Rant: Leave Paula Deen Alone

I’ve had it with Anthony Bourdain. Yes, he’s funny and he’s a terrific writer, but he’s also an ill-informed hypocritical jerk. My least favorite comment from him was on Twitter:

“Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later.”

Yes, Paula Deen clearly deliberately developed diabetes so she could sell drugs. Oh, wait, you didn’t know she had diabetes and was fronting for a drug company? Okay, let’s start over.

Paula Deen is the queen of Southern cooking, a woman who never met a fat she didn’t immediately sprinkle sugar on, the author of the recipe for deep-fried butter (no joke, you add cream cheese to the stick). She is also diabetic, something she found out two years ago and failed to tell anyone. Why? Because it was nobody’s damn business but hers.

Oh, but critics say, barely concealing their glee at her butter-and-cream downfall, she’s been dishonest since she’s still doing high-fat cooking without apology. She got diabetes because of the way she cooks, so it’s criminal for her to keep slinging out those high fat recipes, let alone shill for the Big Pharma company she’s just signed up with. She’s dangerous and unethical and money-grubbing and . . . and . . . she cooks with too much fat! Or as Tamara Dietrich of the Daily Press put it:

Celebrity cook Paula “I Love Butter” Deen just announced she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The real news? What a shocker it wasn’t. Slap enough hamburgers, fried eggs and bacon between two glazed doughnuts, call the monstrosity “The Lady Brunch Burger,” and sooner or later it’ll catch up with you. Sort of like a coronary. Or karma.

Except being overweight does not cause diabetes. No, really, it doesn’t, look at the medical research. Most overweight people do not develop diabetes. Some very slender people do. In fact, research shows that while fat does not cause diabetes, diabetes may cause fat because of something called a thrifty gene. So some people out there could eat Paula Deen recipes twenty-four-seven and never ever develop diabetes. They’re probably going to stroke out or die of a heart attack because that food is not healthy for you, but they’re not going to get diabetes because of Paula’s hamburger-between-two-Krispy-Kreme entrees. (This is also why you shouldn’t imply to diabetics that if they’d eaten better in the past, they wouldn’t be diabetic now. Trust me as a newly diagosed diabetic, it only makes us want to kill you and bury you in butter fat.)

Also, and I could be wrong here because I’ve never watched Paula Deen (although full disclosure, I bought her toaster), I don’t think she ever held up her Twinkie Pie and said, “This is health food.” Unless people have been living under rocks, they already know that high fat food is bad for them. And yet we eat french fries instead of baked potatoes, gulp down milkshakes instead of ice water, and head straight for the chocolate cake instead of the nice piece of fruit your mother wants you to eat. We do it because those things taste good, because they’re comfort foods, and if we do it too much, they become uncomfortable foods, so we shouldn’t do it too much, but that doesn’t mean Steak N Shake is evil and irresponsible even if every person who works there is diabetic. It’s about choice. We get to choose. I choose to avoid the deep fried butter, but I don’t think my aversion to it means that nobody should have access to it. And I don’t think the fact that I can’t eat most of Paula Deen’s cooking (and now she can’t either) means that it’s wrong for her to tell people how to make it.

But mostly, I’m appalled at the glee with which people are piling on Deen with headlines like “Paula Deen’s Big Fat Secret.” We’ve already covered the inaccuracy–you don’t get diabetes because you’re fat–but take it beyond that to the part where people are exulting over the fact that this woman, who as far as I can see is a pleasant, fun-to-watch, nice person who’s never taken to Twitter to make fun of anybody, has just been diagnosed with a incurable disease that could have major complications down the road for her. If she’d been diagnosed with arthritis or cancer or been hit by a truck, people would sympathize. But because she wields a stick of a butter like a baton, people are rolling in the fact that she has a serious illness. There’s a sense of superiority there that is as distasteful as it is misplaced since I seriously doubt that all of the people snarking at her have given up fat, sugar, and alcohol and can therefore stand on the high ground and throw whole-grain spitballs at her.

Especially since diet does not cause diabetes.

Which brings us back to Bourdain, who eats anything he wants (as well he should), drinks like a fish, and has had in the past a self-confessed serious hard drug problem. Why this icon of do-anything-he-damn-well-pleases (and again, good for him) has decided that it’s okay to trash Deen for her high fat recipes strikes me more as elitism and paternalism than it does honest, well-thought-out criticism. If we’re going to be punished for dietary indiscretions in the past, Bourdain is due for some serious medical jail time, although not diabetes because diabetes is not caused by diet. The hypocrisy is troubling but not as much as the reason for it: Paula Deen is a happy, middle-class, over-weight, middle-aged woman who has no claim to culinary arts. The woman deep fries butter, for Christ’s sake, of course a food snob like Bourdain is going to sneer at her. But taking advantage of her medical condition to gloat is just being a lousy human being, and unfortunately he’s got a lot of company.

Of course, what Bourdain’s really mad about is that Deen is taking a big pay off from a drug company to promote a diabetes drug. She’s making hay off a bad harvest by monetizing her condition. And since she has a fervent fan base who will buy anything she slaps her name on, pushing a diabetes drug is exploiting humanity. Or something. But what if this drug is the best thing to ever happen to diabetes and she’s getting it to people faster? Even if it’s just a drug that’s given her really good results, that’s a reason to recommend it to people. So in that case, is he trashing her because she’s making money from the recommendation? No celebrity endorsements? If it’s not a good or necessary drug, and Deen knows it, then yeah, she’s slime, but I haven’t seen any discussion of that at all, nobody’s even looking at the drug. (For the record, it’s been used for awhile, it seems to be effective, and it’s useful as an alternative for those who cannot use the very popular and effective Byetta.) Instead, they’re saying, “Paula Deen tells people to cook with fat and that’s why she has diabetes and now they’re going to get diabetes and then she’ll make money because they’ll buy the drug she recommends.”

First, fat does not cause diabetes.

Second, people have free will, they get to choose what they cook and what they buy.

Third, there is no reason why she shouldn’t make money from a celebrity endorsement. Hell, if I could turn a profit on my diabetes, I would.

Fourth, people should stop being so damn pious about food. It’s food. Yes, it has a big impact on your health, but so does exercise and environment and heredity and the randomness of the universe which means you could get hit by a bus the next time you step off a curb. So you look both ways before you cross, and you don’t eat Twinkie Pie for breakfast every day, but you don’t get smug about it and you sure as hell don’t use food piety to beat up on a woman who is dealing with an incurable disease with grace, humor, and a keen eye for the bottom line.

Leave Paula Deen alone. Fat does not cause diabetes.

168 thoughts on “Rant: Leave Paula Deen Alone

  1. Every once in a while, I wish I were a regular commenter and not a lurker, so that I would have a background for the comment.

    I agree that fat does not cause Type II diabetes. But, losing weight can lessen the need for drugs to control blood sugar for Type II diabetes.

    There are two ways to lose weight: consume fewer calories and exercise more. Since Paula Deen is known for her high calorie food, it would have been nice if she acknowledged lifestyle, while also being a drug spokesman (for an expensive, injectable drug). There’s a segment of people who love her and her cooking and would listen to this message from her.

    1. I agree. But I don’t think she exercises. So she’d be hypocritical if she recommended that.

      If she says, “All you need is this drug,” then she’s lying in her teeth. Diabetics need to make some really hefty lifestyle changes. But if she’s saying, “This drug will help you,” and it will, then she’s in the clear. I haven’t actually seen the commercials yet, but I can’t imagine any drug company that wanted to keep any credibility saying, “Take this drug and you can eat whatever Paula Deen cooks.”

      Losing weight can lessen the need for drugs. But you need the drugs at first to get those glucose levels down as fast as possible to avoid serious damage. Then if you can pull off the weight loss and lower your glucose, you can go off the drug. Waiting for people to lose the weight first doesn’t make sense. Drugs are good.

      Having said that, this drug is not cheap so that’s a consideration.

      1. Yes, a good family friend was able to get off diabetes medication once he stopped eating white bread, pasta and rice, as well as avoiding sugar. While there’s no obligation for Deen to do so, I think she could have an amazing impact if she started a cooking show or wrote a cookbook on how to eat well while avoiding things that drive up blood sugar. I love food and I think I’d feel momentarily suicidal if I were told that I couldn’t have dessert or white rice anymore. It’d be heartening to have someone who had been through it saying, “Look, there are still good meals to be had.” (Especially in a Southern accent for the full Steel Magnolias paraphrase effect.)

