Diabetes Forecast

David and Tamela Mann Tackle Type 2

The TV stars make healthy living their goal while spreading the word

David and Tamela Mann
Photograph by Kauwane Burton & Arbrook Haynes

I had to force myself to make time for the exercise.
David Mann, star of TV's "Meet the Browns"

You’ve probably seen David and Tamela Mann on television: The two are stars in Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, in syndication on TBS and other stations across the country. Yet if you saw them on the street, you might pass right by them.

That’s because since the series first aired in 2009, the Manns (who play father and daughter on the show but are married in real life) have lost more than 160 pounds together. David, 47, was first motivated to get healthier when he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007. Tamela, also 47, doesn’t have diabetes but has a family history of type 2, so she’s staying on top of her health to prevent diabetes. And they’re spreading the healthy-living message on their own and as volunteers for the American Diabetes Association.

“The first thing people say is, ‘Y’all look good! Y’all don’t look like you do on TV,’ ” says Tamela. She and David have taken a break from their home gym in Dallas to chat by phone.

“People see us every day [on TV]. They saw that we were big, and they saw the drastic weight loss in both of us,” David chimes in. He and Tamela often finish each other’s thoughts and sentences. “Everybody would ask, ‘Why are you doing it? What are you doing it for?’ ” he says. “So when the opportunity came for us to work with the American Diabetes Association, we did it.”

The Manns have shared their tips and tricks for healthy living, and guess what: When it comes to managing diabetes, they focus on the basics. So whether you’re newly diagnosed, just need a refresher, or want to reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, their tips can help you achieve your goals.

Focus on Food

At diagnosis, David was told he had probably been living with the disease for years. That spurred him to research the causes of diabetes and how he could minimize his chances of diabetes complications. He knew he needed to overhaul his eating patterns, so he started with small changes: ordering a salad instead of fries, or choosing grilled chicken instead of fried. “I went cold turkey: no sugar, no soda. I went a little bit overboard,” he says.

“He did good because he is very militant; I call him ‘The Warden,’ ” Tamela jokes. “Once he decided what he was going to do, he started changing his own diet. For African American families, a lot of the time when we sit down to dinner, we can have two or three starches in one meal,” she adds. “You can still have some, but you don’t have to have as many.” Instead of bread and potatoes, for example, David chooses one or the other. Sticking to an eating plan can be tough, so David has asked Tamela to be his “sugar manager.” If David strays too far from his plan (she notes he has a weakness for sugary breakfast cereals), she gently reminds him.

Another speed bump on the road to healthful eating is resisting temptation. The Manns’ five children are all grown now, but when they lived at home, they protested when their parents threw out the junk food in the house. “For me, it was just a matter of life and health. I thought everybody was supposed to [change with me]. I thought they loved me!” David says with a laugh. “But we’ve tried to cut the junk.” He says that now all the Mann children (and the couple’s eight grandchildren) are working on eating healthfully, too.

The Lowdown on Liquids

When the Manns get off track from time to time—as everyone does on the quest for health—their first step is to look at what they drink. “You don’t realize that we drink a lot of our sugar: in our sodas, our sugary juices,” David says. “I just tell people: Cut back off the juice and sodas.”

And it’s not just David and Tamela watching liquids with excess sugary calories. Their children and grandchildren are curbing their intake, too. “The moms dilute the juices [with water],” Tamela says. “If they have lemonade, we put a lot of ice in it, to help cut back.”

An Accent on Activity

The Manns juggle their television careers with building a record label (Tamela is a Grammy-nominated gospel and contemporary Christian singer), working with different Christian ministries, and “shopping our new lifestyle and cooking show.” In short, they’re swamped. But they try to find time for fitness, which can be challenging. “My excuse was I’m real busy; I don’t have time,” David says. “But we make time for everything else. I had to force myself to make time for the exercise.”

“And me, as well, to encourage each other,” Tamela adds. “We try to do it together.” While the Manns have a trainer who helps plan cardio and weight-lifting workouts, they also exercise at home. Plus, they’re bringing their kids along for the ride, “kicking and screaming, but they’re coming along,” David says. It helps that two of the Manns’ children work for them, so everyone is on the same schedule. And the youngest Manns serve to inspire two generations of adults. “Our grandbabies run around a lot,” Tamela says. “The house is in circles, so of course that’s kind of a playground. We have to try to wind them down!”

Managing Motivation

Everyone slips up from time to time. Sometimes it’s even conscious. “Over the holidays, I didn’t fall off the wagon—I jumped,” David says. “You just have to hit the reset button and start again. You have to dedicate and refocus.”

For the Manns, the mirror and numbers don’t lie. If they see a change they’re unhappy with, that can be the motivation to get started. “For me, I just have to get my mind right, set mind and body,” Tamela says. “I don’t have issues with diabetes or hypertension, but I don’t want it to happen. But I’m getting older. Sometimes it’s hard…” David pops in and says, “She needs Jesus!” They both laugh. Tamela continues, “I want to just be honest with myself. I just have to do better.”

And they want to help their fans do better, too. Meeting with people in ministries or getting stopped on the street, sometimes they’re asked, “What’s your secret?” The Manns are more than happy to share their stories and get others focused on health. They want to capitalize on their media success and do more for their community. So they stress lifestyle changes, moderation, and exercise. Smaller steps can be the keys to success in managing or preventing type 2 diabetes. “We’re helping people in their everyday lives,” Tamela says. “We’re the type of people who’d like to help people in all things if we could. It’s all about learning and passing it on.”

Ready to take steps to manage or prevent type 2 diabetes?

Sign up for the American Diabetes Association’s free Living With Type 2 Diabetes program at diabetes.org/freeprogram.

African American Initiatives

The American Diabetes Association’s African American Initiatives offer many ways to learn more about diabetes, how to manage it, and how to volunteer in your community. Visit diabetes.org/liveempowered to learn more.



Take the Type 2
Diabetes Risk Test