Local shop owner turns addiction to dessert into sweet victory over diabetes

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - November marks National Diabetes Awareness Month, and doctors want to remind you that changing your health isn't an overnight process. It requires a real lifestyle change and a commitment to your body.

That advice holds the most truth for people like Tzima Brown, the owner of a small bath and body shop in Columbia's Five Points, called "Sunrise Artisan Bath and Body."

"Everything is made by hand here," said Brown. "One of our best sellers though is a cupcake soap."

When you walk into her shop, you smell butter and brown sugar. But on your body – it's good for you, as long as you don't eat it.

"This is the kid's section," she said while giving WIS a tour of the shop. "I've got chocolate and lime they just love that. When I'm putting these fragrances into my product, I want it to be as close to the real thing as possible."

The look, the texture and the smell of these all natural soaps - all resemble Tzima Brown's favorite desserts. But that's as far as it goes. For good reason.

"I would wake up in the morning… eating honeybuns," Brown said. "For lunch, I would get chocolate donuts, dinner would usually be a big bowl of ice cream."

Brown's love affair with sweets nearly cost her life. When she went to the doctor for a checkup a couple years ago – her blood pressure was sitting at 201 over 103 – well above the normal 120 over 70.

Brown was diagnosed as "pre-diabetic" and on the road to Type 2 diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, it's a disease that swallows millions of Americans every year.

Brown said she knew she had a choice to make.

"It's about the quality of life. How do you want to live?" Brown said.

She asked herself that question – and then she began a diabetes prevention program - or DPP - at Palmetto Health.

"It was the one thing that turned everything around for me," Brown said.

Through exercise, nutritional counseling and education - doctors say patients can reduce risk behaviors related to type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Brown has changed her eating habits and began exercising.

"I exercise 30 mins a day… boom I'm done," Brown said.

According to Dr. Johan Hernandez - a physician at Palmetto Health -  by the year 2020, 50 percent of the U.S. population will be pre-diabetic or diabetic. And in the case of type 2 diabetes, it is completely preventable.

"Everybody's afraid and nobody has time," Dr. Hernandez said. "Oh I have to work, I have to do this… I don't have time to go. But it can save your life."

For someone like Brown, so conscious of what she puts on her body, she had to connect what she puts on the outside to what goes inside.

"Making these products that are more natural, eating more natural, it just everything syncs up," Brown said.

So she tricks her senses to avoid becoming another name on a list of Americans 30 million people long – turning a sweet vice into a sweet victory.

"You got the choice," Brown said, "you have to make the decision though and that's what I did."

If you'd like to learn more about the DPP program and how you can get involved, click here.

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