© 2012 Nancy Appleton PhD & G.N. Jacobs
I’m not sure how to react to celebrity chef Paula Deen’s delayed announcement of contracting diabetes. Do I give full vent to the same schadenfreude as when I learned that many tobacco executives die of lung cancer? I don’t think I can pull off kicking that woman when she’s down with a straight face.
Ms. Deen bakes with sugar on the Food Network. We would seem to be natural enemies; the sugar lady with a signature recipe for Key Lime Pie vs. the anti-sugar lady who had to stop baking her mother’s recipe for Christmas coffee cake. If you’d ever tasted that coffee cake, you’d understand and forgive if I might be a little snotty about other people’s enjoyment of sugar. Truthfully, sometimes I’m exactly that person.
Ms. Deen even before her announcement had always hedged her bets telling her audience to practice moderation. I wonder if moderation can be taught by people who don’t look like they walk it like they talk it. I have never expected total abstinence and a life without a little chocolate or Key Lime Pie in it makes you extremely boring. So does this make her the food TV equivalent of a professional football player willing to spend the rest of her life in extreme pain in return for fifteen years of gridiron glory as an example for the rest of us? She doesn’t score touchdowns or do funny endzone dances, so I don’t think her fans will give her the same free pass for the apparent stupidity of wrecking your body for other people’s entertainment.
As soon as she let her diagnosis of Type-2 diabetes into our collective headspace, the media wolf pack circled for the kill. Some reports went right at the “southern comfort food” on Ms. Deen’s show enjoying with straight up vicious glee the irony that a chef promoting a diet rich in butter and sugar would suddenly contract diabetes, an apparent poetic justice. Fellow celebrity chef/travel host Anthony Bourdain weighed in calling her “the most dangerous woman in America.” Well, maybe she could be if a person actually ate her dishes at the rate at which Ms. Deen presents them on her show.
News shows found pictures of Ms. Deen posed with stacks of butter and suddenly scrutinized every meal. Oooooooooooh! She had a cheeseburger and fries! I’m not going to defend that plate as healthy, but no one eats perfectly. I still occasionally bust out the real whipped cream for the once a year pumpkin pie. I pay for it a few days later and go back to my normal regimen. I suppose this sort of thing could be what Ms. Deen meant by moderation, striking a balance between her Key Lime Pie and living long enough to enjoy the experience.
It wasn’t just the media having fun with apparent hypocrisy, but the announcement also included an agreement with a drug company to sell their top shelf diabetes drug. The jackals closed in all over again because we hate corporations and the very thought that a celebrity would sell out on a medical condition for money. At least, we know her maintenance care will be essentially free.
The coverage did also need more balance concerning the health advice for diabetes patients as butter’s being bad for people is under debate. Some (like the Atkins Diet and me) say naturally occurring dairy fat with limited lactose so eat responsibly because there are no substitutes, except that comes from a chemistry lab. Others (American Diabetes Association) say No Never. Even so that stack of butter sticks made for a great photo with which to smack around a celebrity. I suppose it’s now time for all of us to be distracted by the next dress to walk down the runway.