Paula Deen has gone public, confirming reports that she was diagnosed with diabetes three years ago. Reports first surfaced in The National Enquirer in April of 2010, but she decided she was going to keep the diagnosis "close to her chest" till she figured out some things. I guess one of those "things" was the need to reckon with the diagnosis and decide that it is not a death sentence. I guess the second "thing" was the waiting period that allowed her to process the diagnosis, learn more about it and get hired as a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical house that manufactures the medication she now uses to treat the disease. She and her family (sons) will now appear in an ad campaign sponsored by the company.
Deen has been the subject of numerous attacks now because she promotes "high fat, high sugar" foods that are associated with gaining weight and developing diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Deen says she did not reveal her diagnosis because of the focus of her cooking shows and the type of foods she regularly cooks - she simply "wanted to bring something to the table" when she revealed her diagnosis. She stands by her mantra of "moderation" and says that though the foods she prepares are yummy and fattening, she always says "in moderation." Just have a little piece of the pie......
Since the diagnosis, Ms. Dee has given up her sweet tea, a common Southern tradition, and she walks on a treadmill. She told Al Roker, on of the Today Show hosts, that she really "only cooks and tapes her show 30 days out of the year." And, "it's for entertainment." She identifies herself as an American cook and not a doctor. At the end of the day, she says that personal responsibility needs to step in. Anthony Bouurdain, a fellow food show host, called her out in a recent interview for TV Guide, saying "she is proud of the fact that her food is bad for you." She responded to the ugly comments by saying that he needs to "get a life.....she's a relatable cook.....people can't afford prime rib and expensive wine....." With the new interview confirming her diagnosis, he was asked to comment and to quote Eater.com's interview, he said, "When your signature dish is hamburger in between a doughnut, and you've been cheerfully selling this stuff (now) knowing all along that you've got type 2 diabetes....It's in bad taste if nothing else." Interestingly enough, one of her sons, Bobby, has been living a healthy lifestyle and hosting a show that promotes lighter calorie foods, with less fat but robust taste.
My thoughts: I don't think most of the people watching Paula's show are hearing the word "moderation." I also think that her definition of the word, and my definition as a nutritionist are "worlds and plates" apart!! We can have an endless discussion about personal responsibility, but plant-based foods made with herbs and spices WILL NOT hold up to a palate consistently cooking and eating dishes and treats this rich. I have consistently shared that though I mostly eat healthy, and I consider myself a very good cook when it comes to creative and tasty "healthy" dishes, I still crave all the fat foods I was fed as a kid - from pastries and processed snacks to chips and dips and creamy casserole dishes. I also think most of us, unfortunately, turn to food for emotional comfort and again, once you've tasted creamy and sugary foods, those are the ones you will crave and being human, one may not be strong enough to chomp on carrot sticks when you are upset!!! I know how hard it is to be disciplined and lose weight and keep it off, especially if you were accustomes to fat-laden, creamy, salty, sugary foods. I know how hard it is to go to a restaurant and order differently than my table mates. I know what it's like to be selective when I go to a buffet or party. I also know how hard it is to wake up daily, and commit to a fitness regimen. Once the diagnosis of diabetes or heart disease occurs, back pedaling is MUCH harder. So while I too agree that "moderation" is a good food behavior, I also realize that for most of us it is too hard a mantra to follow if cooks like Deen are going to push that kind of fare our way.
What do you think??
Published On: January 19, 2012