Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paula Deen has Diabetes and takes Victoza. So What?

I've been kicking this story around in my head since it came out.

Celebrity TV chef with obesity who makes repulsively, insanely, calorificly obscene foods (like the bacon, fried egg, doughnut burger of hers pictured up above) develops type II diabetes, doesn't tell anyone for 3 years, and then not only has a big reveal, but signs a deal to endorse an injectable hypoglycemic medication.

So what?

Certainly the blogosphere's abuzz with outrage over the irony, the hypocrisy and the message being sent, and while I agree it's ironic, nutritionally hypocritical and a rather sad message, try as I might, the furthest I get is plain disappointed - I just can't work up any consternation.

Sure, the food she promotes (and presumably eats) is ridiculously decadent calorically and not what any would describe as healthful.  Sure eating that sort of food on a regular basis would likely lead you to weight gain which in turn will put you at a much higher risk of diabetes. Sure the message of, "don't worry about your diabetes, there's a drug for that, so keep eating whatever you want" isn't exactly a healthy one. But I'm still confused as to why people are so up in arms.

What I mean is, Paula's not an allied health professional, she's a TV chef with diabetes who cooks far from healthy fare, who apparently now takes Victoza, who frankly was never even remotely seen as a healthy living role model even before her diabetes diagnosis.  Did people really look to her or her meals and think she or they were such a picture of health that on that basis they increased the frequency with which they actually prepared her recipes?

We all accept differing degrees of risk into our lives. Jaywalking, biking without a helmet, driving short distances without a seatbelt, smoking, drinking, drugs, processed meats, trans-fats, improper weight lifting techniques, avoiding the doctor, not taking our medications, etc. The fact that Paula wants to continue to risk her health by presumably continuing to eat her bacon fried mac and cheese? That's her business, and were she explicitly telling people her extravagances were healthy, it would certainly be horribly hypocritical, but that's not how she sold them or herself.  Consequently I don't think she or her show are any more or less reprehensible now than before her diagnosis.

I guess really what I'm getting at is that I don't for one millisecond believe that the reason people so regularly eat terrible diets is because Paula Deen cooks appalling food on her show.  That'd be giving Paula way too much credit.

So could good come from Paula's diagnosis and drug deal?


What if her diagnosis inspired people who were already eating horrible Paula Deen'esque diets to go to their doctors to get checked for diabetes, or if they already have diabetes, go and ask about whether or not Victoza would be suitable for them?

Great I say. If her being a spokesperson for Victoza leads to improved secondary prevention of type 2 diabetic complications then bully for her, and who knows, some people with newly Paula Deen inspired diagnoses may even elect, unlike apparently Paula, to make marked lifestyle changes.

Yes, it'd be lovely if we all ate exceedingly healthful diets, yes it'd be great if we all exercised regularly, and yes it'd be great if we rarely if ever cooked any of Paula Deen's ludicrous concoctions.  But that's not everyone's world, and for those already living in Paula's, becoming more aware of type 2 diabetes and its treatments is probably a good thing.

Could Paula have taken this opportunity to become a healthy role model for America?  Yes.  Did she?  Clearly not, and while I would have hoped that as a human being she would have seen value in that, her obvious refusal to step up to that plate leaves her playing the same role she always has - a B list celebrity chef whose claim to fame is cooking nutritionally repugnant food.

Too bad she didn't trade up and become someone laudable.

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  1. Good point. I still think she's revolting though.

  2. When it comes to chronic disease and meds that are prescribed for them, it's a great reality-check to watch this hysterical Bill Maher video about them ...

    As an aside, here's a nice "beat-down" from an A-lister (Barbara Walters) to the B-lister (Paula Deen) ... (make note of the date).

  3. Bobbini8:38 am

    Did people point out how 'revolting' Peter Jennings was for smoking when he was diagnosed with lung cancer?

  4. Nicely put. I think that a lot of people are getting all worked up about irrelevant issues. Paula Deen did not create type 2 diabetes. Nor should anyone have every considered her food to be a healthy choice. It's unfortunate that she chose to use this opportunity to become a spokesperson for a pharmaceutical company rather than for healthy lifestyle changes. However, there's no money in that...

  5. I totally agree with you. I don't find this something to be angry about. Is it surprising that an overweight celebrity chef who cooks like that has diabetes? It would be more surprising if she didn't! As you said, if it makes people of similar size and/or diet assess their health situation, then that's a good thing.

  6. Anonymous11:16 am

    This is by far the best piece I've read on this issue. Far to many people are outraged over this, but relally, what did they expect?

  7. Meredith11:59 am

    i just think it's pretty funny that she's endorsing medication for hypoglycemia when NOTHING she eats/does (so far as we know) would make her a candidate for that condition...just more irony, i suppose.