        1. I wonder, though, if that’s in her wheelhouse. That is, when I was in the MFA program, I had a professor who kept urging me to write literary fiction instead of romance because it was better, she though. But that’s not what I was interested in, that’s not who I am. I’m never going to write literary fiction. And I can see Deen looking at sugar substitutes and olive oil and saying, “But that’s not who I am.” Frankly, Deen’s cooking has never been healthy for anybody, that part hasn’t changed. All that’s changed is that she’s diabetic. I don’t think that means she has to become a Diabetic Cook. And the truth is, there aren’t good meals to be had if you define “good” as “Paula Deen’s recipes.” You cannot eat that stuff if you’re diabetic. So she’d be left to do pale imitations (how do you do a heart healthy deep-fried butter?) I think attention has to be paid to who she is. Would it be healthy if she said, “Look, you can’t eat like this every day”? Yeah, but that would have been true from the first day the cameras turned on her. What I object to is the assumption that her diabetes changed everything.

          1. I’m with you there. I don’t think Paula Deen is suited to be The New Face Of Diabetic Cooking, and it’d be a hard sell if she suddenly tried to do it. I am not a branding expert, but I am pretty sure if she did try to be The New Face, it’d trash her previous brand/not sell her old books/old shows, plus she’d have a credibility problem for switching, and who’s going to look to her for diet food?

            I pointed this out on Metafilter and then got in trouble for saying it, but if you were Paula, how would you handle this? Should she give up her career and crawl into a hole? Does she have to become The New Face and change everything? She tried hiding it and that lasted 3 years. The diet drug thing sounds like possibly the best compromise she came up with to try to salvage her career under the circumstances.

            Though I hate to say it, but if your business is fatty food, the diabetes probably is everyone’s business. Or at least, it will affect her entire career from here on and there really isn’t a way to not have that happen.

          2. I think, you’re right. It’s like a romance novelist having a very public affair during which she announces to the world that she’s found her soulmate, and then a year later gets a divorce. (Not me, I don’t do soulmates.) First there’s the personal devastation and then there’s the professional devastation, and if your career is part of who you are . . .

          3. I have watched Paula Deen, and I know for a fact she’s not all about fat and sugar. The media is just harping on it because Fat is the one subject that people can still be abusive about and not get called out on it by liberal or conservative activists in the mainstream media.

            Paula Deen celebrates food and a very specific style of cooking. The fact that style of cooking was created to meet the nutritional needs of people who could and did burn about 3,000 calories a day is something that food pundits and food snobs miss.

            On a related topic, current medical research is starting to think that everyone is born with insulin resistance. Diabetes is caused by the cells becoming resistant to insulin, the trigger seems to be some form of medical trauma, not weight. Which explains why skinny people have diabetes and why heart disease and diabetes are often found at the same time. Ditto with irregular menstrual cycles when young(er), (this thanks to improving women’s health research).)

            Why, yes, I fully expect to get diabetes sooner or later. Both of my parents have it, so the odds are against. me.

          4. You CAN eat those foods. Just NOWHERE near as much as some of us used to. And the portions need to be tinier.

            Since I was diagnosed I cut out non-diet sodas and sweet tea but everything else I just cut way back on. For instance, now I have a couple of big slices of pizza instead of a WHOLE one. 🙂

            My numbers are under control and I never had to take medicine. Also, I am a big fat fatty, but have lost 30 pounds so far since I made the change, but I have had at least one friend who was downright skinny who developed diabetes way early.

  2. Well ranted. Although my arteries hardened at the thought of deep fried butter, maybe some things are better left unfried.

    1. As an overweight person, I cringe when anyone points fingers at overeight folks. As you said so eloqunetly “it was nobody’s damn business but hers”.

      Extra weight makes things worse (like bad knees) but it doesn’t cause diabetes or other diseases.

    2. I know. I wouldn’t eat her recipes even before my diagnosis. But I don’t like people trashing her with such self-satisfied glee, especially when they’re wrong.

  3. There used to be a time — not that long ago, since it happened in my lifetime — when people understood that to make fun of what a person looks like, or to point fingers, or to gloat at bad fortune identified you as the crassest of vulgarians. And then reality TV made it OK.

  4. Fantastic rant with regard to how messed up it is for people to take pleasure in a decent woman’s illness, or to blame a TV chef for what they choose to eat.

    A couple points on which I’m not sure I agree, however:

    1) “If she’d been diagnosed with arthritis or cancer or been hit by a truck, people would sympathize. But because she wields a stick of a butter like a baton, people are rolling in the fact that she has a serious illness.”

    If Paula Deen had been hawking cigarettes and gotten lung cancer, or alcohol and gotten liver cancer, I think you actually would be seeing just the same sort of people (with the possible exception of Bourdain) expressing the same sort of schadenfreude and “She had it coming.” Sadly, that’s just the state of humanity; there’s a reason Jesus went on at length about “Judge not, lest ye be judged; For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

    2) “Except being overweight does not cause diabetes. … Especially since diet does not cause diabetes.”

    The first sentence and the second one are two very different things. I’m not quite overweight now, and at times have even edged toward the slim side of “normal,” but I’ve been warned about my risk of diabetes and heart disease for years because I carry high body fat and have astronomical cholesterol levels.

    Being overweight definitely doesn’t cause diabetes, and a doctor who tells you so is in the wrong profession. But diet has been identified as a significant risk factor in diabetes. There have been *overweight* people in Asia and Africa for generations. However, the advent of Western diets that contain a lot of sugar and animals fats have created a significant health risk that barely existed in some cultures before McD’s went global.

    My understanding (based on what I’ve heard from family members who are cardiologists and medical residents) is that the current theory is that diet affects insulin receptors. Too much fat and sugar in the diet means too much insulin produced, which then causes the receptors to become insensitive over time. The “over time” aspect is part of why type-2 diabetes used to be called “adult-onset”: even in the industrialized West, people weren’t consuming enough fat and sugar as children for their receptors to become deadened by the constant influxes of insulin, so it took decades before the dulling of receptors would occur. But now some children — particularly those who aren’t genetically Caucasian and thus don’t have generations of Western diet behind them to kind of cushion their bodies’ reactions — are consuming as much fat and sugar by the age of 12 as the typical American born in 1900 would have consumed by the age of 60.

    (For those who don’t have diabetes and might not already know all this, a quick primer: Insulin receptors are activated by having insulin molecules attach to them, which then induces glucose uptake, i.e. the breakdown of glucose into energy. If the receptors become insensitive to the insulin molecules attaching to them, they don’t break down the glucose and it just stays in the bloodstream, driving up your blood sugar.)

    So while it will never be Paula Deen’s fault if *I* get diabetes, it may well be the fault of my food choices coupled with genetic history: non-white; both of my paternal grandparents deceased, and both diabetic; both parents prone to high cholesterol, although my mom has done amazingly on both weight loss and overall health improvement since she stopped eating rice).

    1. It’s your genetic history. You can make abysmal food choices and not develop diabetes if you don’t have the gene for it. If you do have the gene, you can make excellent choices and still develop the disease. Does diet play a part in how fast you develop it and how serious the consequences are? Hell, yes. But eating fat does not cause diabetes the way that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer or drinking alcohol takes a hit on your liver. It’s the “cause” thing that’s bugging me. If she developed diabetes and then got much sicker because of her diet, then there’s a basis for criticism. But the critics are saying, “She’s diabetic because she’s fat.” And that’s not true.

      1. Well, technically smoking and lung cancer aren’t perfectly linked either; Elizabeth Edwards didn’t smoke, and many smokers never get lung cancer. I think the same is probably true of alcohol and liver diseases, and as with diabetes there’s almost certainly a genetic component in all this.

        Also, the terminology sometimes gets muddled because people conflate levels of body fat, or amount of fat in the diet, with fat-as-in-overweight. I don’t “look” fat because I’m small boned and lacking muscle, but I’m over 30% body fat — the medical (as opposed to layperson) definition of obese. No one can tell whether Paula Deen was medically obese unless he X-rayed or ultrasounded her (or saw her naked and made a lucky guess). Being fat-as-in-overweight is not intrinsically bad for your health at all. Being fat as in “lots of adipose tissue, especially in the abdomen” has been shown to be closely linked with negative health effects.

