39 responses to “Paula Deen, Type II Diabetes, and Me”

  1. Renae B

    I’ve been saying for years that she must be about a half a cup of butter away from a massive heart attack, and she’s dragging a bunch of people down with her.

  2. Kendra Bailey Morris

    Good post, Debbie. As someone who also specializes in Southern/country cooking, I think you said it best with, “As many fine Southern cooks can tell you, traditional Southern cooking does not require the excess that she encourages.”

    Sure, I grew up cooking with butter, fatback etc…but it was in great moderation. Additionally, I have always sought to maintain a very active lifestyle. I was a competitive gymnast for 13 years and still run 18 miles a week, so I’m allowed to indulge in a brownie every now and then. As a family, we incorporated gobs of fresh vegetables from the garden into our diets and nearly everything was homemade from start to finish. We rarely ate “manufactured” foods. Heck, my granny is turning 101 this year. Southern cooking isn’t all bad. Paul Deen’s recipes were.

    Deen’s cooking was deliberately over-the-top as part of her schtick. She is a master marketer and business woman, who knew her days of fried doughnut hamburgers were about to end due to her diagnosis being outed, so she did what she could to eek out some cash flow (i.e. totally sell out to Novo Nordisk). My husband used to sell a competing diabetes drug, and this disease is nothing to scoff at as you know. I feel Deen needs to take more responsibility regarding the importance of lifestyle changes for people living with diabetes instead of simply pimping out Victoza,which merely covers up the underlying causes of the disease (genetics, diet, exercise and sedentary lifestyle). Now, is the time for her to lead by example. We’ll see if that happens, but it doesn’t look like she’s getting off to a great start here.

    Thanks for speaking your mind, Debbie. P.S. congrats on your new book!


  3. Julie

    Well said.

    I just heard her on NPR a few weeks ago reveling in her reputation as the butter queen, making jokes about eating extraordinarily healthy greens, so it was “okay” to add tons of butter and bacon. How is that funny to her now? It was a hell of a performance I guess. Gross.

  4. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    Paula’s southern ‘charm’ were lost on me long ago. If any other person made what she does, it would be called pure crap but for some reason it’s seen as quintessential southern and she sells it with the best of them.

    OK, maybe she pissed me off she took ownership of the Gooey Butter Cake, a St. Louis tradition…or maybe it was when she completely bastardized it that put me over the edge but in any event; her behavior is just wrong. Evidence of her being more of a celebrity than a cook; of the almighty dollar mattering more than her own or others health. Sad commentary but it’s rampant in our culture so even more sad? No big surprise.

  5. Holly Herrick

    Good for you, Debbie. You not only saved and lengthened the quality and duration of your life, but you sent positive messages and role models to your children.
    100 pounds lost is a huge accomplishment!

    The fact that most American’s and most people don’t understand the concept of moderation is killing them and making them fat and sick. I make a living writing about, preparing and eating food (as a restaurant critic), yet I don’t use it as an excuse to gorge and stuff myself silly.

    I once interviewed Paula Deen for a magazine story and found her to be very down to earth and pleasant, especially given that she had 30 interviews lined up for that day. I also respect how she pulled herself out from the brink of agoraphobia and poverty to build an empire.

    However, as someone who lives in the deep South, I’ve always found her depiction of Southern cooking to be (for the most part) not only way off base, it is irresponsible.

    I decided after seeing her on the TODAY Show this a.m. that I will no longer watch her shows, her on any other show, or read anything she writes. I’ve ALWAYS practiced “moderation” she says. “It’s o.k. to have a little piece of pie,” she says. Have you EVER seen her eat a little bit of anything?

    Her moderation comment is a downright lie, and it’s a lie to her viewers to get sick from eating too much bad stuff, keep quiet about it, all the while seeking $$ to be a spokesperson for a pharmaceutical company. The right thing to do would be to send out a message about eating properly – yes, with the occasional even daily indulgence – and (at least indirectly)exercising. Taking a pill is not going to cure diabetes and we, as a culture, need to realize that taking pills will not keep us healthy.