  8. Hey Yoni!
    Enjoyed and agreed with this post. But I want to go further and note that what is going on here is about blaming, specifically, the human tendency to want to blame someone, especially the VICTIM for everything, absolutely everything. After all if we can take our ambient outrage and rub it all over Paula Deen then we won't have to look in our own mirror. The only correct attitude toward Paula Deen is compassion, she is just at the beginning of her own road with diabetes, probably spent most of the last 3 years in the denial and bargaining stages of grief. We need to love her and reach out to her with understanding and compassion. Instead she is being lynched in the press and that not only affects her, it affects everyone else in her stage of this journey. They are watching to see how she is treated. How can I send this larger message out to the judgemental non-fat, non-diabetic crowd that don't even realize that their judgement is a big part of the problem?

  9. isn't paula deen also a smoker? maybe a deal to endorse chantix is next?

  10. The part that bothers me the most about the finger pointing is that obesity and poor eating habits may EXACERBATE T2 diabetes, but they do NOT cause it. If they caused it, then the 33.8% of Americans (sorry, but I'm American and know American statistics better than Canadian ones) who are obese would all have diabetes, and that's patently not true. Even if we include ALL types of diabetes, only 8.3% of Americans have diabetes, so the presumed causality is out the window, and even though I'm a normal-weight diabetic, all the finger-pointing and the blame and shame game make me sick!

    I feel that obesity and T2 diabetes are two SEPARATE diseases that happen to have an overlap, and neither one deserves the societal discrimination and disrespect that these people are subjected to, especially since, as more and more research comes out, it becomes more apparent that genetics play a large part in who becomes obese and who develops diabetes. Sure, healthy eating and exercise are important, but for EVERYONE, not just those who drew a bad genetic hand!

  11. Anonymous3:06 pm

    Eerily is next with is pork fat.

  12. Anonymous3:54 pm

    The point is Drugs are not how you overcome type 2 - the answer is exercise and dietary choices. But I'm guessing no big $$$ would be falling her direction if she said that... Assuming she even understands that's the "truth" not drugs. I would suggest she read Sugar Nation and hit the gym. She missed and opportunity to be a positive influence on so many.

  13. Anonymous5:11 pm

    My issue with this is that she's been diabetic for over 3 years now, yet only spreads the word about her diagnosis know that she's got a multi-million dollar endorsement. Granted, she has a right to keep information to herself....but it stamps a big, fat "BS" on all her current soundbites, where she talks about how she hopes by sharing that she's diabetic she'll help others with the disease, what she wants others to know about life with T2, etc.!!

    I'd love to know where all the concern/compassion for others in the same boat was BEFORE she was getting paid to say so!

    It also made me laugh when she was quoted saying something about how, since her shows are filmed over 30-odd days, there are over 320+ days where she eats totally differently!! Um, excuse me? I'm supposed to believe that this woman - a CHEF - who's only EVER cooked foods drowning in fat and sugar, cooks COMPLETELY differently for well over 3/4 of the year?! If that were true, then why the heck is there no "Paula's Light" cookbook, "Healthy Grub w/Paula Deen" Food Network show, etc.?? Oh, wait - guess what's going to be coming out next? Give it a month and watch for all the new books, shows, etc. (ie: more ways to make money off her disease) to start popping up.

    Give me a break.

    (Mom of a child w/ T1, diagnosed as a toddler and now a pre-teen)

  14. Anonymous5:29 pm

    It looks like Paula Deen will treat her diabetes the same way my father does, which is to eat whatever she wants and take drugs or shoot up insulin to control blood sugar. Many diabetics can keep things very well under control with diet and exercise. My dad (and probably Paula) feel like there's no reason to employ the diet-&-exercise routine when he can so easily just control it with drugs. How sad - I've been watching him slowly kill himself with big insulin injections and large amounts of sugar and horrible foods for years.

  15. Anonymous6:39 pm

    (Anon Mom from a post ago is back)
    ....aaaaand so it begins! Paula's son is coming out with his own FN show, featuring "lighter" versions of Mommy's recipes. Mmm....bread pudding with whole wheat doughnuts! GMAFB!!!!

    This whole "reveal" just REEKS of orchestration. New shows don't produce themselves overnight, so this partnership/reveal has been brewing for a while. The fact that she's pretending it's because she suddenly cares about others with diabetes sickens me.

  16. Let's be very clear. Paula Deen is not a chef. She is a home cook who got famous on butter, cream and bacon fat. She's paying the piper, sure, but is it fair that the piper is paying her?

  17. I think it's that Paula Deen has been polarizing, and many people already didn't like her. And then to have her a) develop diabetes, and b) not shine ethically - well - that's just the best day ever for the moral high ground.