        1. I agree. Especially fat in the middle where it congeals around important organs like liver and kidneys. And it’s also linked to cancer development in those places, too. I think we’re basically on the same page. I just want it clear that Deen did not become diabetic because she’s overweight or because she eats butter, so her disease is not karma or just desserts or any of the other asinine insults people are flinging at her.

          Smoking isn’t linked to lung cancer? Oh, maybe I’m thinking of emphysema.

          1. Smoking greatly increases your chances of lung cancer, but it’s not the cause of every case of lung cancer, and many smokers never get lung cancer (just like many folks can eat butter-soaked biscuits and gravy for breakfast every morning and never get sick from it). The tobacco industry continues to insist that smoking hasn’t been proven as a cause of lung cancer, because the mechanism is imperfectly understood — why do cells (in the mouth, throat, stomach etc. as well as lungs) mutate for many smokers, but not all, and also for some non-smokers? So even aside from the moral reasons not to be judgmental or say people got what they deserved in health situations, it’s also smart not to do that because we’re still figuring cause-and-effect out.

  5. I love you, Jenny. Sorry, that seems overly familiar, but it’s true. I know when I come here I might get a rant, I’m definitely going to get some snark, and almost always a laugh. And I won’t need to feel bad about any of them because you are never mean-spirited.

    I have as many pairs of judgy-pants as the next person, but I’m uncomfortable with the glee that people exhibit at some one else’s personal misfortune. I don’t have any desire to eat either Paula Deen or Anthony Bourdain’s cooking, but I’d rather hang out with her than him any day.

    1. I learned to like Paula Deen when I was hospitalized for 4.5 months and had no net access but I did have a tv. I loved her show and looked forward to it, even the repeats, because she is clearly a very nice person who has a great relationship with her adult sons and her relatively new husband. She provided a window to another way of life, and for me, I thought of it as a travel show. I particularly admired her story. She found herself divorced and uneducated with two young boys and she started a business making lunches for the blue collar working community nearby. She called herself “the bag lady”. She was very successful and managed to take that home based business and grow it to a very successful Savannah restaurant. I find that admirable, that she worked so hard to provide for herself and her family and lived the American Dream. I do understand why she might hide her diagnosis as it endangered her means of support. And I’m fascinated by the conflation of diabetic with being overweight. Since I am very overweight I was asked continually it he hospital how long I’d been diabetic. I wasnt then and am not now and I had a very hard time convincing people. I took a lot of blood tests. I finally resorted to saying that I hadnt been diabetic wheni entered and if I was now it was there fault. 🙂

  6. Anthony Bourdain is a food snob who needs to get over himself.

    And Paula Deen’s a food snob herself – she’s just much nicer about it and has that very friendly accent!

    Everyone who has ever watched her show, or read one of her cookbooks knew that it was a dream – no one eats like that all the time. No one cooks like that every day. And it’s for darn sure that if she ate like that daily she, and all of the men in her family would have had heart attacks years ago.

    Paula cooks dream food – the stuff we watch and say, wow, that could either be extremely good, or really gross. I want one bite so that I can know for sure!

  7. Just wanted to be clear here: Disagreement is just fine with me. I think there are several issues here–ignorance of what causes diabetes, snobbery and paternalism, and the need for creative people to be who they are regardless of political correctness, to name but a few–but I’m loving the discussion of it all.

  8. If it were food choice alone then my whole family would be diabetic. And many of my friends. But they aren’t and I am.

    As for Paula Deen, I hope she makes a boatload of money, continues being happy and spits in the eye of the crowd who are being so doggone mean. I think Betty Fokker got it right when she said fat is the last acceptable prejudice. If she ate nothing but lard and was skinny nobody would say boo.

    Okay, this isn’t the well reasoned, expertly written piece like JC and PG gave us. It’s only my opinion, but that’s okay. As I live with a person who likes to tell me that all my troubles are my own damn fault I’m too emotional on this issue to be well reasoned, and anyhow that’s what we’ve got JC and PG for!

    1. YES! Best revenge is living well, and Paula Deen knows how to do that already . . . . Agree so much with Kate that I hope she continues to exact revenge on the haters.

  9. OK, my mom died at 64 due to complications from diabetes that she didn’t control. Twinkies for breakfast and ignoring her insulin, so for any of you who do have it, please control it. Especially you Jenny because your books are seeing me through rough patches and you’re not allowed to die. Or stop writing. Ever. Period.

    That said, I think what people forget when they watch Paula is that she is PAID to put together a 30 minute show about fattening food. No one can actually sit down and eat all the stuff she creates in one meal. And no one who has watched the show or read her recipes can think they’re healthy.

    The food is tasty, and as long as you eat it in moderation, with you know, some kale tossed on the plate, well, OK, more kale than pralines, you should be OK.

    Railing on her for making money off southern cooking (and yes, everything does taste better with fatback, says the native Californian) is not a sin. It is called a job. And it sounds a heck of a lot better than what I do for a day job. But once again, I point out, it’s a 30 minute show with several dishes. Nobody railed on Emeril when he did a Christmas cookie special. Nobody said, “Oh, you can’t eat all those cookies at once!”

    Rachel Ray can put non-whole-grain pasta on every plate and nobody questions the bad carbs sitting there. Why should Paula Dean be any different? Because she uses an all-natural food like butter?

    Good grief. Even Cooking Light uses butter these days. We cannot continue to teach/write/market to the lowest denominator. If you have somehow missed the food pyramid on your packages, the First Lady on Sesame Street, or Dr. Oz talking about basic nutrition, crawl back under your rock and judge away.

    But leave a tablespoon of butter, some whole grain rolls and the bottle of merlot out here for the rest of us to share. We’ll toast you, Paula and her various jobs, and then we’ll take a walk after dinner.

  10. You’re gonna hate me after this, but I have to correct some misinformation in this post. I’m a former family doctor, so I’m not completely talking out my posterior.

    Paula Deen seems like a total sweetie. I’d love to sit down and visit with her.

    She’s also entitled to keep her health issues private, so long as she keeps her health issues private. The minute she uses them to advance an agenda or enhance her bank account, they are open for discussion and debate, though I’d prefer the tone to be analytic rather than inflammatory.

    Trouble is, Ms. Dean’s health issues are a microcosm of what’s going on in the world: Take a predisposed individual, give them the worst possible of lifestyles, precipitate an illness, then treat the sickness with expensive and invasive medications rather than correct the underlying precipitator. This is the way we now operate.

    If she were a smoker who contracted lung cancer – which probably requires genetic susceptibility, because not all heavy smokers do – then advocated a chemotherapy drug and profited from its sales, all while NOT telling people to quit smoking, we’d have cause to doubt her plan, wouldn’t we?

    Type II diabetes is absolutely influenced by lifestyle. Absolutely. And fat, because it’s so calorie dense and contributes to obesity which contributes to insulin resistance, is absolutely connected to diabetic control. (This is why many new diabetics spend a week in an outpatient program to learn about lifestyle changes.)

    I have personally seen many Type II diabetes come off all drugs and develop normal HbA1C’s when they changed their diet and exercised. (Not all, of course.) From a biochemical perspective, they were cured, though they retained their genetic susceptibility. If they returned to their former eating habits, the elevated blood sugars returned. (Exercise is important, but on a bang-for-your-buck basis, diet is greater. You can consume 200 calories from fat in far less time than you can exercise it off, and 200 calories less per day equals 20.86 pounds in a year.)

    On a personal note, I have one family member who’s off all diabetic drugs because of lifestyle change. Another whose trigylcerides were 14 (!) who was able to come off two drugs and have normal lipids when they ate well.

    If you (or anyone else) is interested in doctors who practice evidence-based medicine and advocate dietary change, I’d happily share some online resources. (As a layperson. I’m no longer practicing, so this cannot be construed as medical advice.) I’m far from perfect in lifestyle myself, but I’m confident about knowing the people who teach the right information.

    Anyway, my best to you and all who struggle. This culture has made it a HUGE challenge to be healthy, but there are many around who succeed. And if you wish to delete this comment, no problem. Your blog, your rules. I simply couldn’t sit with idle hands.

    1. Babe, I wouldn’t dream of deleting it, you make excellent points. And actually, even if you didn’t make excellent points, I wouldn’t dream of deleting it.

