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Paula Deen: Glass Houses.

I have no idea who Paula Deen is. 

Actually, I have a little bit of an idea.  My mother-in-law loves the Cooking Channel and she watches a lot of the cooking shows.  Sometimes she tells us about a delicious recipe she saw, or wants to try.  My MIL is my link to the cooking community (because we all know my talents are limited in that department ... see also my contribution to D-Feast and that thing about froast).  She's the one who told me who Sam Talbot was.  And she filled me in on Paula Deen.

My personal knowledge about the woman is limited, though. 

What I do know is that she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about three years ago.  And in the last few days, she's come out as a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk's diabetes drug, Victoza, with her web presence at the branded "Diabetes in a New Light."

But holy crap, the Internet has plenty of opinions about this woman.  The Huffington Post said "Paula is now suffering from the popular perception that money bought her new-found honesty." Anthony Bourdain Tweeted, "Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later."  Run a Google search on "Paula Deen and diabetes" and your web browser will collapse from the weight of opinions. 

I don't know the woman.  I have no idea if she is drinking her own KoolAid (or, in this case, eating her own glazed doughnut sandwiches).  But after all the emails I've received and all the posts I've seen in the DOC, it's hard to ignore this discussion.

On one hand, why not talk about her diagnosis after it actually happened?  Why wait for Pharma dollars?  Amy Tenderich shared her opinion: "Building a food empire on unhealthy foods and then being diagnosed with a chronic condition with a known correlation to food and obesity has to be difficult, not to mention embarrassing.  I can understand why someone wouldn’t be anxious to put themselves in that kind of spotlight — although it was inevitable eventually."  Paula Deen said herself:  "I had to really get myself into a place when I made the announcement. I would come with information, and I would be armed to be able to help others." 

Disclosing her diabetes when she felt best-armed to discuss it?  To each their own.  Continuing to market her less-than-healthy recipes?  She can do that, too, you know, even if the media wants to go apeshit on her for doing so.  If doughnuts end up on my plate, it's not because Paula Deen put them there and then crammed them into my mouth.  I think we need to own our own actions, and not be so quick to blame celebrities for being the voices in our heads.

On the other hand, what I also know is that she, like me, is a person living with diabetes.  Paula has type 2 diabetes, while I have type 1 diabetes, but the fact remains that she is part of the diabetes community.  And just like everyone else, she has her right to disclose whatever she'd like, whenever and however she'd like. Not all of us talk about our weight.  Or our A1Cs.  Some of us in this community only disclose anonymously online, never whispering a word about our diabetes to our "real life" friends.  We all share at a level that we alone have the right to dictate.  So Paula Deen and her decision to "come out" as a type 2 diabetic is her call. 

George Simmons said it best, in my opinion:  "Everyone is a hypocrite when they're first trying to change."  For me, as someone who is deeply immersed in the diabetes community and relies on it for psycho-social support (just as crucial as insulin, in my opinion), I want someone to be there for Paula Deen as she adjusts to this new normal.  I'm not a doctor or a journalist ... I'm a person with diabetes, and I want to support my fellow PWDs.  So her past is slick with butter and glaze?  That was then.  She has a chance to change now - and not to impress "us," but to take better care of herself. 

I still don't really know who Paula Deen is, and I can't pretend to be her personal biographer.  But I do know she's a person with diabetes, and like anyone else in this community, she deserves respect.  In my opinion, I don't think that diabetes advocates have to be perfectLiz at The Angry Type 2 Diabetic offered this, and I hope she's right: "How do you even know she might not turn around, and make a show showcasing how you can still eat with flare, and with passion, WHILE managing diabetes?"

I hope that's what comes of this announcement from Paula Deen.  She has a chance to reach millions of people, and I'm hopeful that she'll use her platform to inspire people to take control of their diabetes, despite any and all criticism, judgment, and fear.



Well put, Kerri!

Nice post. What is the big deal. She might have gotten type 2 no matter what she ate.

