Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paula Pays The Piper…I Guess

Oy, this is really bad news that Paula Deen has Type 2 diabetes. But if you watch her video message on the Diabetes In a New Light site, you wouldn't know that. In fact, she almost makes it seem (with the soft lighting and sappy music) that life is better WITH diabetes.

In the video, Paula never mentions, of course, what can happen if diabetes is not managed properly. It is a really scary disease that’s not that easy to understand.  It affects a whole host of different systems in the body. The reality is that a diagnosis of diabetes is, at the very least, life altering, and can be life threatening or, even, life ending.

I would imagine, though, that it’s not that helpful to terrify people with all the possible horrible outcomes when they’re first diagnosed…or even later. People have to feel they have some control over the disease and that it can be treated or even reversed.

I know that Paula and her boys’ appearance on The Today Show this morning to announce the news was only the first step. But I would have liked a more proactive approach - as in…THIS is what you can do NOW to limit your risk or to live a healthier life with diabetes.

For example, there are plenty of well-known studies that report that eating a cup of beans a day can reduce a diabetic’s need for insulin. And exercise is a huge component of anyone’s healthy lifestyle, but it’s especially important for diabetics. Paula did mention exercise and said she goes on walks with her husband now. But if you’ve seen the adorable Michael, you’ll know that he’s not exactly breaking any speed or endurance records.

It’s so hard. I have such ambivalent feelings about all this. On the one hand, I want my old happy-go-lucky Paula back, who has no real-world cares as she flings butter and cream around with abandon and deep fries anything that doesn’t get her first. But on the other hand, Paula has a huge opportunity to use her massive marketing machine to show us that if SHE can change the way she eats, ANYONE can.

I’m nervous that in her zeal not to undo her life’s work of over the top, super-fatty and sweet (and super-delicious) recipes, Paula is going to be super-careful not to diss her cooking of the past. And thus, on television anyway, it’s going to be difficult for her to change her style of cooking too radically or say anything much more than moderation is the key.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if she became Clinton-fit and a vegan…and reversed her need for the drug from Novo Nordisk for whom she’s a paid spokesperson?

Of course, that’s probably not the way most people react to news of diabetes either and Paula is no one, if not every man woman.  Changing food habits and editing out all the good (as in bad for you) stuff we eat is hard.

I love Paula. I don’t want people talking smack about her. I’m worried for her. I love her zest for life and I don’t want that to end anytime soon. But there is an ick factor to all this. We can’t pretend that diet isn’t a huge part of why so many people are getting Type 2 diabetes.

Paula has gotten real with the public before. Remember when she wrote her autobiography and Larry King asked her really idiotic questions? She was open about the tough times in her life, about her agoraphobia and the different mistakes she had made. Couldn’t this health situation have been an opportunity for her to say, “I have to change things in order to be around for the family I love. Those recipes were then. THIS is now and I want to share a new way of cooking and eating with you.”?

The argument that she always pushed moderation is really a nonstarter. Did ANYONE get that from any of her shows? But the truth is also that I never watched Paula to get a blueprint of how to cook or what to eat. I watched her to hear her laugh and to see the twinkle in her eyes when her boys were near.

We shouldn’t forget that she has had 3 years to get used to the idea of diabetes and I actually hope that in her own private life she ISN’T reacting the way she’s trying to make it appear. I hope she HAS been scared by the diagnosis and is working hard to get healthier.  Hope, laughter, optimism and love are all powerful drugs, but they don’t replace careful eating and vigorous exercise. 

8 comments:

Emily said...

Oh wow, I hadn't heard about this yet. I really hope Paula will change her diet. I feel like she will. Maybe Food Network will come out with a healther-Paula show? You can still eat comfort food that isn't loaded with fat and sugar.

One of her sons has a new healthy cooking show, I think. You probably already know that though.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I've lost most of my sympathy for Paula Deen. Rumors are swirling that she has known about her disease for a few years now, but she wanted to wait until the terms had been settled for the endorsement deal. What else can this woman endorse already? Her food used to be good, and not always bad for you, but she had to take it all to the next level and make it disgusting because it was part of the schtick. She also knows that she can't promote a healthy lifestyle because it would ruin her shtick (I heard on the radio this AM that she was dining in a restaurant in NY this weekend and chowed down on lambchops and tiramisu and then asked for more.) Does she still smoke? Does she even talk about that anymore?

Paula Deen has just turned herself into the world's biggest negative example and I'm finding it harder and harder to have sympathy.

Abandoned By Wolves said...

