Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Paula Deen!

January 19th was Paula Deen’s birthday. She was 65 years old.

Paula is officially a baby boomer, eligible for Medicare now and a Diabetes Type 2 patient. How much more apple-pie American can you get in the twenty-first century?

 There are a lot of comments on the web concerning Paula’s announcement that she was diagnosed with diabetes three years ago. She is a well known TV chef and best-selling cookbook author, and her lifestyle-related illness has commentators eagerly lambasting her.

In many ways I have admired Paula. I do not watch her show, own her cookbooks or use her recipes. Any recipe with the word ‘fried’ in it or which includes instructions to fry foods is not used in my house. I cannot remember the last time I fried anything.

Paula’s personal story, however, is an inspiration to women. She suffered from agoraphobia, a fear of public places. Some people with severe cases cannot leave their homes. Paula overcame her fears and moved on with her life.

She was divorced, left with two children and no money. Whether out of necessity, ambition, motivation, determination or a combination she succeeded in opening a restaurant, self-publishing a cookbook, supporting her family and eventually building a cooking empire that has made her famous and, I am assuming, rich. I am only guessing, but she is probably one of those 1%’ers. She did it against so many odds. She should be congratulated for her success.

I saw her interview on the Today show where she publicly spoke about her diabetes and how it has affected, or not affected, her life over the past three years. I must say I was disappointed.

A diabetes diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence, but patients need to carefully monitor their health and make life style changes.

I thought Paula was too dismissive concerning her illness.  On the one hand she wants to reassure everyone she is healthy, working, and not in any way debilitated. But I think she was not fair to her listeners who have – or will eventually be diagnosed with – diabetes. Too many people who admire her will say, “She’s OK with it, she has not made a lot of changes in her life, she seems fine, I don’t have to do much either…”

Several articles discussing her confession believe she made it because she is now a spokesperson for a diabetes drug. There are celebrities all over TV, magazines and the web touting products and making money. That is not a reason to condemn her.

Several writers commented negatively concerning her weight, calling her ‘fat’. The reality of modern-day American living is that a lot of people – especially her age - carry extra weight. Sure she should exercise more (she says she walks on the treadmill one to two miles a day) and lose a few pounds. But as a member of her generation who has struggled with weight ever since a teenager, it ain’t easy. I think she needs to admit that, and talk about trying to improve, and not minimize the problem or the relationship between lifestyle - including and especially diet, exercise and weight – and health.

Paula’s life has been Southern-fried everything. It is difficult to change a lifetime of eating habits, but hopefully she is trying. She says her foods are fine in moderation, but what does that mean? Americans are slowly learning about healthier eating. It is now Paula’s turn to step up to the plate, talk about the need for change and help her fans learn how.

Happy 65th birthday Paula Deen and many, many more!


  1. I struggle with weight issues, too. But diabetes is incredibly destructive to all the major organs of the body, including sight. I do hope she takes it more seriously before she ends up with more damage. Diabetes runs in my family so I am vigilant with diet and work hard to keep my weight down.

  2. I love watching Paula Deen's TV show. She was always so happy and now I find out that all those comfort foods were as bad for her as we ever thought they were. She's made a career out of touting a dangerous diet. She needs to make ammends. Just the other day I ordered bread pudding on her recommendation. She has some 'splaining to do'.