I joined Diabetes in a new light and I tried the lasagna recipe that was posted there. It wasn't a tasty as the full fat and butter one that I had while eating at Lady and Son's when I was in Savannah, but it was soooo good. Here are my thoughts, you are correct; it is embarrassing to admit to a self inflicted wound, and she probably didn't want all the public backlash. Remember the medical community was already heaping that guilt on her head. Also, she was a big celebrity when she was diagnosed. She probably had people in her industry telling her that she would destroy her career if she disclosed her illness. I had noticed that she has dropped quite a few pounds over the course of a few years and was wondering how she did it eating deep fried butter. I'm sure she has come up with some over the top healthy recipes, and I'm looking forward to trying them. Thanks Paula for being courageous and speaking up.

I;ve said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not going to blame Paula Deen for her diabetes or vilify her for that matter! And if people judged me for all my diabetes mistakes, I'd never be able to leave my house. I will welcome Paula Deen to the diabetes community - both on-line and off,and I'll do my best to try and help her... and learn from her. Because it's been my understanding that the Diabetes On-Line community is all about learning, teaching and being taught by others with diabetes. And being there for one another because we share the common bond of diabetes - regardless of the type.
Kelly K

I think that many are too quick to judge. As long as she is using her celebrity status to improve the lives of those with diabetes, I don't see why anyone would bash her. I'm curious to see if she creates a series on healthy recipes for patients with diabetes.

I'll just second that she didn't have to come out immediately after her diagnosis. Being open with your disease is a personal decision, and one that I didn't make until 3 years into mine. She might have been waiting to "give something back", but she might have also been like me and felt ashamed for it. Nobody should feel ashamed, that doesn't lead to taking care of yourself in any way.

I used to watch Paula Deen...until I realized that I was probably gaining weight just from watching her. Somehow, seeing someone who seemed to care so little about her weight and the way people judged her for it...it seemed to make it okay for me. So I stopped watching.

I noticed, as Emmy said, that she'd los weight in the past few years, and I, too, wondered why and how. The thought that she'd been diagnosed with Type 2 crossed my mind, but it didn't matter.

Did you hear that? It didn't MATTER! It's HER life. Everyone who chooses to cook the way she does on her show...it's their fault, their loss. With all the misconceptions about diabetes (that are ALL related to Type 2) out in the media nowadays, there's no way someone can play the "I didn't know" card. You want to blame her? Look at yourself first.

Kerri, your post was WONDERFUL! She needs the support--maybe more than some other people because it's obviously embarrassing to be diagnosed with a condition everyone says you should've seen coming. I like her--her personality, her stories, and yes, her recipies, too. I'm sorry she was diagnosed with Type 2. But maybe being a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk will help some other people learn that it could happen to them, that it could happen to ANYONE, whether you're a cook, a newscaster, or just any person.

The timing of...well all of this might not be ideal for her but I'm sure we (people with diabetes) had our share of rough starts post-diagnosis. Her rough start is just a little more public than others. I hope she find the support that we all advocate for within her social circles.

Kerri, I offer a fist bump in your general direction. Well done.

Thank you for this.

Great post as always Kerri. Someday I hope my blog will be as great as yours.

I am not judging Paula Deen for being a diabetic, but for being a spokesperson. I guess George is right in his assessment that everyone seems like a hypocrite when they're first changing up their habits, but I don't want to take medical advice from someone who cooks like her. It's like having an obese personal trainer.

Someone struggling with an hbA1C or burnout? That I can identify with. But selling diabetes and then selling the treatment for diabetes? I'm not for that. I won't judge Paula Dean, but I don't support her.

I am a food network junkie. And I find it interesting that Paula Dean's son Jamie has put together a show of healthier versions of his mom's recipes. "Jamie at Home". When I saw the ad, I was not aware that Paula was diabetic. Interesting way to save his mothers recipes. Hmmm.

I have mixed emotions on her diagnosis as well. On one hand, yes, she had to have time, like any of us, to process a diabetes diagnosis, and yes, if she wants to make butter-butter-butter for dinner, that is her business. But what about social responsibility when you are a celeb? Then again, I totally agree with you, K. We are each responsible for that which we cram into our mouths. :)

Thanks for the shout out Kerri.

Anon - I can identify with someone who is making slow changes and not changing everything overnight. That is more accessible to me. Also, my doctor needs to lose some weight. It makes it a lot easier to listen when he is not perfect either.

I like the real world. not the perfect one that I am no where near at all.

But as always, I say to each his own. If you do not want to support her than cool. I do.

