Diabetes Dust-Up?

Paula Deen comes clean about her type 2 diagnosis

IleneBy Ilene Raymond Rush

February 2012 — Paula Deen's announcement that she has type 2 diabetes has stirred up the blogosphere and unleashed a breathless firestorm of comments among those who support her right to eat what and when she wants vs. those who want to reduce her to a diet of naked burgers and celery vs. those who see her as an evil force who is profiting off drug companies with her multimillion celebrity endorsement deal with Novo Nordisk.

As a sometime watcher of the Food Network, I've always considered Paula's recipes as food porn — something to watch but not necessarily anything that's going to be happening in my kitchen. Adding sticks of butter and pounds of sugar to recipes is against my own health guidelines — with or without type 2 diabetes.

But what intrigues me more than her cooking legacy is the reaction by citizen commentators to her news. On the Huffington Post and the Atlantic Monthly sites, people are generally aggrieved — raging about her diet, her recipes, and/or her endorsement deal.

To me, the most infuriating angle lies elsewhere — the lack of solid information out there about type 2 diabetes. Yes, the rates of diabetes in this country are climbing. Yes, the obesity rates are not helping. But, according to the American Diabetes Association, heredity plays a large part in type 2 diabetes. Paula Deen was 60 years old when diagnosed, and while her eating may have put her in the main path of diabetes, it didn't produce the diabetes. Being overweight remains a risk factor, but not necessarily a death sentence.

I don't know Paula Deen, but I have the sense that the Paleo Diet of lean meats and veggies is not in her future. For those who can keep to a no-carb diet, I applaud you. It's not for me. I'm good on a no-carb diet for precisely eight and a half days, at which point my resistance breaks down and I head for the nearest chocolate sundae. Does that make me a bad dieter? A bad type 2? Or, perhaps, a bad person?

This is important. Even at this late date, there are plenty of people with type 2 who live with shame about their disease. I know that I did. I blamed myself for giving myself gestational diabetes and hid it from my parents, not wanting them to know that I had been so irresponsible. And when gestational morphed into full blown diabetes, I considered it my fault, although at the time I weighed 135 pounds at 5'6 and was running six miles a day.

Sometimes — and this may come as news to many of the commenters on the Paula Deen case — diet and exercise are not enough to keep type 2 at bay. Sometimes, particularly when diabetes is developed later in life, those with type 2 may not even be overweight.

I disagree with Paula Deen's celebrity endorsement, or any celebrity endorsement, of drugs. I'll not be putting her Twinkie Pie or BLT soup on my menus anytime soon. But part of being a grown person is the opportunity to make healthy choices — not only about your menu, but about your life. An occasional serving of Marsh Mud Pie isn't going to kill anyone — a steady diet of it might, but even that's your choice. And the idea of vilifying Ms. Deen over developing type 2 diabetes seems to miss the point — everyone who gets diabetes deserves the chance to deal with it as best they can.

Even a celebrity.

Click here to read more of Ilene's Second Chances columns here.

Read Ilene's blog.


dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: June 13, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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