Paula Deen and I: a Diabetic’s Perspective

Posted on January 24, 2012


Paula Deen. Under fire right now. Why did she hide her diabetes for 3 years? Did she cause her own diabetes with her high fat and sugar cooking? How could she continue to promote her unhealthy cooking to her fans after being diagnosed with diabetes?

Let me start by saying – I do not know Paula and have never spoken with her (would love to). Yet, I find her story intriguing. And while we are very different people, we are, also, very similar.

1. We both are diabetic. Paula type 2 for 3 years. I have been type 1 for 39 years.
2. We both love to cook. Paula perfects buttery and sugary Southern cooking. I love butter and sugar too, but modify my recipes.
3. We both do work for Novo Nordisk. Paula will speak on behalf of Victoza. I have done some ads for Novolog.

So we have some similarities. Which takes me a step closer to her story. Her life. While the press has been focusing on the scandulous aspect, I am going to take it a step deeper and look at the whole person: human being, diabetic, and very successful business person.

Human being. Paula is a celebrity when we see her on tv and in magazines. She is a star that many people love. But behind the scenes, she is a person, not a celebrity. Dealing with daily challenges, like diabetes. Being a celebrity does not make diabetes any easier. In fact, it probably makes life a bit more challenging – more stress, travel, lack of sleep, etc.

Imagine finding out that you have diabetes. That in itself is a shock to many people. An eye opener. A revelation and life changing diagnosis. It can be intimidating and scary in the beginning. Getting up to speed with giving injections, eating healthy, exercising, etc. takes time and dedication. You don’t just snap your fingers and everything falls into place. Diabetes is a day in and a day out condition. Life changes. Diabetes changes. Diabetes changes life (for the good per my opinion).

An ongoing adjustment and lesson in acceptance and respect. Initially, many people find it difficult to accept and respect diabetes. Time is of essence.

Now picture owning an enterprise that took 23 years to build from the ground up (starting with a home based delivery food service and only $200 dollars to her name). 23 years of work, time, and energy. Your life. All consuming. An enterprise that has become the brand known as Southern Cooking at it’s best. Full of fat and sugar. But sooo good. This is who you stand for. This is your brand. Your life. Until 3 years ago and publically now. Paula Deen. An incredible story and business woman.

Diabetes. An enterpise focusing on high fat and sugar recipes. You now have two very important aspects of your life that both need lots of attention yet are polar opposites. What do you do? Do you immediately give up the business that you have worked so hard to create? Do you step aside and focus on your diabetes? Is there a way to intermingle the two? Imagine the pressure. The decisions. The choices.

I truly believe Paula Deen made the best choices for herself at the given time. Was it the best decisions for the fans? Maybe, maybe not. The fans did not know the difference. They watched Paula because they liked her and her style of cooking. They were not watching her for her diabetes or healthy cooking. She was not promoting that diabetics should indulge in her food.

Paula was continuing to do what she knew and loved while learning to deal with the diagnosis of diabetes. It may have been her way of dealing with diabetes. The fear of something new and challenging. Stabilized by what she had and loved – her way of cooking. Perhaps her security and safety. Cooking and sharing.

But now Paula has had diabetes for 3 years, and she is finally going public with the news. Why so long? Why hide it? I cannot speak for Paula but can only say that she was now personally and/or professionally ready. This was the time. And now the truth is out. Will she make changes to her style of cooking? Will she intersect her personal and professional life?

This is a chance for her to make some changes in her life and the lives of millions. Everything happens for a reason. Paula’s buttery and sugary recipes will always be there. But perhaps, healthier options will now become available. Changes that will make Paula and her fans healthier. Yay! A new approach.

Paula has the opportunity to impact a lot of lives. Food and recipes are a part of it. But even more important is what she tells people. Sharing her life with diabetes. Building awareness.

26 million people have diabetes. 26 million. That is a lot of people. Through her show and work with Novo Nordisk, Paula can touch the lives of those diagnosed with diabetes, those who may have symptoms but no diagnosis yet, family members, and the general public. Everyone should know about this epidemic. It can affect so many in one form or another.

Which takes me back to Novo Nordisk. Paula has agreed to work with this pharmaceutical company on Victoza. She will promote the drug, her diabetes, and healthy recipes. I am totally fine with her getting paid to speak on behalf of a pharmaceutical product. She will receive some money, but does she really need the money? I doubt it.

Instead, I hope that her celebrity status will bring attention to diabetes. DIABETES. Helping those who have diabetes and those who have not yet been diagnosed. Getting meds for those in need and educating our country about diabetes and ways to help the condition – meds, exercise, and healthy eating.

I made a little money doing ads for Novo Nordisk. But I did not do it for the money. I became a spokesperson to inspire and empower those living with diabetes. To show others that you can live a great life with diabetes. Challenges and all.

So I truly hope Paula will do the same. Inspire and empower. Creating the life she wants and needs. Helping others.

I will cook with you anytime Paula (modified and healthy versions of course).

Live well with diabetes all!