I think it's funny that many of us spend SOOOOO much time fending off the food nazi's and yelling "WE CAN EAT THAT" and then we go and knock her down. Perhaps she might be the person who shows the world that you can still eat the things you like in moderation AND have Diabetes - whatever the type.

ps - she has a killer bacon cheeseburger meatloaf which is OMG so amazing. Not to be eaten every day. :)

and to Anon: I'm not taking medical advice from her. I'm taking cooking advice. She's a cook. I don't ask my doctor how to cook. She's well positioned to be able to show what would be good ways to modify recipes with health in mind. Doesn't mean she still can't cook her old way too.

Very well said!

Well said, and I love that you titled this Glass Houses. I was thinking of writing something similar, but decided that enough has been said already (for now, I reserve the right to change my mind). I find it disgusting that some folks want to assign blame because someone gets any chronic condition.

It reminds me of that scene in Men In Black where Will Smith says to Tommy Lee Jones, "You know what they say, better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all." TLJ responds, "You try it."

To all the folks that want to throw rocks, consider what it feels like to have rocks thrown at you first. It's not pleasant, and it certainly doesn't showcase the support and compassion that should define the diabetes community. Nobody sits on Santa's lap and asks to get diabetes for Christmas. The least we can do is support each other with respect when one of us does receive an unfortunate lump of coal.

I am with you, I do not know who she is, and do not really care. I do know that when I was diagnosed with Type 1, I was facing death, and everyone that is labeled 'Diabetic' faces this feeling at the beginning at some point. It is no fun and can be much worse the more faint we become of it. It is a life changer and we have to adapt. How we change is still our choice, but change we must and some times that is an daily issue. Welcome to the jungle.

Hey, Kerri. Would have loved to see you when you were nearby for coffee with Susan Barr. Next time, I hope.

Telling you, privately, that there's a grammar error at the top of this post: Sometimes she tells Chris and ME about..

xxoo, WFS

thanks. the other day i was trying (in a not-very-intentional sort of way) to process what i think about the whole thing and i think you nailed it.

First let me say that so many of the shows we see Paula on now are reruns. Second, like being on a moving train, you can't just stop and change directions over night, it takes time. Who cares when she was diagnosed or when she "came out" (as so many are saying)? If my son were offered an opportunity to promote a life saving drug that he is currently on (novolog), I for one would sign him up immediately! No one knows whether or not she contributes to charities, for all we know all her profits are donated. If not, WHO CARES! It will not change the fact that my 8yr old has Diabetes and it will not change the life of anyone else. Ok, rant over. :)

Great non-biased read! Thanks...and you are right, who are we to judge? Anyway, I happen to like Paula Dean for her cooking, Southern Cooking that in nature is not the healthiest :) Her son just recently started his own cooking show no Food Network that takes Paula's recipes and make then healthier without losing flavor by reducing fat in calories in ALL the recipes. Paula is on the show all the time saying how great it is what her son is doing...maybe that is the beginning of her change to a healthier life style? Maybe, maybe not...we should still support PWD and great work by her son who seems to be a health fanatic!!

I don't know much about Paula Deen, but this was my first introduction. It's funny.


Anonymous, If you'd checked out Norvo Nordics website you'd notice she isn't their medical adviser. She's sharing recipes and nutrition information. I'm sure that three years with this disease is giving her quite an education in carb counting, and I think she already knows the inside of a food processor. I'm looking forward to the first healthy recipe cook book she puts out.

I think it is absurd that Paul Deen has received such much criticism from the media. When the grease has finished sizzling, it boils down to one thing, that Paula Dean is a businesswoman. She produces a product for the Food Network, and for chefs everywhere, which simply cannot be found anywhere else. Her fat laden food is an anomaly in an industry where soymilk and whole grain reign supreme. Paula Deen is not pushing her food down her viewer’s throats and there is no proof that she is pushing it down her own. Her image as the queen of country cooking is just that an image. Butter is Paula Deen’s business and nothing more than that. She deserves respect and support and should not be condemned for her business.

Great post, Kerri. I wholeheartedly agree, and honestly loved your post. So well done, as always - it almost sounds cliche now to just compliment because that's just the way it is.