If I have a beef with Paula Deen, it's that she waited 3 years while she continued to pretend in public that her diet wasn't affecting her health (disregard if I got this wrong). And THEN she leveraged & exploited her own hypocrisy by signing up as a drug company's paid spokesperson. It's the two events together that make me grit my teeth. A bigger fan would say she is helping to advance public awareness of diabetes...I'm just saying that there's something off about having some one pay you to announce that you damaged your health, but you're better now.


99% of the people who love her and emulate her and followed her down that dietary pathway don't have her options, now, do they?

Sheila said...

Eh - I feel like, "So what." I mean, we are responsible for what we put in our mouths. She's got a job to do. She's making money - that's her priority as is many of ours. Its not like her viewers can't look at her ingredient lists and figure out for themselves if its going to fit in their lifestyle or if they need to sub out some for healthier ones or if they need to pass.

Some of her recipes are a treat!

I guess I just don't really care if she's spokeswoman for whoever or whatever. Or if she uses her disease to make some bucks. Its her job. Her right.

She's an entertainer. Period. Her job is not to fix the diabetic epidemic or solve America's obesity crisis - its to make good TV.

Sue said...

Em,
You and I both hope she'll change things fast (if she hasn't already).

Rach and James,
My thoughts about all this are definitely still evolving and I am sooo conflicted about poor Paula. On the one hand I feel as if people who actually cooked her over the top recipes get what they deserve (including her). On the other, I think she makes great television and I personally don’t watch her to get ideas of what to make for dinner. I just like her laugh and her personality. But like you guys, I think that the three year wait is a bit hard to defend, especially while she was doing the same shows she’s always done. AND the drug deal at exactly the same time as the overdue announcement seems a bit mercenary, even for a pop culture icon.

However…on the third hand (if I had one)...isn’t one’s blood chemistry a super private matter? But not if you’ve already been involving your entire personal life in your brand, I guess you would say.

Listen, for whatever reasons you get diabetes, it's a scary diagnosis. I just wish she would be the same upfront, totally real person that she’s always seemed to be. I don’t think she would have lost one member of her huge audience if she had said, “I have to change my whole eating philosophy…my whole way of life to SAVE my life.” People would have loved to follow her progress, but she chose to keep the whole thing private. I have sympathy for that, but I guess it becomes hard when you’ve put yourself and your family in the public eye.

Oy vey!

Sheila,
You’re so nice not to judge Paula harshly. It IS her life, she is just an entertainer, not the surgeon general, but I guess we’ve always thought of her as being so open and like a member of the family. I just want her to get healthy and (I admit) I want her to stop pretending she always pushed moderation. That was definitely not the word one would come up with when describing Paula or her cooking.

Tom said...

I agree that one's blood chemistry ought to be a private matter. But I don't for one second believe that it took her three years to figure out how to live with the disease. When my father learned he had type two diabetes his doctor immediately sent him to a nutrition clinic and within weeks he was on his way to managing it. I can't imagine that Paula didn't have at least as good an access to care. So maybe there was at most one year during which she was trying different combinations of meds and diet, but not three. During those extra two years (from what I hear) not one less morsel of butter or deep-fried food appeared to cross her lips, nor did she look as though she were taking any steps toward a healthier lifestyle (aside from magazine airbrushing). A real shame.

As much as I'd like to give her some benefit of the doubt, it's difficult to escape the conclusion that the wait was prompted by wanting to promote her (otherwise unemployable) son's new show and her pharma deal. The show is one thing (it will live or die on its own) but the endorsement is very sad. Not only did she not need to do it, but like with her Smithfield endorsements, she appears to have decided to ignore the very real problems with the medication for the cash.

I wish her well with managing her health, and I hope that she comes to her senses and cleans up her act.

Sue said...

Tom,
I don’t disagree with one thing you said. I also think that if I got that diagnosis, like your dad did, I would run to as many medical professionals as I could and start doing everything possible to manage or even reverse it. (Of course, we should all be doing that anyway, BEFORE we get sick.)

It’s just such a shame, because we could have been applauding Paula and admiring her courage if she had only been straight with us and, perhaps, thought twice about that tacky drug deal.

The Marlboro Woman said...

Paula fans, don't fret. The little-ol'-ranch-wife-in-waiting, Ree Drummond aka the Pioneer Woman, is poised to take her place with equally retro, artery clogging recipes. Drummond, a modern day Eve Harrington, has been biding her time groveling for this moment for years. Sad really. At least with Paula, what you see is what you get. Not the case with Ree's fake pioneer schtick.