Friday, January 20, 2012

My Take on the Paula Deen Diabetes Dilemma

By now you've probably heard a lot about Paula Deen and her diabetes. And if you haven't heard that much, you've at least heard something unless you live under a rock.

I've been thinking about this situation since the news came out. A lot of people immediately criticized her, which I do understand because of the kind of recipes she teaches and foods she endorses. If you eat that stuff on a regular basis you are not going to be healthy.

But in addition to that, I have some other thoughts on Paula. I have one of her cookbooks that I was given as a gift years ago. (Hopefully the person who gave it to me did so because of my love of all things Southern...and NOT because I look like I eat a lot of butter. Ick!) I enjoy looking at the recipes, but I've only made a couple of them - and not often, only once or twice for the holidays or a special occasion. There is no way I could eat that stuff more often than that.

A lot of traditional Southern food is filled with grease, butter, sugar, and too many carbs. And being a Dixie gal, Paula made a name for herself making the foods she grew up on and adding her own twists. Some of these recipes look appetizing, while others (like the doughnut burger pictured above) just look downright disgusting. When you've grown up on a certain kind of food, you tend to turn to that food for comfort and celebration because you're used to it. When she began, Paula most likely thought she was just passing down dishes that have been around for generations, and updating them to create something different. I doubt she set out purposely to make people around the country sick. She was probably in denial that they could make HER sick.

Along the way, her recipes got out of hand. She says she's always preached moderation, although I've never really heard her say it myself. And as her own health spiraled out of control and she developed diabetes, I'm guessing that she had no idea what to do next. She was used to these foods. And her fans were used to these foods. It probably took her a while to figure out how to deal with her diagnosis, then in turn deal with her food legacy. Obviously it's 3 years later and there's plenty of fallout...and I bet she knew there would be, hence the delay in telling the world about her diabetes while she figured out how to deal with it best. She was definitely in a tight spot!

I don't have a problem with her promoting a diabetes drug, as long as she also admits that her diet played a part in her illness. She should come clean and tell us that those foods are not just to be eaten in moderation - they are to be eaten rarely if you want to be healthy. This is important so people don't assume that a drug by itself will "fix" their diabetes problem. Diet and exercise play as much, if not more, of a part in controlling diabetes. I know this because my dad is diabetic, and my grandparents were as well, along with all of my uncles. This is a disease I have to watch out for myself.

I also knew people who thought that just because they took insulin or other drugs, they could eat whatever they wanted. One person in particular would drink several glasses of wine and actually thought that shooting herself with extra insulin would cancel it out. This is dangerous thinking - it's crucial for Paula to let everyone know that the drugs do help, but they don't solve everything.

My other point - we all know that eating a ton of butter is not good for you, just like eating too much fast food isn't healthy. Blaming Paula is like blaming McDonald's...neither of them are forcing you to eat their food. We all choose what to put into our bodies. There is a lesson is all of this, and she is learning a lesson just like the rest of us. If anybody is suddenly shocked that fried food and butter aren't healthy, then they have an even bigger problem.

I look forward to seeing more of Paula's original dishes made over to be better for us. There are ways to eat your favorite things without all of the extra fat and sugar. I also look forward to better health - for Paula, myself, and all of us who struggle with our weight. May we use what we learn to improve!

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