      I don’t think we’re disagreeing as much as you might think. My central argument is that Deen shouldn’t have been mocked because she’s overweight, teaches people to cook with insane amounts of fat, and has developed diabetes.

      But I do understand your point (I think) and PG’s which is that lifestyle has a huge impact on diabetes, and the chances are fair that if Deen had practiced healthy eating, her diabetes might never have worsened to the point where she needs meds, meds that she’s now selling. I’m good with that. And if Deen were saying, “It’s okay to eat like this and be a diabetic,” I’d be objecting, too. But as far as I can see, she’s not. So I don’t see where the vituperation comes from (not from you, Bourdain and the other snipers).

      So if I’m following your argument–and correct me if I’m wrong–Deen should be promoting a healthy life style along with the meds since she is promoting the meds? That by not promoting the healthy lifestyle, she’s implying that all people will need is the meds? And that by continuing to cook on her show without change, she is implicitly saying that food isn’t crucial in managing diabetes?

      1. “…by continuing to cook on her show without change, she is implicitly saying that food isn’t crucial in managing diabetes?”

        Yes to this. However, can you forgive a little nuance in how I apportion responsibility?

        I’m not going to be prescriptive about what Ms. Deen should be doing, because for all I know she’s earnest, well-intentioned, and has been misinformed. People can’t advance an agenda they don’t understand. She’s not an MD nor a medical researcher and she’ll probably suffer the consequences of her ignorance along with the people who use her for a medical model. (Previous example of this is former President Bill Clinton, who underwent bypass surgery and continued to have health issues until he had better information, changed his diet, stopped having angina.)

        If there is blame assigned, it’s much deeper and wider, beginning with med schools who provide less than 50 hours of nutritional education for physicians; drug companies that want to give us pills while lying or confabulating about their efficacy; a society that would like, to quote Dr. John McDougall, “to hear good things about their bad habits.”

        1. 50 HOURS? That’s not a typo? Holy freaking GEEZ.

          Now, suddenly, a lot of things that have been said to me in the past by doctors is suddenly starting to make a tremendous amount of sense. Sadly.

          1. I’ll stop hijacking this thread shortly, but this is the most recent survey I could find detailing physicians’ nutritional training. It was published in Sept. 2010.


            Their conclusions: “Respondents from 109 (86%) of the targeted medical schools completed some part of the survey. Most schools (103/109) required some form of nutrition education. Of the 105 schools answering questions about courses and contact hours, only 26 (25%) required a dedicated nutrition course; in 2004, 32 (30%) of 106 schools did. Overall, medical students received 19.6 contact hours of nutrition instruction during their medical school careers (range: 0-70 hours); the average in 2004 was 22.3 hours. Only 28 (27%) of the 105 schools met the minimum 25 required hours set by the National Academy of Sciences; in 2004, 40 (38%) of 104 schools did so.”

            I know physicians who are trying to make it a legal requirement for doctors to attend a low threshold of nutritional classes in order to obtain and retain their license. Their efforts are opposed by the medical establishment and pharmacy companies.

          2. First: Please hijack away. We’re doing good work here.

            Second: Wow. That’s insane. It’s not like the jury’s still out on nutrition and illness.
            Well, THAT opens up a whole new can of worms.

        2. I agree with all of this.

          The problem is that this situation (for want a better word) is so complex. I’m mad that people are snickering because Paula Deen’s cooking style and weight “gave” her diabetes, which isn’t true. You’re concerned that the unhealthy eating style she teaches on her TV program contributed to her genetic condition and probably accelerated that condition and that she’s not acknowledging that (I think that’s what you’re concerned about but don’t let me put words in your mouth). I think we’re both right, we’re just coming at the debate from two different ways. Oh, and I agree with you about the extended responsibility. I think the information is readily available on the net for people who (a) have computers and (b) are motivated to learn it, and it’s the (b) that’s the problem in that solution. Actually, it’s more than that. I knew how to eat right before I was diagnosed and I chose to only change some of my bad nutritional habits. Now I’m motivated.

          Interesting comparison of Clinton and Deen, too.

          1. Best. Rant. Ever.
            I think the main thing you are objecting to is the GLEE and the finger-pointing. Especially by Bourdain, who I have to say, I tried to watch on TV once, because so many people love him, and after 10 minutes, he was so pompous and full of himself, I had to turn it off.

            I agree that–no matter what the woman cooks, eats, or sells, it is Not Nice to say mean things about her illness. There but for the grace of goddess, mean people. Also, we have no way of knowing what her diet looks like these days. Yes, she is still cooking the same in public; that’s her brand. Whether or not it still reflects her person cooking style is something we can’t know unless we sit down to eat with her. As for whether it is “appropriate” for her to sell the meds that treat her condition–seriously? Is it “appropriate” for anyone famous to influence people to buy whatever they’re hawking?
            Why can’t everyone just play nice?

          2. Science and the government have been trying to extend the responsibility to the eating public for a very long time. Who here remembers the six food groups from the ’80s? http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aib750/aib750b.pdf.

            Part of the problem comes from the constant re-definition of what is good for us. Once upon a time, hydrogenated oils were considered to be a health food and natural fats bad. Now the reverse is true.

          3. That’s so true. They keep changing the game and that makes people leery. I’m still bitter about chocolate not causing acne after all the chocolate guilt of my childhood.

    2. I’d love to see the links you have posted. I’m always on the hunt for the optimal diet and exercise program to keep my pre-diabetes from progressing to actual.

      My endocrinologist told me years ago, when I developed diabetes while pregnant, that I was simply someone who is predisposed to develop it and the best I could probably hope for is to delay the onset as long as possible.

      1. The best book I ever read on the topic of nutrition was In Defense of Food by Michael Pollack. “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly plants” also “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize” – which I’m pretty sure would include BUTTER (in moderation)

        1. Cocoa is a plant, right? And sugar?
          I don’t think my grandmother would recognize Diet Coke. OTOH, I AM a grandmother and I can spot one a mile away so maybe . . .

  11. First, I love you when you rant. (Seriously.) Excellent points.

    Second, there are so many causative factors out there for illnesses, it’s beyond obnoxious for Bourdain (et. al) to mock anyone who has an illness. Look at poor Bourdain, who suffers from severe Assholery. I mean, really, do we go back to his younger drug addled days and point the finger? Note that he fried his own brain cells and clearly scorched-earth the area that was in control of any sort of empathy or kindness, and therefore is deserving of the mockage? No, no we do not. Instead, we judge him by his cooking and his works, the things that he has put forth for judging, not what he may or may not have done as a young man to give him such a debilitating illness.

    There are too many variables which can cause an illness. My brother, who is a fifth degree black belt, who has eaten healthy all of his life, who was the 2002 World Champion in Sparring, who promoted healthy living and eating… has a rare t-cell lymphoma that nearly killed him a few months ago, and he’s still undergoing treatment. And someone I know (who was apparently suicidal) suggested to me that he shouldn’t have lived where he lived, because the water there wasn’t great and the cancer rate was high. So I guess he was just asking for it.

    Sometimes, you do everything right, or in moderation, and you still get sick.

    If Paula Dean had been telling everyone that what she was cooking was healthy and no one would ever have any health issues, then knew for two years that she did and that eating healthier might have helped her manage it better without meds… then yeah, she’d be a hypocrite and asking for trouble. But she never said, “hey, this is really healthy, eat as much as you want.” She simply said it tasted good.

    1. I think what’s really bothering me in all of this, is that there are people (nobody on this blog, everybody here has been very fair) who really want her in sackcloth and ashes, want her wailing in the street that she’s sinned and from now on it’s black turtlenecks and rye crisp for her. They seemed to be outraged that she’s not going to change who she is. “We didn’t like you before, and now that you’ve made yourself sick and you’re not repentant, we don’t like you even more, you butter whore.” Okay, that had more rhymes than I wanted, but I think that’s where my outrage meter goes off.

      1. [for the record, it is very difficult to type while giggling over the “butter whore” comment.]

        But yes, they (the they out there attacking Paula Dean) would like to see her gnash her teeth and repent because it’ll make them feel not only superior (“see? she’s admitting she’s a butter whore and did it to herself”), but it also makes them feel invulnerable. Because since they aren’t butter whores, and since they cook “right” and eat “right,” they won’t get sick. And I think they want to wave that at God or the Universe as if it’s some sort of contract.

