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Paula Deen’s Critics

Paula Deen’s critics have it wrong. Everybody is jumping all over this poor celebrity chef now that she says that she has diabetes.

Poor Paula has grown rich and famous by parleying her home-style cooking into a food empire. Newly divorced and with her last $200 she started a catering service in 1989. In 1996 that became her first restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, and that in turn led to television. Since 1999 she has hosted several Food Network shows. Four cookbooks, featuring traditional Southern recipes, and her memoir, It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, followed.
Paula Deen in Her Kitchen
The Chef at Work

Paula was once cash poor. But now that she has money and fame, everybody is poor-mouthing her cooking.

The experts just don’t like Southern comfort food the way poor Paula cooks it. They don’t like the high amounts of “fat, salt, and sugar” in her recipes. Note the emphasis on fat.

“How Can Paula Deen Sleep at Night?” the Huffington Post asks. “Even vegetables are made fattening served smothered in butter and sauces that clog arteries,” Christiana Pirello writes there.

Poor Paula is the “butter queen,” according to The Consumerist. But the headline for the Associated Press story in Yahoo! News goes these critics one better. She not only “pushed high fat foods” but she also “hid diabetes.”

We can’t blame poor Paula for the fat in her food or for waiting three years to say that she has type 2 diabetes. A few days ago she told Today show host Al Roker that she has known for three years that she has diabetes.

I have known since 2007 when I read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes that fat is good and carbs are bad. That’s why I follow a very low-carb diet that has led to my further weight loss and A1C reduction. My diet is about 60 percent fat.

I also know that coming out of the diabetes closet isn’t easy. I wrot about that here even before I started low-carbing.

And I don’t blame poor Paula for being overweight. “Judging from photos, Deen is overweight, perhaps even obese,” wrote Deborah Kotz in today’s Boston Globe. When I was her age, I was myself overweight. That’s pretty hard to avoid in our culture.

I don’t even blame her for teaming up with Novo Nordisk to become a spokesperson for their Victoza diabetes drug. She announced her partnership on her website.

However, her rival chef Anthony Bourdain says, with obvious tongue in cheek, about poor Paula the he is “thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.” Interesting analogy.

I do, however, blame poor Paula for a couple of things. Not the fat and salt in her recipes, but all the carbs. We can control our diabetes on a very low-carb diet or, with some difficulty, on a very low-fat diet when we also tightly control the total amount of calories we eat. It’s the combination of fat and carbs that leads to weight gain and often to diabetes (if we don’t already have it).

I do blame her for not walking the walk. She talks about moderation, but her recipes are anything but moderate. Her weight reflects it.

She says that she is changing, so let’s hope that she learns what moderation means and starts showing that on her shows and books. She says that she is already changing her diet by cutting out sweet tea. That’s sure a small start, but a start nevertheless.

She is walking and running and controlling stress, she says. All of which will go a ways toward her managing her diabetes.

Let’s hope for poor Paula’s sake that in her promoting Victoza she will start taking it herself. As far as I can find out, she hasn’t said yet.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Anna at

    This is the first time I have read an opinion on Paula Deen that expresses some compassion. Let’s not forget how the diabetes industry draws attention away from the impact of carbohydrate, and instead focuses on emphasizing the “evils” of fat. I wouldn’t even blame the poor lady for not knowing how bad carbs are for her condition. At the beginning, it took me a lot of research to discover this for myself.