I’m from Texas, so that was genuine. I’m not making fun of Paula Deen. In fact, unlike practically everyone else in America right now, I’m giving Paula a big thumb’s up. I think she deserves it for coming out with her type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Yes, I know Paula’s coming out story has a big paycheck attached to it, and I know it came three years after her diagnosis, but I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that as the new spokeswoman for Novo Nordisk (a drug company I admire) Paula is going to make a difference in the giant world of diabetes. I am willing to believe that we’ll see good things, not just drug pushing in the months to come.
I know those are big assumptions. But we’re talking about Paula Deen, a woman who went from nothing to everything. She’s captured the attention of millions and millions of people. If she’s given bad advice in the past, she now has the power to undo it and use her influence to put people on the path to better health. Paula must want to do this, otherwise why would she come out with her diagnosis at all? She’s smart enough to know that ridicule would come with her diabetes announcement. Surely she anticipated the finger-pointing and blame that would come her way. And she still had the courage to do it. Well funded courage, but courage nonetheless.
I’ve never seen Paula Deen’s show, nor have I ever been interested in her until now. I’ve never tried her recipes. The only thing I can say about them after clicking through her website for a few minutes is that they don’t seem any worse to me than those of the very, very popular Pioneer Woman who, like Paula, can be seen on the Food Network. (Have you seen the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Dr. Pepper shredded pork? It contains two cans of Dr. Pepper and two tablespoons of brown sugar… and it’s a main course, not dessert!)
But does it help in any way to blame Paula or the Pioneer Woman for America’s obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic? Not really. At least they’re at home cooking and encouraging people to cook. That’s a step or two above McDonald’s. And at least they’re honest. Paula Deen’s sweet tea, which she claims to have given up since diabetes, contains just under a tablespoon of sugar, according to the New York Times. Sweet tea is what it is. The name says it all. Compare that now to a container of Yoplait yogurt. You think Yoplait is healthy, right? It says 99% fat free on the front of the container. That makes you think it’s good for you. But one itty bitty container of Yoplait yogurt has 33 grams of carb, 26 of which are sugar. 26 grams of sugar! That’s over two tablespoons. (The light version has 20 grams of carb, 15 of which are sugar.) The so-called healthful yogurt has more than twice as much sugar as Paula’s sweet tea. Yoplait and companies like it, not Paula Deen, are the ones screwing with our heads.
Before we laugh at Paula Deen, let’s give her a chance. There’s nothing funny about diabetes and often the people suffering from it, or at high risk, are hard to reach. Education is scare. People don’t understand just how dangerous diabetes is, and also how well it can be managed. Paula has an audience with an appetite and she’s got Big Pharma funding. If she can get people to soak up diabetes information, give up sweet drinks and walk a mile a day, she may very well prevent them from getting diabetes. Paula Deen, if you’re reading this, please don’t underestimate your power. You can get in where doctors can’t. You can save toes, eyes, and kidneys. You can save lives.
The Paula Deen persona America loves doesn’t speak to me. I’m a serious low-carber who weighs 90 pounds, exercises, and has never had a taste for burgers, let alone Paula’s burgers covered in bacon and eggs. And unlike Paula, I’ve gone far from my southern roots. But what does speak to me is change. I’m betting on Paula. I’m counting on her. If she doesn’t come through, I’ll have to eat these words. My words, fortunately, are both calorie and carb-free.
Is possessing diabetes and insulin dependent considered a disability legally?
Thanks for these thoughtful comments.
@Jane – I say let’s wait and see what happens before we attack. Paula has an opportunity to do a lot of good. I’m going to hope that she does. Maybe as she comes to terms with all of this she will change her show.
@Scott – Excellent point. A world without celebrity endorsements -especially of medication – would be a better one.
Although I don’t think celebrity endorsements of any pharmaceuticals are appropriate and frankly, I think Novo Nordisk should be ashamed of such a campaign — they can call it anything they want, its a celebrity endorsement of sorts for a drug available only by prescription), and in many countries outside the U.S., the practice is illegal. Who cares what drug Paula Deen uses to manage her diabetes, that is something that only a board certified doctor, their healthcare provider (insurance company) and the patient have any relevance in making decisions on. I don’t blame Paula for her deal with Novo,… Read more »
Very well said, Jessica. I particularly like your points that Paula Deen is at home cooking, and that we should look further into those little pots of Yoplait. If you prepare that sweet tea yourself you can control how much sugar goes into it, and that goes for everything else you cook.
I have little to say about the Paula Dean Blubbergate situation. After all, who doesn’t love a deep-fried butter and bacon sandwich and a with a tiramisu-milkshake-made-with-3-scoops-of-fried-ice-cream chaser? What is annoying is her phony admonition http://bit.ly/xI15xp
I’m thinking lets give her the benefit of a community that supports her as a fellow diabetic. It’s not going to get any easier for her. She needs to take care of her health just like all of us do… but she has a job that could make it more difficult than ours.
As far as blaming her for taking other people down… that’s silly, everyone has to make their own priorities and choices.
I fear the food police even when the food police are PWD, maybe more. Diabetes needs to be about positive motivations to make progress not recriminations and blame.
I don’t think that many, beyond Anthony Bourdain, have explicitly blamed her for the obesity epidemic. And yet, critics have pointed out, rightly, that the food she promotes — that she teaches people how to cook — are not part of a healthy diet. What I cannot reconcile is that she will continue to produce and star in her popular Food Network cooking shows (same recipes) while serving as a celebrity endorser of a drug for the treatment of Type 2. To me, this is just cynical. And it will be confusing to her audience at a time when what… Read more »
thank you for posting this? i wholeheartedly agree with your post and wish people would stop condemning paula for her actions. diabetes is a serious disease and the awful comments that have come out are heartbreaking.
This post is the definition of compassionate, Jessica, and I also appreciate your pointing out that Deen is hardly the only popular chef in this nation to eat a diet rich in sugar, fat, and animal foods.