      2. Personally, I’m glad she’s staying true to herself. I keep thinking about the difference between Alton Brown before his heart attack and Alton Brown after his heart attack. Sigh. I miss the old Alton Brown.

      3. BUTTER WHORE! BUTTER WHORE! Hah! I love it. Bourdain thinks he’s the only one allowed to have a show about food and he gets his knickers in a twist if he thinks anyone else is more popular than he is. He beat up on Emeril too- called him a sellout and a bad cook, I think. The bottom line is there is a tremendous prejudice against the overweight in our country. It’s the last bastion of acceptable hate in our overly PC society. She had the audacity to be fat AND happy, and now the fat haters feel vindicated in their hatred.

        their hatred. May theyall choke on a celerystick

  12. people should stop being so damn pious about food

    I haven’t liked the attacks on Paula Deen either. I don’t watch Deen’s show or Bourdain’s regularly. I can say as a southerner from Deen’s hometown that what she cooks on her show is not everyday southern food. It’s something you have when you want a splurge. It’s the “goozled up” version, if you will. (Googling goozle now, I find only references to it defined as “throat,” but in our house it meant to fix something up fancy, to make it taste better.)

    Bourdain seems a cranky fellow. I caught one shows of his, though, were he talked about being in Beirut filming when the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out. He and his crew were trapped there for several days and finally rescued by the marines. He was very humble, appreciative, and grateful. Even crankypants like him seem forever different when you’ve seen them genuinely moved by an experience. I wish he’d lay off Deen, though.

  13. Doesn’t other people’s smugness make you want to “pinch their heads off”, too? (That’s a nice Southern phrase of my Grandmama’s to go with Ms. Deen’s nice Southern accent.)

    The hubris it takes to cast stones, assuming that nothing bad will ever happen to you, astounds me. I suppose I should be wishing that those smug bastards never do have something go horribly wrong because they’re clearly not mentally equipped to deal with it. But most days, I don’t like them that much. They’d best wish for themselves.

  14. I simply do not understand the attacks on Deen. Are the attackers saying that she gave herself diabetes ? And that she should hide in a corner and not cook or eat for ever more ? imho Boudrain and some others are publicity hounds attacking Deen at the heels.

    1. They’re saying she should be ashamed, because she’s not eating/teaching brown rice and steamed greens at every meal as a properly meek and shamed fat woman should.

      1. I have about as much desire for Paula Deen to teach me how to eat right, than I do for Richard Simmons to teach me how to bake a cake.

      1. Also he’s being mean and petty in ways that aren’t useful. He’s got a massive bully pulpit, but he doesn’t need to take the bullying part quite so literally.

  15. YES!!!
    Thank you. That’s it, exactly!

    (But now I can’t get “pinch their heads off” and Butter Whore out of my head.) 😉

  16. Loved the rant, but rather than discuss diabetes, I’d like to discuss how Paula Deen is being villainized. An overweight woman is an easy target. Women and their pursuits usually are. Romances are judged by who reads them, not for the merit of the work. Actresses are judged by how much they weigh, not for the strength of their work.

    If the new representative were Refrigerator Perry (I know, going back a bit, but I don’t know any current football players), then I don’t think he’d be treated to the same media negativity. Fact is, she’s a woman, successful at what she does, and her weight is a target because of that. Diabetes is an extension of her weight (in these detractor’s eyes) and therefore a target.

  17. Since I never heard of neither Paula Deen nor Anthony Bourdain before, I will not comment on them. But the topic hit a nerve with me. My brother-in-law, coming from a family with a diabetic background, developed the disease in his Forties. It didn’t keep him from eating whatever he wanted, just “correcting” his intake (do you count ‘bread units’ in the US too?) by adding a little more of the prescribed medication. Then, in his Fifties, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. We prayed for a miracle and it happened (well, some call it an error in diagnosis) and when he had surgery, they found it was something else, way less dangerous, but still had to take part of his lung. I just couldn’t believe it when he started smoking again in spite of only having 50% of his lung capacity. He died two years ago at 62, shortly before his daughter got married. What I want to say is that lifestyle makes a difference. It’s really hard for the others to sit by and watch when someone acts like that, and I think I’d really cause a riot if my husband lived like his brother did.

    1. Or as they said on Fat Fighters (Little Britain) – “It’s got half the calories, so you can eat twice as much!”.

  18. Personally I just object to celebrity endorsement for drugs. Is that normal in America? I’m not sure that its allowed in the UK.

    1. As far as I know, advertising of prescription drugs to the public (as opposed to the medical profession) is banned in the UK. I was taken aback, visiting the States, at all the direct advertising there, and also competition about who you bought your drugs off (of course, in the UK we don’t pay for them under the NHS). It’s another world. Hope we don’t lose the NHS and go American, as the politicians are trying to do!

      1. It used to be illegal in the US and, in my opinion, has been an absolute nightmare since that law was changed.

    2. Big Pharma is insanely powerful in the US. See Jan’s comment about the drug companies fighting nutritional education for doctors, which sends chills down my spine.

      1. For a German, it’s hard to imagine there’s advertisement for prescription drugs. Even for OTC meds, there must always be a disclaimer telling you to talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

        1. Oh, there are ALWAYS disclaimers on the ads. “Ask your doctor if blah-blah is right for you.” Not to mention the two minutes of side effects listed, that 90% of the time are worse than the condition they’re supposedly curing. My husband wonders how those advertisements actually sell anything. I really don’t remember any drug advertisements before the Viagra clones started it (~10 years ago?). Now they’re everywhere.

      2. My real comment is in moderation heck, but just another thing to consider – sales of diabetes medications were projected to exceed $25 BILLION in 2011. Hiring Paula Deen to shill is frankly genius on the part of drug companies. Genius.

    1. Because I was just diagnosed myself? I thought of that. Except I’ve been low fat/high fiber for thirty years now, plus I’m not obese (in the technical sense; I still shudder when I look in a dressing room mirror like every other good American woman). I have been annoyed with everybody who’s said to me, “Well, now you’ll have to eat right.” Thank you. That’s such a help. I had no idea. But I still think my point is valid.

  19. I think where people are getting offended (to play devil’s advocate) isn’t that she’s got diabetes and it’s none of our business (which it’s not) or that she’s shilling a drug that may have some nasty side effects (it does for some people like all drugs) its that during the interview announcing it (I can’t find the link for it now but it’s out there) she made the allusion that this drug would allow you to eat whatever you want in moderation and not worry about your diabetes. Including fried butter. So it came down to: Go get yourself this med and while you’re at it, stop at the bookstore and pick up my cookbooks as well ya’ll.

    Plus in the foodie stone throwing wars Paula Deen isn’t an innocent either. This is the woman who told TV interviewers that she took it as a personal insult for the First Lady to champion fighting childhood obesity since the First Lady happened to like hot wings. Those who like to throw frozen sticks of butter at the First Lady for trying to get kids to eat vegetables and not Doritos doesn’t get to cry when Bourdain throws foie gras at her for shilling a diabetes medication and her cookbook full of food a diabetic like me (and you) shouldn’t eat at the same time to the same people.

    Just my two cents.

    1. Any yet my diabetes team says nothing is off the table. Even fried butter, as long as I don’t eat it every day. (I’ve never eaten it, I never heard of it before, but if I had I still wouldn’t have eaten it, the thought makes me queasy.) So there’s a lot of interesting information flying around, from doctors as well as the educated folks her at Argh. (Arghonauts.)

      My personal (and non-medical) opinion is that the stress in my life had a lot more to do with my diabetes than my past digression regarding what I put in my mouth. As I said before there are plenty of people in my family that put precisely the same things in their bodies as I did and they didn’t develop diabetes. My Grandfather, who was skinny as a rake, had type 2 diabetes (which when I was young was not considered inheritable.) (Is that a word?). My Grandmother who was mean and rather large around the middle did not have diabetes.

      So while I may not have developed diabetes if I’d stayed skinny as a rake like I was in my twenties and early thirties (child bearing plumped me up) I take exception to anyone telling me I gave myself diabetes. Frankly, no one knows if that is true or not. Not even me, and I’m the one who knows what I’ve put in my mouth for the past 51 years.

      And I admit that I’ve used food to ease the stress and anger, which does not mean I would not have had it if I was skinny. (See above regarding my very thin grandfather.)

