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Deen-abetes: American Illness in the 21st Century

20 J0000002UTC 2011

It’s been a couple weeks since Paula Deen’s news about her 2008 diagnosis of type 2 diabetes came out, so I bet you guys thought I was going to let this golden opportunity slip by. Not so! I love this stuff.

You might have heard of her…Paula Deen (1947-?), a Savannah, Georgia native, is the bright-eyed Southern-cooking, Southern-speaking “lady” of the Food Network. Along with her cooking show, she endorses Smithfield Foods Inc. (“the world’s largest pork producer and processor”) and has an extensive website complete with a million recipes. Not enough on the proverbial plate, Paula? Now she is the face of Victoza (Liraglutide), a diabetes drug by the Danish company Novo Nordisk.

With all the commentaries flying– and because I so wanted Paula to be the antithesis of everything I believe in as a nutrition consultant, educator and writer– I decided to investigate.

It turns out she is probably not the spawn of Satan. And she probably isn’t even trying to deliberately lead millions of overweight, diabetic or on-the-verge-of-diabetes Americans down a pied piper path into an ocean of glucose where they will surely die painful, miserable, overweight deaths. She’s probably just trying to keep cooking stuff she likes to eat, keep her show rolling, please a ba-zillion people and make a wod of cash on the side from a European drug company. What could be more American than that?

I’m not impressed though. We’re in an age of Deen-abetes. Many people in this disease-ridden era would rather pop pills or stick themselves with syringes than change their ways. The U.S. food industry, pharma industry and a few shady government agencies back up not a health care system where people get well, but a frightening machine that keeps people ill, for that’s where the big bucks reside. We should have graduated into age of disease prevention and reversal by now. Knowledge, wellness providers and resources are here but clean food and simple exercise are no good for a money-making ‘machine’. It’s almost as though we have grown too sick, fat and slow to even care. (I smell a conspiracy, do you?)

Is Paula right or wrong? Should she be bashed or applauded? With countless watchers, likely more concerned about flavor than fasting blood sugar, it seems like Paula has a venue to help Americans make a major shift. It’s possible that she is the great Southern shepherdess of a billion dumbfounded sheep– and those sheep might just do anything she says– from sticking Velveeta into puff pastry and deep frying it, to spending $500/month on Victoza to incorporating leafy greens into daily meals. When Victoza is paying bags of money, and puff pastry tastes soooo good,  leafy greens simply don’t stand a chance.

While her show and website are still thriving, Deen has turned to her two sons, Jamie and Bobby, to take up her cooking torch with the “Not My Mama’s Meals” campaign. It features alternatives to the richer, fattier recipes seen on “Paula’s Home Cooking.” Paula also has a link on her website leading you to a joint effort with Novo Nordisk called “Diabetes in a New Light,” promoting eating better, exercise, reducing stress, self care and recipes altered from their original state. Paula is having some of her decadent cake and eating her lighter diabetes cake too. And guess what? She has every right to eat as much cake as her belly, blood sugar and Victoza can handle.

But let’s face it, Paula Deen is not the problem with America’s diabetes epidemic. Paula can’t make you do or eat anything. Neither can the best nutritionist, dietitian or doctor in the world. At the end of the day, every person has some choice and responsibility about what he or she does and eats. The more information and education there is about what causes problems (like obesity, diabetes and heart disease) in the first place, the better. The more voluntary ignorance-is-bliss mentality from Americans about chronic, preventable conditions, the worse.

I stand by my mantra that you get to take your health into your own hands. With a little education, your wellness and well-being are in your realm of control. These are things we not only enjoy but demand as Americans in the 21st century– control, independence and choice. If you do not want to fall ‘victim’ to disease, then think. Own your decisions, your food, your drugs, your recipes, your body, your mind, your meals and your health. On Paula’s website alone, you can choose between a fresh endive, watercress, apple, goat cheese and walnut salad and a processed hot-dog and pre-made puff pastry disaster.

The more you know, the more able you are to be in control and, “If you’re not in control, are you sure that those in control are looking out for your best interests?”




The Center For Disease Control website

The Huffington Post

The New York Times

Ingredients, a documentary by Optic Nerve Productions; see







2 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 J0000002UTC 2011 3:35 pm

    Let’s do a 30 day trial of her recipes and see if we get Deen-abetes!

  2. 20 J0000002UTC 2011 6:38 pm

    Ha! Well, I’m actually pretty sure that I could find enough of her recipes, or alter enough of them, to create a really balanced, whole-foods eating plan. Now that would be the challenge. I would have to remove a lot of cream cheese and cream of celery soup…

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