Ok, so I didn’t think I had anything to say about this, but I realized I actually do have a lot to say, because I understand what living with diabetes is like, and because I just really dislike mean people.
You may be aware that Paula Deen recently shared her diagnosis of diabetes with the viewing and eating public. She may have timed it poorly by also announcing her partnership with Novo Nordisk, a maker of diabetic supplies. She and her sons are developing recipes for the Novo Nordisk website, as well as endorsing their products. Well, you may also be aware that, because she didn’t mention her diagnosis for three years (and why it’s any of our business still eludes me), lots of stuff hit the fan, with folks all over the web blaming Paula Deen for how other grownup people who can cook and eat whatever they want, cook and eat her fine, fine Southern recipes. Somehow, Paula Deen is at fault for all those grownup people who chose, of their own free will, to try out some of her unabashedly full-octane fat/sugar/flour delectables.
What you may not know, is that there is this bizzare, on-again, off-again, feud going on between Deen and another food personality, chef Anthony Bourdain. He has no problem being publicly rude to her on social media and in print. Well, in what I can only call an effort to attract attention to himself, Bourdain tweeted another completely unnecessary rude remark about Deen this week.
In an interview this week, Deen tried to remain gracious about the whole “you’re why there are so many overweight, unhealthy people in this country, because you didn’t tell us you were diabetic three years ago when you found out” episode. She basically summed up, “Well, some people were kinda mean.” But she and her sons are moving on. Bourdain found it absolutely necessary to respond, on Twitter of all places, “Well, some people were greedy.”
Anthony Bourdain, Why. Do. You. Care? Are you really that tweaked that Deen worked her diabetes into a sponsorship deal? She has been making lemonade out of the lemons of her life for years (read her bio), and I can tell you, having a diabetic in my own house, Diabetes is one hell of a lemon to people who love cooking and food. She didn’t even call you out; she just said “people” were mean.
Why do I care? Part of the reason is probably obvious from the tone of my post. Yes, Paula Deen’s recipes are full of fat and calories, some not nutritional by any definition unless you haven’t eaten anything in a month, when any calorie is a good one. Yes, being overweight is a risk factor for diabetes. But even Paula Deen doesn’t eat her own rich recipes every single meal, every single day! Consider also, the fact that the “Paula Deen” brand on Food Network cooks rich Southern food. How do you suppose her producers would have liked her changing it up with Green Salad Sprinkled with Lemon Juice, Salt, and Pepper? Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Poached in Light Broth? Come on.
The reality of living with diabetes is this: You have to lose weight. You have to exercise. You have to know how your food affects your body, whether it’s Southern Fried Chicken or the previously mentioned Chicken Breast. I can assure you, the diabetic in my house has lost weight, exercises as much as a human can and still have time for family, AND absolutely enjoys the occasional piece of Red Velvet Cake. Diabetes is not only a disease; it is a lifestyle change, and not one that you can put in a donation bin when you get tired of it, like a cast-off hobby. It’s permanent. Contrary to conventional wisdom, diabetes isn’t just about sugar, or fat, it’s about all your food in total. Carbs, protein, fruits, veg, it all matters to a diabetic. Put yourself in Paula Deen’s shoes for a moment, precisely the moment she received the diagnosis. Diabetes joining our family rocked our world; I can only imagine what it did to hers.
As adults, we are all personally responsible for our own health and our own choices. Perhaps, with a spokesperson like Paula Deen, who will reach a possibly at-risk, possibly uninformed, most certainly large in number, audience of people who love food, but need to make changes, life with diabetes will finally get the public attention it deserves.