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Paula Deen & Diabetes leaves a bad taste in my pre-diabetes mouth

January 19, 2012

Paula Deen has diabetes. Why is it we’re so angry and disgusted at this news?

I think the crux of it is she’s been selling us her “down-home cooking” lifestyle for years. She’s been asking us to become fans of her, her taste, her choices, and ultimately approve and emulate her through viewership, buying cookbooks, and supporting her advertisers.

No one is blaming her for being diagnosed with diabetes. As I mention on my About Me page, I was worried that (and still am) I will be diagnosed with Type II diabetes at some point in my life. My father was diagnosed with it (and after changing his lifestyle & eating habits, has since been in normal blood sugar levels), so I know it’s not an absurd thought.

I wouldn’t wish diabetes on anyone.

But. She also has to be accountable for the responsibility she has not only as a public figure, but one whose main purpose is promoting her culinary lifestyle.

Two things stick in my craw the most:

- She partnered up with a diabetes drug company.

Medicine is doing some great things for people in the world, but I don’t think the response to “I have Type II diabetes” is to say “don’t worry, there’s a medicine for that”, especially when healthier eating and exercise can have an impact on Type II diabetes.

A drug company wants to make money. Drug companies make money when patients buy their drugs, not when they become better & don’t need the medicine anymore. I sense a conflict of interest in peddling a “Diabetes in a new Light” lifestyle that involves medicine.

It looks worse that, following the public outcry about this announcement, she only then decided to pledge some of her earnings to the American Diabetes Association.

- She waited to say something for three years.

This news wasn’t immediately available in the first press releases about how long she had known, but now we know. 3 years. It makes the drug partnership even more calculating.

Three years of continuing the lifestyle she portrays online, and now coming out with a very recent articles advocating the “other lifestyle” she follows:

Her sons agree that her typical meals at home are different from the ones on the show. “When we go to her house, we eat a lot of seafood, chicken on the grill, big chopped salads,” says Jamie, 44, who helps manage the family restaurant and business.

Bobby Deen, 41, star of Cooking Channel’s Not My Mama’s Meals, which offers healthier versions of his mom’s classic recipes, says, “Although my mother does cook traditional for 30 minutes each day (on TV), she only eats that way in moderation and encourages her viewers to do the same (source)

Did you notice that the son has a show about how his healthier version are so different from his mother’s cooking that it’s in the name of his show, “Not My Mama’s Meals” ?

I think ideally people see the public figure and want to be a part of that struggle, that change, and they want to see its effects, too, right along with her. That is why so many healthy living bloggers have followings, too – they are involving people directly in their progress, their failures, & successes. It feels real, it feels human.

The way her new insta-moderate-lifestyle living with diabetes was presented, it feels manufactured,  fake, and a little dishonest. The process of change and transition would have added the same authenticity that she has with her “home cooking.”

Caron from San Diego Foodstuffs says it much better than I.

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Badly played, Ms. Deen. 

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 7:12 pm

    Ms. Deen claims she is living an authentic life and true to her cooking…but it is one thing to be authentic and another thing to be stupid in the face of reality and fact. If someone finds out the thing they are authentically, but misguidedly doing, is detrimental to their health and they are not doing anything to change their actions, then they are just ignorant. People need to learn to modify their bad behaviors and not continue to promote and flaunt them as good behaviors especially if they are a public figure. That is just misguided and and in bad form. As in Ms Deen’s case…very very bad form, overweight form and unhealthy form. Che brutta figura!

  2. January 19, 2012 7:41 pm

    Well said, Sara. Her hypocrisy and cynicism is stunning. (Also, I’m assuming now that she already had diabetes when she published this recipe! http://www.pauladeen.com/recipes/recipe_view/bill_nicholsons_krispy_kreme_bread_pudding/)

  3. January 20, 2012 4:25 am

    Totally agree. It’s felt icky since the announcement then the drug company put it/her over the edge. Her son and his new show just makes my eyes roll. I can’t help myself.

  4. January 24, 2012 6:23 pm

    Thanks – I felt a bit of a rant come on writing that but it’s disappointment mostly – she could have used her position to influence a lot of people differently.

  5. January 25, 2012 3:25 am

    Haven’t followed any of it – but hopefully she uses her fame/popularity for good – she has the chance to continue to influence people to change their diets and eat better!!! Not likely to watch any of the shows that have been referred to – my love for food and flavour undiminished – I spend more of my spare time reading about travel! Love nothing more than to curl up with a new cookbook on a wintery day – but for now – I am daydreaming and planning my next big adventures!

  6. January 27, 2012 12:33 am

    I initially read this the day you posted it and I needed some time to let it sink in. There’s so much to say that I think I may have to write a post of my own. What bothers me the most is that she says the only change she will make is to switch to unsweetened tea and take walks with her husband. Claiming that you don’t have to stop what you love just because you have diabetes, therefore medication is the answer is so wrong. I’ve never been a fan of hers but I would have loved for her to say, “I have diabetes, I’ve known for 3 years and here’s this new cookbook I’ve been working on. It’s got a bunch of revamped recipes for diabetics y’all!”

  7. January 27, 2012 6:25 pm

    She has managed to portray all of us southern cooks as unhealthy. I had 3 grandparents who all lived into their 90’s eating good home cooked southern meals. This meant fresh vegetables from their garden and never preparing anything from a box or that had the word instant in the name. A frozen dinner consisted of leftovers that were frozen from the home cooked meal not from the freezer section of the local grocery store. Meat was usually only served at the Sunday dinner meal and we were all fine with that. When you had fresh black eyed peas, stewed squash, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes, sauted okra, who needed any meat? We weren’t deprived of butter and heavy cream and fatty foods, but they were generally saved for special occasion meals and the holidays. I am disappointed that Paula didn’t take this opportunity to make her “traditional” recipes more healthy.

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