Paula Deen (People Magazine)

Some are calling it a conspiracy while others send their condolences. Some are shouting “hypocrite” while others are claiming a lack of health education is to blame. So, what’s causing all the drama in the entertainment world that has even spilled over into the mainstream media?

Well, if you have turned on any television in the last couple of days then you have likely heard that legendary southern cooking goddess, and grandmother that everyone wants as their own, Paula Deen, has announced that she has Type II Diabetes.  I actually heard about this on the nightly news with Diane Sawyer (yes, there are occasions when I watch news on channels other than E!).  Since then, I have seen the news splashed on webpages, blogs, and the celebrity news outlets everywhere. So what’s making this diagnosis of this serious, but manageable, disease so newsworthy?

The controversy originates from the timing of Deen’s decision to release her diagnosis. It is the fact that while Deen is known for her sugar-loaded, stick-of-butter filled, cream-ridden recipes, – she has been hiding (and managing, according to her) her diabetes diagnosis for approximately three years.  This led a load of people, including myself, to take pause and reflect on her pension for promoting high-fat, high cholesterol, high sugar, high ______ (you insert pretty much any dangerous in excess ingredient here) recipes while shamelessly poo-pooing healthy alternative options.  My only response when I heard the news, “Say whhhaaaaaaa?”

Don’t get me wrong, I have never encountered a Paula Deen dish that I did not find delicious. (I mean, seriously, you could sauté just about anything in a stick of butter and how could it not be delicious? Sautéed shoe, anyone?)  In fact, just this past Christmas my mother made a mean pumpkin bar dessert credited to Deen. However, I consider myself a pretty mindful eater and I do not partake in a Deen delicacy without reminding myself that I now owe an extra mile on my next run and a day of super clean eating to balance out the splurge. I have always believed that moderation is key when it comes to splurges, and it appears that is also Deen’s defense when it comes to her questionable timing in releasing her diabetes diagnosis.

During Deen’s first interview regarding her admission on ABC’s television talk show “The Chew,” Deen proclaimed, “I don’t eat every day the way you see me cook on that show. It’s {the show} for entertainment. Never have I told you to go out and eat that way every day. I have always said moderation.”  Deen also went on to say, “I don’t blame myself for my diagnosis, the things that can bring on diabetes are stress…it can be your age, your race, your lifestyle.”

I must admit that it pains me to think that Deen with her sweet, southern charm and hospitality may have had an ulterior, financially-driven, motive behind her failure to disclose her diabetes diagnosis before now. The fact remains though that over the last few years her fame has been on the rise with the release of her various cooking shows, cookware, cookbooks…the list goes on. And her no nonsense personality known for cooking based on taste only, leaving health completely out of the equation, is what she became notable for. Today, she is boasting a new partnership with a diabetes drug manufacturer, Novo Nordisk, and the release of a new website (diabetesinanewlight.com) based on living with diabetes, and also singing her son’s praises for his recently launched television show, Not My Mama’s Meals, which features diabetes-friendly meals (again, interesting timing one might say).

On the positive side, I think it is a pretty realistic prediction to say that on the horizon we will likely see Deen promoting more alternatives to, what seems safe to say now, her former dangerously lackadaisical attitude towards attention to healthy eating. Just a quick look at her website, pauladeen.com reveals the promotion of several “lighter” recipes. What I hope comes out of this is that her story becomes a voice that makes people realize they do not have to choose between health and flavor – with forethought and planning, we can achieve both.

Now, I am anxious to hear – what are your thoughts on Paula Deen’s diabetes diagnosis and the timing of her announcement?