    Eating right and moving more are two big steps in the right direction, just as you say, Debbie. Congrats on your new book!

  6. Diana

    Brava, Debbie. I just about choked on my green smoothie when I saw that she waited three years to come forward. I hope the backlash cripples her brand because it’s pretty clear all Paula cares about is her big fat bank account.

  7. One Hungry Mama

    amen, debbie. for me, it’s not as much about the food she cooks (which has never held any appeal for me; her ties with industrialize pork producers particularly turned my stomach), as it is the responsibility piece. you can’t blame someone for becoming famous—people like her recipes, I guess—but you can blame someone for not being socially responsible about whatever it is they do, in this case promoting a way of eating. i’m always shocked to learn how far people will go to protect self-interest and, even more, how self-interest trumps good old fashioned creative smarts. I mean, really, at her level of food celebrity, did she/her team not believe that there was a way to be honest or make healthier adjustments to her cooking without losing fame and profit? That’s just plain old laziness and total disregard.

    Okay. Now excuse my rant. And thank you for bringing this up.

  8. Kristen@thelittlepotato.com

    great post
    but really, it’s not the butter and animal fat that’s the problem, it’s the FLOUR and SUGAR that raises the insulin levels. flour AND butter and fat (vegetable fat is the worst) equals= bad news for your health.

    1. Ron S. Doyle

      Actually, research at NIH has shown that fat and animal protein play a large role in diabetes, maybe even more so than carbohydrates. There’s even evidence that a low-fat vegan diet can reverse Type 2 Diabetes.

      One of the doctors that supports this research is even trying to get Paula Deen to go vegan:

  9. virginia willis

    I do wish her the best of luck with her illness, but it’s a tragedy and a shame that Paula missed a moment to educate and use her power, position, and influence for good, not just promote her son’s new show. How much more powerful would it be for HER to improve the healthfulness of HER recipes. My main issue? She said “yummy, fattening” Southern recipes. Paula Deen’s cooking is NOT exclusively Southern. I wholeheartedly maintain Southern food does not have to be unhealthy. And, I very much look forward to your piece in Weight Watchers! The obesity rates and borderline epidemic of diabetes in the South is not a result of traditional Southern food. It’s a result of processed convenience foods that is by no means contained to the South. Thanks again for contributing to the dialogue. Best VA

  10. Denise Halcomb

    I dont feel that she HAD to disclose this personal information. She is a cook and an author first and foremost. Her celebrity is under enough scrutiny. It is her business. She doesnt have to advertize!! There is plenty of information available to diabetics she doesnt now have to be a spokes person for the disease! Come on get a grip people! I have MS but that doesnt mean I have to put my life on hold to help others get a clue. There are plenty of charities and oraganizations to help with that. If I choose to donate annonymously then that is my business. Paula Deen gives to many charitable organizations and who is to say she hasnt donated to this cause. It is no ones business but her own! People need to learn when to put the hell out of other’s lives!! PERIOD!!

  11. Julie

    Paula Deen has every right not to disclose her diabetes. What business is it of yours? Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that ooey gooey butter cake isn’t healthy–that doesn’t mean Paula Deen has to stop distributing the recipe. Get a life, lady.

  12. Diana Hsieh

    I eat tons of butter, lard, homemade mayo, etc… and I have perfect blood sugar. I have excellent cholesterol too. That’s because I don’t eat wheat, sugar, or other junk carbohydrates. (Look at the recipes you cite as so bad… they’re not just fat!)

    Before I switched to a paleo diet, I ate all the supposedly healthy foods that most Americans eat — pasta, cereal, bread, pizza, etc. I limited my fat intake. That’s when my fasting blood sugar was creeping up into the pre-diabetic range, and my cholesterol was high.