  18. Tracie H - Westchester, CA2:37 pm

    This is such a touchy subject. I agree that her lifestyle did not match her diagnosis. How she ended up getting a deal with the drug company looks sad if she took it for money.

    I have had type 2 for years. I did not have it under control for many of them. Last year I was on tudiabetes a social network for support and education and I met another member. She lost 100 pounds by changing what she ate. I took a look at her plan and thought I would give it a try. It worked!! Finally something that made since. Anyway Jill Knapp was that ladies site. I still visit her site for tips and motivation.

    Reason why I brought up Jill is because from the min she got her diagnosis she became very public about her story mission and transformation. I think it's to bad that Paula chose to hold out for what some say money. But she is on the celebrity status so maybe she had her reason's for now saying anything. ????? Wonder??? Who knows??

    Well for those who want a community of support look up it's been a great supportive community. For those who want to find out more about Jill's plan and get up and get moving campaign her site is She has personally helped me look at my life and my diabetes in a whole new light.

  19. It shows how opportunistic she is. She kept it hidden until she could make a cash cow out of it, while milking another, her own show.

    Then she went crying (literally! watch her on The Chew) to viewers about how it was genetics, that diabetes is a "boomer disease" that you're fated to get, along with high blood pressure, weight gain, etc. My mom is a few years younger than PD: fit, low blood pressure (that's genetic), no ailments. My dad is even younger than she is, and guess what? Overweight, diabetic, has had a heart attack, has sleep apnea. He had poor health habits his whole life that were tightened up a bit after the diagnosis and heart attack, but now he's like Paula: convinced that it's all part of getting older. He's on so many meds I've lost count. He isn't even 60.

    It's the whole "well, you're gonna die any way so might as well go out on a mountain of chocolate sundaes" mentality that she's spreading that irks people. Not worth getting *angry* over. The drug companies and lack of emphasis on healthful diet for prevention and control even from professionals? Worthy cause!

  20. I was formerly a loyal fan to Mrs.Deen, and I will tell you why everyone is up in arms over this. Mrs.Deen for a period of over ten years has been perpetuating the most unhealthy lifestyle and cooking techniques onto all of America. She owns several restaurants, a store front, published several cook books, and has a variety of non-stop television shows and appearances that always perpetuate unhealthy eating.

    In addition to this she missed a great opportunity to help individuals with this disease over the past three years she has known her diagnosis. She only became honest with us when she had to due to the multimillion dollar deal she signed with a diabetes drug maker. Over those past three years she could have changed the trajectory of her show, came out with a diabetic cook book or recipes for those battling obesity, hypertension, heart issues, or diabetes, (which most americans battle at least one of those issues) and instead shes been deep frying turkey,cheesecake and putting a double bacon cheeseburger between two glazed donuts.

    I watched her show regularly and never once heard her preach moderation, I also feel that no one is going to cook one of her large calorie laden, sugar and butter filled recipes only to have a forkful. Like she has recommended in her most recent appearances.

    Even if you only ate one of her recipes each week (in moderation as she would say) You would still be increasing your risk to a multitude of diseases due to the fact that the portion size, calorie content, sugar, butter, and other products are usually way outside of recommended dosages.

    For more information about the entire controversy check out

  21. Anonymous8:34 pm

    FYI: If you go to the recipes section of Paula Deen's website at the moment the emphasis is on lighter, healthier fare. Talk about PR. A well written and thoughtful post Yoni, Thanks.

  22. Anonymous1:19 pm

    Yeah, I can't get too worked up over this either. To me, most of the criticism has a nasty undertone of misogyny and fat-shaming. Unapologetically fat woman cooks excessively decadent food on TV, then develops diabetes? Unleash the self-righteous judgments!! I do have an issue with the drug promotion deal, but that's because I have never liked the idea of marketing prescription drugs directly to the public. But blaming Paula Deen for other people getting diabetes? Give me a break.

    I also wonder how many people actually cook food like that at home anyway - I suspect most of her viewers just enjoy watching her prepare it. Most of her recipes sound quite disgusting to this (unapologetically fat) lady

  23. Excellent Yoni! Took me a while to get around to reading this ... I agree, it would be different if she was some sort of healthy eating/lifestyle role model but she's not.

  24. Her PR is nothing short of amazing. To get a deal and cash in on Paula's sob story. wow I am impressed with her PR. Sad thing is diabetics are a tight community and I am not sure she will be fitting in with all of this negative publicity. Also she had to have paved way for many of her own viewers to get ill with diabetes which makes the drug lords very happy.

  25. Karen Pike5:09 pm

    Her PR quit!! Quit!! SHE IS SO embarrassed with the whole thing she quit. Paula can't be a good role model no way no how.