Paula Deen made a highly anticipated appearance on the Today Show on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 for a live interview with NBC’s Al Roker. In the exclusive interview the celebrity cook and author, known for her rich Southern cuisine, made a public acknowledgment that she has Type 2 diabetes. Speculation and rumor about her health has surfaced in the last several months.
She is the host of Paula’s Best Dishes on the Food Network as well as the author of several cookbooks including Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible, which made the Worst Cookbooks of 2011 List from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) citing as an example, her Hot Buffalo Wings recipe from which a serving of three wings has 910 calories and 85 grams of fat. Perhaps most notorious is her recipe for a hamburger topped with a fried egg and bacon and served on a glazed doughnut instead of a bun.
Asked if it was true that she has diabetes, she told Al Roker, “I do. I was diagnosed three years ago, Al, during a regular physical exam with my doctor that A had Type 2 diabetes. I’m here today to let the world know that it is not a death sentence. I’m working with a very reputable pharmaceutical company on a new program called Diabetes in a New Light.” She went on to note that it has a Web site. She added, “I’m going to help you manage every day of your life with this.” When asked, she acknowledged that she is a paid spokesperson for the company Novo Nordisk. She said, “I have been compensated, just as you are for your work, yes.”
Asked why she did not go public sooner, she said, “I intentionally did it, Al. I told my husband and children. I’ve got to keep it close to my chest for the time being because I had to figure things out in my own head. I had to give time to think about it, talk with my doctor because, Al, at the time, you know, I tell everything, Al. At the time, I could have walked out and said, hey, y’all I have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.” She added, “I had nothing to give.”
Asked if she delayed going public because it would damage her reputation and the whole industry she had built, she said, “…People are not going to quit eating. We quit eating we’re all out of here. No, I anted to bring something to the table when I came forward and I have ways been one to think I bring hope because I have had lots of obstacles in my life, y’all.”
Regarding lifestyle factors that can contribute to diabetes including diet and being sedentary, she said, “Certainly, Al, that is part of the puzzle. But there’s many other things that can lead to diabetes. Your generics, lifestyle, stress and last, but not least, age. There’s a lot of us baby boomers out there and there is a good chance that will be one of the issues you have to face.” She added, “We’re going to help you work on still having a full life without feeling like you’re being punished, you’re not being able to taste.”
Today Show contributor Dr. Roshini Raj was also present during the interview and acknowledged that along with genetics environment factors such as diet and exercise and being overweight can contribute to the possibility of developing diabetes.
Asked if she would change the way she cooks and eats, Paula Deen said,”I’ve always encouraged moderation. People see me cooking all these wonderful, Southern, fattening recipes; it’s for entertainment. People have to be responsible. Like I told Oprah, ‘Honey, I’m your cook, not your doctor.’ You have to be responsible.”
She also gave an interview to USA Today, telling the publication of her diabetes diagnosis and her work with the aforementioned drug company. Regarding lifestyle changes, she had this to say:
“Besides using the medication, Deen is walking a mile or more a day on the treadmill and no longer drinking sweet tea. “That’s a big trick for a little Southern girl. I calculated how much sugar I drank in empty calories, and it was staggering. I would start drinking tea at lunchtime and drank it all the way to bedtime.”
She hasn’t made a lot of other changes in how she eats and cooks, because “I’ve tried to use moderation since I hit a certain age.”
She has dropped a size in clothes since the diagnosis. “I wasn’t trying to lose weight. I don’t even own a scale. I go strictly by the way I feel and the way my clothes feel.” When she’s out and about, people often say to her, “Gosh you’re not nearly as fat in person.” Her response: “Well, thank you, I guess.”
“TV really packs it on you. They say you look 10 pounds heavier, but I think it’s more like 30.”
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Paula Deen and the degree to which she will modify recipes to make them, frankly, safer for consumption.
One of her sons, Bobby Deen, a coauthor of several cookbooks with his brother, Jamie Deen, has put himself in opposition of such dishes, by making healthier, reduced calorie version of the rich cuisine in his new Cooking Channel show, “Not My Mama’s Meals.”
Appeals to “everything in moderation” aside, health consequences from a diet high in fat and sugar are undeniable. For a details analysis of the dual epidemics of diabetes and obesity, I highly recommend checking out what functional medicine pioneer Mark Hyman, M.D. (and frequent guest on The Dr. Oz Show) has to say about “diabesity” a phrase he coined to underscore this inextricable link between the epidemics; an excellent primer is here: Diabesity Epidemic. And quite empowering: 8 Steps to Reversing Diabesity.
Skinny Bliss readers, let us know what you think of Paula Deen and her diabetes announcement on the Today Show and the approach she is taking.
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