      I see that not eating wheat has made me very cranky, so forgive my uncharitable attitude. I will continue to not eat wheat for a while longer (three weeks at least) and hopefully the crankiness will wear off. Meanwhile, if anyone else suggests that I could have prevented this from happening if I’d been a healthier eater – well then, that’s their opinion and would like them to keep it to themselves. (Not here, this isn’t my place after all. But certainly to my face.) I’ve got enough shame and guilt all on my own. I don’t need it from anyone else. And I support Paula Deen’s right to say whatever it is she wants to say. Is there a moral imperative that she be as honest as she can if she’s shilling a drug? Perhaps. But I support her right to say whatever the fuck she wants to. There are far worse things being said by far more important people and no one is burning them at the stick.

      Do I think celebrities should be able to promote medications? Probably not. But as it isn’t against the law she can do what she wants. And truthfully, I’d love to make some money to offset how much this disease costs me. Which is a bundle. (Done ranting.)

    2. Oh, hell. That makes a big difference to me. If she said the drug would let you eat fried butter, she perpetrating a lie for money. Also, no trashing Michelle for anything, let alone fighting childhood obesity.

      Why haven’t any of the articles cited those things? Those are the dealbreakers.

    3. So far as I know, Deen hasn’t explicitly criticized the First Lady’s initiatives herself. Other people seem to have taken Deen’s comments on how the First Family eats just like the rest of us, and their favorite food is hot wings, and Mrs. Obama gorged herself while a guest on Deen’s show more than any other guest Deen had ever had (http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/yeas-nays/2011/10/paula-dean-michelle-obama-likes-fried-food-too)… and then construed that into “The Obamas are hypocritical to encourage healthier lifestyles.” Deen isn’t an idiot, she’s not going to alienate people unnecessarily by making an overt criticism of the First Lady.

      Also, while it may be inappropriate for Paula Deen’s brand or personality to jump into health food, her son is doing it with her assistance: “For the initiative, Deen and her sons, Jamie and Bobby, have created lightened-up versions of some of their classic recipes for people with the disease. The family is appearing in a new ad campaign for Victoza this month.” (http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/diet-nutrition/story/2012-01-16/Paula-Deen-spreads-word-about-diabetes-in-down-home-manner/52602710/1) “Bobby Deen, who was at his mother’s side throughout the day, has a new healthful-cooking show, “Not My Mama’s Meals,” that began last month.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/18/dining/paula-deen-says-she-has-type-2-diabetes.html) However, the NYT article also includes quotes from cooks in fancy Manhattan restaurants who talk about their struggles with weight and Type II diabetes — the particular criticism of Deen clearly has a class element to it. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/opinion/sunday/bruni-paula-deens-revelation.html)

      Also in Deen’s defense: “And she’s clearly taken some of her critics’ words to heart. Last Wednesday, she announced that she and her sons will donate part of their compensation from Novo Nordisk to the American Diabetes Association, and an ADA spokesperson confirmed that the Deens will be appearing without pay at upcoming events.” (http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/deen-hardlesson012512/deen-hardlesson012512/)

      1. I’m glad about the Obamas. Deen has always seemed to be a classic Southern lady, and in my experience they’re never rude or critical in public. Bless their hearts (g).

  20. I don’t follow cooking shows or the personalities thereof. However, this fall I had occasion to watch a few full mornings of the Food Network with a foodie, and I found myself understanding the term “food porn” for the first time. Also “aspirational programming.”

    But here’s my point: I suspect accent bias in these attacks on her. At some point (Gomer Pyle?), it became somehow “okay” to make fun of southerners. On TV and in movies, the person in the ensemble cast with the southern accent is stupid and/or comic relief. And a successful southern woman with a strong personality who demonstrates leadership and ambition has a target painted on her back — whatever size back she has. And that gripes me to no end.

    Or maybe I’m too sensitive. (Exes have said so.) But I don’t like it when people are mean, especially when they do it to show how clever they are.

    1. As a southern girl, I suspect I might be a tad sensitive to this too, but I agree. In the early days of my marriage my husband was in the Air Force and we lived in various parts of the nation and world, and I found that people took me much more seriously when I made an effort to surpress my southern accent. Sad but true.

      1. I’ve done that, too. There was a strong enough Appalachian accent where I grew up and where I live now, that I find myself consciously suppressing it when I’m in New York or giving speeches although sometimes it gets away from me. I think of it as passing, and I think it’s made a difference in a lot of the places I’ve worked, especially academe.

        1. Joe had mostly lost his MO accent when I met him in Rhode Island. But I noticed in the middle of a flight between New Jersey (where we lived at that time) and MO his accent changed. Missouri became Missoura. And since we have lived in MO since ’71 his accent is totally ‘farm missoura’

    2. I think there’s a definite bias against the South. And I definitely think there’s a bias against middle-aged (and older) fat women. The two together are pretty much a standing joke. One of the things this reminds me of is The Corrections mess when Franzen said he was sure he wanted Oprah’s readers, which meant “I don’t want midwestern fat women in stretch pants reading my books.”

      1. I love accents, Southern and otherwise. I can’t think of what an Appalachian accent is like but I’d bet I’d like it. It’s musical really. The way words sound coming from different places in the world. I’m charmed by it, but maybe because I speak and Americanized version of BBC English. My mother wanted us to sound educated, or maybe more to the point – she wanted to sound educated. (and she was)

      2. When I was going back and forth to L.A. for screenwriting, and would have meetings, I’d have these producers sitting there, sort of staring at me as I answered a question. They’d sometimes look at each other and smile and then look back at me like a specimen they weren’t quite sure what to do with. I finally asked, one time, what the deal was, and one guy blurted out, “When we first started talking to you, we didn’t expect you to be… smart! But you are! It’s amazing.”

        Took everything I had not to deck him right there. I think I said something like, “Imagine that. And I wear shoes, too.”

        [Only the woman in the room got it.]

        I’ve tried suppressing the accent, and I can sometimes manage for an hour, but then it slides in. Although it’s not nearly as pronounced now as it was years ago.

        1. Reminds me of the time I was at a bookseller’s convention. The guy who introduced me said he’d never read a romance novel before, but he read mine and you know, it wasn’t half bad.
          Some people are so blinded by bias they don’t even know when they’re insulting you.

  21. Thank you Jenny! As a big fan of Tony Bourdain and a fan of Paula Deen too (It’s a conundrum I know!) that tweet really irked me when I read it. And I’ve also questioned why people are so quick to judge Paula’s cooking because like you said, she has never, ever claimed it was healthful cooking, only tasty eating.

  22. This is the most fascinating discussion I’ve seen on here in a long time. I like reading all the respectful opinions and rants. It works. It works well.

    Plus, I’ve been contemplating lifestyle and diet changes for health and now I’m feeling much more motivated after Jan O’Hara’s info about how fat and sugar actually affect insulin receptors. Eeek! Plus, while none of my cousins or aunts and uncles etc. have had diabetes (at least on Mom’s side, that I know of), Mom’s dad died of complications from diabetes. In 1966, but still, if it was genetic and not something else, I could carry the marker. And he was a healthy, slim, hard-working laborer. No one seems to know where it came from because I don’t think it ran in the family.

    Good conversation AND fabulous information!

  23. Thanks for all the inspired commentary! Mostly this post reminded me to go have my blood work done. My paternal grandmother, maternal aunt, and maternal uncle all have Type II diabetes. I had gestational diabetes with three of the five pregnancies, which apparently increases my odds of adult-onset diabetes by 75%. I’ve been politely ignoring any sort of preventative medical care for a few years now, but I’m trying to change my ways. But I don’t expect, or need, Paula Deen to tell me to do it.

    1. Good idea. I hate having blood drawn and thus go much longer between blood tests than I should be. My cholesterol is so bad, the last time I went to a specialist he did a relatively cheap kind of scan on my arteries: basically an ultrasound of my carotid artery (noninvasive, just gel and rub the wand over it) to see if there was a buildup that might start blocking blood flow. Thankfully there wasn’t much of a buildup (yay having good triglycerides and HDL), but my arteries are thicker than they should be for my age. At least having the information, I’m making lifestyle choices with my eyes open and no one to blame but myself and my genes.

      1. I was all geared up to go get my blood tests done, and then I came down with pneumonia, which sort of distracted me a bit. I really need to sort that out, though. I had gestational diabetes too.