Something else that I haven't really seen anywhere, but Suzi just told me as I was litterally LOLing about your "forcing glazed donuts" point. PD suffered for a long time, say like 20 years, with a debilitating disorder called agoraphobia where you're too scared to leave the house. She's THAT kind of private person... puts this whole "waiting three years" thing into a different light for me, regardless of the Novo aspect.

Anyhow, thanks for writing this post Kerri.

Another cyber fist-bump from me, Kerri.

Really fair and thoughtful Kerri.

I agree with your post. I don't know who Paula Deen is either... but goodness me how she was "eaten" inside out by the media and even folks on the d forums!

I wish her all the best and if she wants support... I would gladly support her as well as I do for others in the DOC =)

Great post Kerri.

Great post Keri.

The diabetes community is not about criticizing some one. It is about helping each other. Sharing our challanges and success.

So Paula, come on over and we can share a glass of sweet tea with Splenda.

You are welcome to join us.

I'm really happy you made a post and a supportive one. I LOVE Paula even though I've never made her recipes. I just love to watch cooking shows LOL I always have hated the insinuation that because a personmakes XYZ that they are eating it all. I had this happen to me a couple years ago (I love to make cupcakes and share them and one day a supposed friend told me if I stopped eating all those cupcakes I wouldn't be so fat.. I was GUTTED. Why did she think I was so generous with everyone in sharing!?!?). It's very embarrassing! It's Paula's decision if and when she tells people. I'm very private about my health so I understand her wanting to be especially being a celebrity.

Physicians' committee for responsible medicine has written Paula Dean a letter offering to help her reverse her diabetes through a healthy vegetarian diet rather than drugs and big pharma. Of course, there's no money in that for her, lol. But vegetarians are 94% less likely to get type II diabetes, so... I'd be interested to hear your take on this.
Really like your blog, by the way!

Awesome post!

We are responsible for what we feed our families not her. And. Again who knows how or why she got D. Not our biz. She did and I welcome her with open arms...and an empty plate...cause she gets down in the kitchen!

We all know How difficult It is to take care of the diabetic dragon!
Paula needs support while she changes her ENTIRE life.
I hope that she does segments with her son. He has started doing guest spots as the "light Deen" .
He is doing recipes in which he changes his mom's dishes more in line with low fat,low sugar and more healthy versions.
He is fun .
Thanks for blogging support for a newbie Pwd.

Paula Deen the person is one thing - whatever she shares, whenever she shares it, is totally up to her. Paula Deen the business is another. Three years of reruns and new shows, appearances and cookbooks and profits - that's the sticky point for me. I don't condemn her or judge her for her choices (pre or post dx) but the drug company relationship and the delay-while-the-Deen-machine-chugged on, that makes me a little less of a fan of Paula Deen the Food Network character. But, really, she lost me when I heard about the donut hamburger recipe years ago :)

Thank you for this. I thought I was the only one getting mad that she was getting so much flack.

I know Paula started out very poor with 2 sons to raise as a single mom. I don't watch her show as I am a food addict and watching the cooking she has done in the past is like an alcoholic watching a bar tender! I sure hope she can change and be well!

I agree with Jen. In most cases, Type II diabetes is PREVENTABLE. Sure, she has it now, which should garner our support as the DOC. But as a public health person, I don't understand how she can continue promoting such unhealthy recipes (will she change her MO?). And then to cash in on her treatment? I just can't support that from an ethics point of view. We all know that taking insulin or other diabetes meds is not the "cure" that we deserve. Diabetes is HARD WORK. And pharma isn't really that great at showing that side of things. Let's wait and see what this does to her career, what she promotes, and how she promotes it. Celebrities have responsibilities, I hope she lives up to hers. This is an important moment where she could make a difference.

Paula, Paula, Paula .... I'm all for "live and let live" but when you actively promote (and profit from) a type of lifestyle that is directly related to your health (and the health of everyone you are promoting said lifestyle to) ... it's a little different.

I saw a commercial for a show her son is doing on The Food Network now, taking her recipes and making them health(ier). Wouldn't it be great if SHE did this (she personally, not her son. I'm sure it's her company who's putting it on The Food Network) While I admire her business acumen, I'd admire her as a person if she'd be "real."

"If doughnuts end up on my plate, it's not because Paula Deen put them there and then crammed them into my mouth. I think we need to own our own actions, and not be so quick to blame celebrities for being the voices in our heads."

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