Lisa Traugott found her self-confidence through working out, eating right, and inspiring others to do the same

In 2012, Lisa Traugott found herself at a low point. Her business was failing, her marriage was on the rocks, and she had just received an invitation to her 20th high school reunion. That’s when the mother of two, who weighed 150 pounds at 5’2″and rarely exercised, decided to get in shape.

Traugott, then 38, soon realized the fittest people at her gym were the ones prepping for competitions. They had what she wanted most: happiness and confidence. She decided to sign up for a bikini competition five months away.

Overhauling her diet was a challenge. She eliminated processed foods, ate smaller meals more frequently, and kept a food journal. The weight started to come off, and Traugott lost 50 pounds. She kept a blog to document her journey, which she turned into a book titled She’s Losing It. “I wanted other moms to know that all it takes is diet, exercise, consistency, and pushing past your mental block,” Traugott says.

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But when her mother was told she had end-stage lung cancer two years ago, Traugott turned to food to handle the stress, gaining back 34 pounds. To get back on track, she signed up for the 2015 Arnold Classic and set a new goal: not to be ranked dead last. “I had to tell myself I could win.” She came in 20th out of 38 at the Arnold, her best finish. Five weeks later she placed third at the Texas Shredder Classic competition.

Tragically, two weeks later, her mother passed away. “I’m happy she saw me win and set a good example for my kids,” she says.

I persevered through tragedy and got stronger than ever

Traugott has done six bikini events, placing first in the 2015 Texas State Naturals. This past year, she took part in the reality show American Grit. “At one point I said to [host] John Cena, ‘I’m slower than the rest of my team,’ and he said, ‘You have to realize your slowest is better than someone else’s fastest.’ ”

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Balancing her career, fitness, and family (her children are now ages 7 and 9), Traugott has learned to set priorities. “There’s always enough time to do what’s important to you. To keep the weight off, you need to find what really motivates you.”