  24. This is an excellent, timely post. I, too, have been angry at the slurs that Bordaine has spoken about Paula. From the very start, my thought was about his complete lack of professionalism. Commenting on the actions of another person in the same profession is tacky and rude to say the least and just plain hateful to say the most. Yes, he is getting attention by his comments, but that attention is from the problems of another. He needs to remember”If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. I realize that he has always had a strange attitude but he has carried it too far by commenting on Paula’s cooking style. She has always shown foods cooked in a rich, flamboyant manner and everyone knew that these foods were not to be indulged in every day. She has always stated ” moderation, you all”. And I think Jenny is right-The show and her cook books is her job not her life.

  25. I don’t watch food shows, so I know little about the kerfuffle, or either of the chefs. What I’ve read is ridiculous. Fat does not give you diabetes. People need to get a life and stop throwing stones. Sheesh. I hope Paula Deen finds a way to control her diabetes, to stay healthy, to continue with her show and maybe even find ways to make delicious recipes that are health conscious and become an even more famous chef.

    And as Billy Currington sings, “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy.”

  26. I wish I could tell you how much I love you for this rant. So I will: I love you.

    My grandmother has had Type II Diabetes nearly my entire life. She has also struggled with her weight, but when she developed it she was far from overweight. As someone who loves too cook almost as much as I do her diet has been a constant problem for her.

    I refuse to watch Anthony Bourdain on the principle that he’s an awful, egotistical, sexist jerk. I saw his comments about Paula Deen in another article and was so mad I could spit. This is not the first time Bourdain has made negative comments about and/or feuded with Deen, but it’s by far the worst.

    I have a lot of respect for Paula Deen. She lost her family at a relevantly early age, struggled with panic attacks and anxiety disorders, and latter developed a business plan that allowed her to take care of her family and deal with her issues. Bourdain on the other hand isn’t known for much more than eating weird stuff and being a jerk on TV (and other places).

    Everyone who watches her shows knows that her recipes are usually comfort food and not really everyday fare, and I can tell you from having cooked a few in my home kitchen, they are delicious and comforting. But I don’t eat exclusively them, and neither does she.

    So again, thank you.

  27. This conversation has been fascinating, and fit right in with something I watched yesterday.

    A local talk show here in CT had a nutritional consultant on yesterday talking about fats. She said that when there are two types of fat- fat that kills and fat that heals. When the low-fat movement came through in the 80s, we “threw out the baby with the bathwater” and ended up replacing fats (both the good and the bad) with sugar. THAT’s why diabetes and obesity are on the rise. Good fats- like avocado, nuts, olive oils, coconut butter- actually help us.

    Here’s a link to the segment: http://www.wfsb.com/category/220637/karas-cures (it’s the one titles eating healthy fats)

    I find it extremely difficult to find products that don’t have added sugar in it- even yogurt! My husband thinks I spend too much time vetting my food for the refined sugars, but I know he has a history of type II diabetes in his family. I figure that if we’re going to have sugar (or butter for that matter), it’s going to be purposeful…like homemade cookies rather than some pre-packaged product that hides the sugar. Anything that lets me eat the good stuff, but also lets me take care of my family is the way I’m going .

    1. Rats, I was hoping it was a transcript. I have no speakers on this computer, and no internet on the computer with speakers (yes, I could move the speakers over. But that complicates things).

  28. Thank you for this post, Jenny. I agree with much of what you’re saying, and don’t think anyone should mock Paula Deen. She has never once said, “Eat this way every day and you’ll be in super great health.” You can’t blame a woman who makes fatty, delicious foods for a living for your own daily choices!

  29. Anthony Bourdain is just looking for attention. He’s a bitter loser imho and I’ve never been interested in his shows or his cooking.
    Deen, on the other hand, has natural wit and humor and a sunny nature.
    I’m sorry she has diabetes and the stupidity surrounding all this is astounding.

  30. Bourdain’s a mean bully, no question. He’s wrong, and he’s being abusive, which – that’s sort of what he does. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s hateful, sometimes it’s both. It’s his schtick, and it pays his bills.

    I don’t think it’s fair to blame everything on fat. I am quite fat, but I hit the genetic jackpot – I have literally no health consequences from my fatness. no diabetes, low blood pressure, low cholesterol, no trouble with my joints. Barring grains, which I cannot eat (celiac + other real allergies to corn, rice, amaranth and oats), I eat what I want when I want and – yeah. Lucky is what we call that. People hassling Paula Deen for fatness need to shut up. And then they need to go read Tara Parker-Pope’s fairly heartrending piece in the NYTimes about long term weight loss. After which they can shut up some more. Fat people live in their consequences, just like everyone else and no-one will ever judge me as harshly as I judge myself.

    Also, obviously, people should take meds and then work on lifestyle change. This is one of those things that I am aghast to say I have a standing party piece about, which ties to dentistry – we don’t tell people with cavities to brush & floss & get fluoride treatment and ignore the cavities. We treat the cavities and work on lifestyle change over time. Why this argument is immediately comprehensible when we talk about teeth, as opposed to when we talk about mental health or diabetes, I don’t know, but it scares me. Scares me a lot. From which you will have gathered that despite my own personal fatness, I have many rampantly fit, athletic, judgemental and fatphobic friends.

    So – that said, I do have a problem with Paula Deen’s concurrent disclosure of her diabetes and shilling for pharma. And to some extent, I’m sure that grows out of my strong and obnoxious conviction that drug companies should not be allowed to advertise or finance things for doctors or edit articles published on research they’ve funded. Globally, diabetes medications alone were projected to exceed $25 billion in revenue. That doesn’t go near the ancillary and OTC meds that many, if not most, diabetics wind up taking. For people’s decisions about their health to be manipulated on so many levels to improve a drug company’s bottom line is upsetting to me. That she chose to participate in that decreases my respect for her as a person. Ideally, she doesn’t care about that.

    When Paula Deen made her medical history part of a sales pitch, she opened up her personal life in some really uncomfortable ways. She’s a public figure, she has been for a while – it’s inconceivable to me that no-one on her team pointed out that there would be snark. Even if her people failed her in that way, you only have to spend 20 minutes, once, surfing around celebrity gossip on the interwebs to know exactly how fine and fluid the privacy line is, and how vicious people are towards one another.

    At the end of the day, what I hope is that the judge in Paula Deen’s head is more honest and realistic and kinder than the self-appointed judges spewing nonsense all over the place.

    Ugh, this is long and random and I’m going to hit submit anyway.

  31. Love the rant and ongoing conversation. Even if it did take a chunk out of my afternoon to get through it all.

    I am a skinny person with a hummingbird metabolism. As in, if I leave the house for more than 2 hours I have to take food with me, preferably something high in protein. I have been told there is a real chance I will get diabetes because people like me tend to ‘burn out’ their pancreas earlier in life than ‘normal’ people (i.e. my pancreas will grow ‘old’ more quickly). On my side, however, is the fact that neither my grandmother nor my father, all worse than I am, ever got diabetes. And neither of them were overly careful with their diets.

    There are so many factors that can play into the disease game. Pointing fingers and laying blame at a person’s door is a waste of time.

  32. well you aren’t the only one:

    She’s obviously tired of the pure glee from commenter’s. Though I disagree that this is only about “fatness”. Bourdain has been a nasty dude to Deen many many times in the past to her. There is sexism and classism and bias against her age and weight and southern roots in there too.

    I don’t know how much you read food blogs or get into the “foodie” hipster culture that’s suddenly all around us in the last 10 years, but there is a definite snobbishness, preciousness and privilege surrounding it that can be very, very off-putting.

    Suddenly this thing that everyone has to do: Eat, is incredibly complicated, by especially privileged value systems. Is it local, is it organic, is it farmer’s market fresh, is it vegetarian, is it vegan, is it cruelty-free, is it homemade, is it gluten-free, is it paleo…. and on and on and on. As someone who has friends that need gluten free and nut free and do choose veganism so I know it’s not all trends, and I’m so glad there are so many more options out there for people. It’s just that when people start judging you for not making the food choices they do, that’s when you get Bourdain’s who think they have any right to go after Deen.

