a gym full of young people. “We need a place for us, so we can connect and we can feel good about who we are on the inside and out.”
Restoring Bodies offers clients yoga, circuit training and step fitness classes as well as nutrition services. Brown hopes to craft an even more holistic health studio, offering access to information and services such as physical therapy, massage, care for healthy skin or even a community garden. She also hopes to work with public agencies and nonprofits to develop nutrition and wellness programs, she said.
2020 was not an easy year for a young business, but she and her team put their services online and have served as a mentor for many seniors to learn how to navigate the digital landscape, she said.
“We are growing in other ways than with just new customers,” Brown said as she reflected on operating during the Covid pandemic. “It has been tough, but it has been a blessing. It has taught our team how to think outside of our little box.”