My Problem with Paula Deen

January 20, 2012 § 7 Comments

I never paid that much attention to Paula Deen. It’s clear that we’re on different sides of the culture spectrum, so I never had any reason to read her recipes or watch her show. All of my Paula Deen knowledge could be boiled down to just one of her creations: a doughnut, beef, bacon and egg sandwich known as the Lady’s Brunch Burger. Reading that recipe was enough for me to know that Ms. Deen and I have nary a thing in common.

Her announcement that she has Type 2 Diabetes was hardly a surprise to me, although I did feel a twinge of sympathy. Having been a smoker myself for several years, it’s pretty difficult for me to muster up the sanctimony required to call someone out when their own bad choices lead to a disease. Every time I get a cough I secretly wonder if my foolish choices have resulted in a disastrous consequence.

The problem I’m having is that she has known about her illness โ€“ an illness widely believed in the medical community to be directly linked to a high fat, high sugar, high grossness diet* โ€“ for three years. And for those three years she has continued to amass a fortune peddling her food to her viewers and readers. AND she only disclosed her diagnosis after inking a lucrative deal with a pharmaceutical company that makes diabetes medication. To me, this is the height of cynical, money-grubbing consumerism. Ms. Deen has now officially made a career of getting you coming and going. What’s next, Paula Deen brand extra-wide coffins?

Ms. Deen’s handling of her illness is a prime example of just how sick our consumer culture has made us. She knows that her product is dangerous. She has probably become afflicted by her own product. Yet rather than destroy her precious brand, she hides the truth until she finds a way to profit from it. It’s like a cigarette company announcing their new chemotherapy division.

How incredible would it have been if Ms. Deen had instead used her unfortunate diagnosis as an opportunity to encourage us to change our eating habits? She once famously said, “I’m your cook, not your doctor.” What a revelation it would have been for her to step away from the money trough for long enough to realize that our food is our medicine. What we put into our bodies not only affects our health, but it ripples out into our communities, our politics, our spirituality โ€“ everything. Instead, she continues to make herself sick, she’s making her fans sick and her magic bullet solution is for them to send dollars to big Pharma. Pop these pills or inject yourself with this and you’ll erase years of unhealthy eating. Let’s hope you don’t go blind or lose a limb. Here, have a cookie.

What Paula Deen’s hypocritical brand of entertainment eating combined with chemical solutions overlooks is that we eat to nourish our bodies and prevent disease. We eat to build energy to accomplish great things throughout the day. We eat together to grow relationships. The food choices we make directly contribute (or show that we choose not to contribute) to the suffering of others. Our food can heal us. Or our food can make us very, very sick.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Feeding yourself is the most important thing you do all day. The food choices you make can lead to health and prosperity or listlessness and disease. I find it unbearably tragic (and so blatantly consumerist) that someone who makes their living feeding others is fine with making her clientele fat, unhealthy and sick while she herself is riddled with a diet-related disease. It seems almost too greedy to be true. But there it is. And here we are.

I wish Paula Deen the best with her illness, and I know that she has the money and the resources to secure the ultimate in medical care. I just hope that those who, from her example, find it to be giddy fun to stuff themselves with fat, sugar, lard, cellulose, and other poisons have the same access to the life saving medications they’re going to eventually need. In the meantime, I’m going to eat more kale.


*Disclaimer: I have read some articles that claim there is no causal link between a diet of disgustingness and Type 2 Diabetes, and I am willing to concede that I am not a doctor and therefore do not know for sure. However, there is no dissension in the medical community that continuing to eat this way after your diagnosis will probably kill you.


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§ 7 Responses to My Problem with Paula Deen

  • Amen. I don’t think I’d be bothered so much except that 30 seconds after she announces she has diabetes, she starts to flaunt her deal with a diabetes drug company. I have always wondered how much of what she makes on TV she would actually eat herself, though. I love watching Sandra Lee try to choke down food from recipes that you know someone else came up with.

  • Ok, I am not from the US so I had to Google her – this was what the search led to:

    One look at her tells me diabetes isn’t the only problem she has…

    Thank you Type A minimalist for calling her on this. Great post as usual.

  • I’d never heard of her either, but a quick look at her Wikipedia page makes me pretty disgusted and frankly unsurprised at her illness.

  • EcoCatLady says:

    Fantastic post. I’m still chuckling over the chemotherapy division at the cigarette company. I had never heard of this woman either, until suddenly she was all over the news yesterday. Personally the thought of a doughnut, beef, bacon and egg sandwich sort of makes me want to yak. The hypocricy is simply mind boggling.

  • I like this earlier today, but I just wanted to say that you said everything I wanted to. Including the part about being a former smoker. I wish Ms. Deen well, but peddling her brand of fattening foods without taking the time to say these are not for every day is bad enough. To go out and market a pill afterwards is money-grubbing.

  • Desiderata says:

    Hello – I just found your blog and am really enjoying reading it ๐Ÿ™‚ ITA with you about Paula Deen, but as a Type 2 genetic diabetic, I am glad to read your disclaimer ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am the 4th generation in my Mom’s line to have Type 2 diabetes and I was not overweight when diagnosed. I have been amazed at the number of healthy eating, normal BMI T2’s who are also genetic diabetics that I have encountered since my diagnosis at age 35 nearly 10 years ago – in other words, I’m not the only one out there ;-). That being said, a healthy diet is absolutely the cornerstone of good self-care if you are T2. I find it a real shame that Paula Deen has a wonderful platform on which to teach her fans how to make a lifestyle change while she learns herself, and she’s failing to do so. And to disclose this while announcing her affiliation with the injectable Victoza totally appalls me.
    As a diabetic I am so well aware that my family, friends, co-workers, etc know this about me….the saying that keeps running through my head is my own revision of a slogan – my version is: “I’d rather be a good example than a horrible warning.”
    Thanks for letting me speak out for those of us who did not get here by poor eating habits. We are, as a group, a tad bit touchy about the misinformation out there. Now I’m getting out of your comments section and back to reading ๐Ÿ™‚

  • prairiepixie says:

    I just read your response on this and appreciate your even-handedness as an ex-smoker. I feel the same after carrying 50 extra pounds for 10 years. I am hard-pressed to rail on about over-eaters or run people through the mill for emotional eating. I understand it and try to have compassion.

    But, on the subject of Paula Deen, I remember seeing her doing a guest spot on Rachel Ray’s show in the last 6 months (before revealing her diagnosis) and when being prodded a bit at the end — while she and Rachel were sitting around sipping coffee and making chitchat — Paula finally admitted that the famous “Dr. Oz” was working with her to see if she couldn’t be a “little bit healthier” in her cooking. He had signed on to be a personal health coach and was trying to give her advice on the side.

    When I think of this episode in retrospect it really bothers me — almost as if there were other “friends” at the Food Network or in the media who were in the know and were trying to help her come out from behind her secret and she was going to great lengths to obscure it.

    I could understand keeping it under wraps for a few months post-diagnosis to get a handle on things and get the message straight in the media, but 3 years is ridiculous!

    I eat all good things — real butter, cream, chocolate — in moderation and I do think the data on the link between obesity and diabetes is clear (and is one reason I tried to reform my ways). Still, there are lots of good health reasons to not eat a regular Paula Deen diet.

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