    Not all fats are good — I avoid soy, corn, and canola oil — but the idea that fat consumption causes diabetes or other diseases is just plain wrong.

  13. Peter Smeeth

    The most sickening this is that she is now making a TON of money…think nearly 1 MILLION most probably….to support a pharmaceutical company instead of working with a dietetic group who can actually help her….

  14. NoPotCooking

    I could not believe she waited 3 years. Yes, I can see taking some time to decide how to deliver the message and how to spin it. I guess they couldn’t figure it out until they had some company paying her to come forward. Pretty disappointing. I hate to say it though, but I doubt it is going to affect her brand.

  15. Sarah Berlin

    Seriously? Did someone hold a gun to your head and make you watch this show and cook her food? Does there need to be a disclaimer for everything because people do not know how to take personal responsibility? That would be like me asking this author Debbie Koenig for the 5 minutes of my life back that I wasted reading this and having to leave my comment. Take responsibility for your choices in life people, and stop blaming everyone else! And people wonder why kids are so terribly behaved these days, because they learn from their parents that nothing is ever their fault.

  16. Susie

    It’s so obvious that she took 3 years to figure out the best way to spin and monetize her condition, all the while promoting her over indulgent recipes. Disgusting!

  17. carrie

    I’m totally with you on this, and kudos for being so honest. When you are someone like Paula Deen, a cooking personality in the public eye, you have a RESPONSIBILITY to your viewers, fans, readers, etc. Totally, totally irresponsible.

  18. dee plair

    Yes, Paula Dean is over the top, but more importantly, I think her food is nasty. However, I think portion size should also be mentioned. She has a chain of buffet restaurants and this is where the real damage is done.

  19. Amy @ A Little Nosh

    I just don’t see how she has an OBLIGATION to tell people about her medical issues. How is it our business?

  20. Crunchy Con Mommy

    I hope this is a wake-up call to people who are eating a Paula Deen “Southern” diet… My best friend was, and ended up with high cholesterol at 22! Many of my relatives continue to eat that way. Really a shame.

  21. sarah henry

    Kudos, Deb, for calling this out for what it is. As someone who covered type 2 diabetes — a frequently preventable disease that ravages the body — I’m appalled by how this scenario has played out.

  22. Alicia

    I have to disagree with you on this one..

    I don’t think she has any obligation to put people on the right path, health wise, honestly. She is a tv personality, not a Doctor. Her job is and always has been, to entertain and sell. I would not think of looking to her for health advice even if the info she was giving was 100% accurate.

    I am of the opinion that fans of Paula Deen are not under any illusion that they are preparing healthy meals. They are making a conscious choice, just as she did. And just like her, they are probably uninterested in changing their lifestyle, and if they have diabetes, interested in trying to control it through medication. She is the perfect spokesperson *for the company’s target audience*, and I don’t think it speaks to her moral character for her to accept a job promoting a product that seems to fit her philosophy, even though I personally disagree strongly with that philosophy.

  23. Alicia

    I understand your point. However, if anyone is going to make big bucks from a pharma company drug endorsement- I would rather it be a non-Doctor celebrity than a Doctor. I think the second would be much more concerning, both morally and ethically.

    She is one in a long line of celebrities to get a drug endorsement deal. I see retired football players pushing ED drugs without controversy on a daily basis. If your objection is to celebrities endorsing drugs across the board, that’s one thing, and I can respect that. I don’t agree with the ways drugs are marketed either.
    However, if, in your opinion, it is *only* Paula Deen (aka a fat tv chef) that has a moral obligation to turn down an endorsement deal/promote a healthy lifestyle/tell the truth about her illness, I think it is a double standard.

  24. Sheryl

    I’m as outraged as you are. And then some. Prediabetes, which affects thousands, can be reversed by making wise lifestyle choices and changes. Surely Deen is not aware of this fact, or if she is, she’s chosen to ignore it and not share it with the rest of her followers.

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