    Our culture of body shaming and ageism and backlash against any sort of feminism doesn’t help Deen here. How dare a woman who doesn’t conform to the skinner the better ideal be happy or powerful or even like the way she looks. Look, she’s not joining in the “healthy” body shaming dieting that is so prevalent, haha, now she’s diabetic. That’s what she gets for going against the patriarchy.

  33. Okay, full disclosure: I have Sucky DNA: my father died of complications of heart disease and diabetes, both of my mother’s brothers have been diagnosed with diabetes, three of the four of my grandparents had the disease, and my mother’s sugar levels are on the edge. I’m doomed. Which is why I do my best to maintain a healthy weight and eat my fruits and vegies (more vegies than fruits) so I don’t acerbate the situation.

    With that said, I love Paula Deen. She’s funny and quick witted and charming. But, I feel like anyone in any country with access to a television and/or a public library knows that her cooking is not to be eaten every day. I saw her on Oprah once and Oprah commented about the fat calories in her dish and her comment was “Sugar, I’m your cook, not your doctor!” And, as someone pointed out (forgive me for being too lazy to look) – her JOB is a Southern cooking show. In the South, if it’s not somehow covered in butter or pig fat or cheese, it’s probably not worth eating. And far be it from me to throw multi-grain spitballs (love that!) at her for making a living. A girls gotta eat and buy shoes, after all.

    With all THAT said, when I heard the announcement that she had diabetes at the same time as the drug she was endorsing, I did get a bit of an Ick from it. Something about the timing bothered me. Also, that she’d had the disease for two years and kept it hidden. Please don’t mistake what I’m saying: her health issues are NONE of my business. But, again, there was a vague ick factor for me because of the secrecy and then the announcement of her disease with the drug endorsement announcement.

    As to Southern accents, well, yes, I’ve had plenty of people assume I’m Southern, Blonde, and Stupid just from listening to me talk. However, I’ve also used my accent a number of time to enhance my Sparkle and Shine to get my way. Hey, it’s helped me charm surly London subway people into helping me find my way and snotty retail clerks into giving me a discount, so really, I can’t complain :-).

    Oh, and sorry, but Anthony Burdain is an AssHat and so full of negative energy that I change the channel when his commercials come on, much less his show. His gleeful throwing of spitballs of any kind is nothing more than par for the course for him. He’s right up there with Charlie Sheen: I’m not going to support his behavior in any way, which is why I don’t watch his shows, any show that he’s on, or facebook friend him, or add his twitter, or join his Google circles or knowingly participate in any marketing for him/them. I try my best to support people I respect (Hey Jenny, book done yet? ;-)).

    My 2 cents!

  34. Excellent rant! I’m under a rock (a.k.a. deadline) and missed all of this. Thanks for bringing it up and catching some of us up to speed. And really, it was an excellent rant. 🙂

  35. I’m commenting without having read all the way through the commnets first, which I know is usually a mistake. I also admit to knowing almost nothing about Deen or Bourdain. But I did see the tweet in question on another forum, and I thought it was funny.

    I have type two diabetes, and am obese. You’re right: being fat does not cause diabetes. But it certainly contributes to it in people who have a predisposition for it, as does a certain way of eating, which I would argue has nothing to do with butter or animal fat and everything to do with sugar and processed carbs.

    When someone who has presumably made her fortune selling that diabetes-facilitating style of eating suddenly starts shilling for a drug company that is profiting hugely off of a facile, expensive and probably inadequate “solution,” my bullshit detector goes off. In my opinion, she deserves at least some of the sneering.

  36. If I remember what I read correctly, the only two nations that allow drug advertising on TV are the US and New Zealand. I wish they would stop that kind of advertising in the US.

    I think that when any successful, public person falls in some way, shape or form – the “public” attacks them. It seems to be the way of jealous people who envy the “famous”.

    Having said that, I have a friend who is morbidly obese and has been for quite a while, plus she has asthma. She is as active as she can be, eats balanced but high fat meals and some high fat snacks like chips, is in her middle sixties – and does not have diabetes and has perfect blood pressure. So there you go…

    1. Widespread prescription drug advertising on TV even in the U.S. is a relatively new development — the government used to require that so much information be provided about side effects etc. that companies couldn’t do it in 30-second commercials. The regulations became much looser in 1997, just in time for Viagra’s release (heh heh) next year.

  37. Beyond the excellent comments on Bourdain’s elitist, sexist spew (part of his own brand, sadly), the helpful facts on Type 2 Diabetes, and great observations on celebrity endorsements as well as easy stereotypes on Southerners, I think Rosa hit the real reason for this kerfuffle right on the nailhead:

    *They’re saying she should be ashamed, because she’s not eating/teaching brown rice and steamed greens at every meal as a properly meek and shamed fat woman should.*

    That’s the real reason behind the nastiness.

    It’s interesting that at his former restaurant Les Halles, one of Bourdain’s signature dishes was steak frites which is a pan-fried steak (a densely marbled hangar steak, I believe) and potatoes deep-fried — twice — in goose fat. He made his reputation on cooking in the French brasserie style. Animal fat, butter, and white flour, anyone?

    Bourdain built his platform on looking down his nose at anything associated with the Food Network (read: mass-consumption food and lifestyle porn) and being snarky about it. It’s sold a lot of books for him, and it’s elevated him to a food-celeb in his own right.

    1. Tony Bourdain actually started his TV career on the Food Network. They dropped him, and now his current show “No Reservations” in on the Travel Channel. Bourdain has been very public about disliking the people at FoodTV. That includes ALL of the FoodTV execs and the chefs/cooks with shows and PLENTY of merchandise and endorsements (i.e. Paula, Rachel, Emeril, etc)

  38. Yeah, it is a big mean pile on. I’m with the Fokker on this one.
    Health, diet and disclosure issues aside, I agree that in our culture the worst thing a woman can do is be middle-aged, overweight, and unashamed. To be successful and enjoy your life, as Paula Dean appears to do, makes it even worse.

  39. Sorry about the delay in approving the pending comments. I was out buying kale. No, I really was.
    Checked the spam folder and approved all the pendings, so if your comment still isn’t here, I dunno where it went.
    Carry on! I have to go bake kale chips. No, really.

    1. I just heard about kale chips from a friend of mine (who’s a South Carolinian, so much for stereotypes of Southern cooking)! Hope you share your recipe.

    2. Just in case you don’t love kale chips as much as everyone has no doubt said you will (i’m neutral on them myself), I have found that I can funnel a lot of kale into my 6 year old by dehydrating it, crumbling it up, and adding it to everything. Dried kale is pretty tasteless.

      It doesn’t stay crunchy on ice cream, but it’s a nice addition to pizza sauce.

  40. Good for you. Now I will go buy some, but I have the huge advantage of liking kale. Remember, garlic helps makes greens pretty tasty. And olive oil. And salt.

    Gasp! Salt!

  41. Had an incredibly well written comment which got lost, or eaten by gremlins. Maybe the ones in the demon cupcake?

    Basically I agree that picking on PD isn’t right, but I’m still not comfortable with her being a spokesperson for a drug. She’s a patient, not a doctor. But that’s a different topic.

    1. Yes, but that’s why she’d be a good spokeswoman: been there, done that. I listen to my doctor, but I also listen to my friends who have had experience with this because they’re actually dealing with it. That’s a big sell.

  42. While you’re out buying kale, get the ingredients for her Mama’s Pound Cake recipe too. It’s really, really good.

  43. I’m all for a conversation about healthy eating in this country (and in my household, too, for that matter), but the snakiness and gloating is just nasty. Perhaps it is because we are so media laden these days (and yes, I am thankful for blogs like this and the approximately gazillion quilt blogs I follow) that there is just so much more space for people to indulge their snark. And, unfortunately, snark seems to be a money-maker, or if not that, at least a kind of masturbatory pleasure. That’s why I think it’s so important that something like you wrote here gets out there as well — a reminder that meanness for profit or pleasure is not a good enough reason. (I’m thinking it’s okay to be mean to the truly deserving — the KKK, Natzis . . . ) Also, thank you for butter whore because, really, that’s just perfect.

  44. I am also blessed with DNA that includes a predispotion to diabetes. I say blessed, because, diabetes and bad knees aside, I’m pretty happy with myself. Oh, except for the eyebrows. I want eyebrows I don’t have to draw on.

    My point is that I have some understanding about diabetes, but never thought that Paula Deen would be someone I would ever consider as a guide for choosing a prescription medication. I don’t think she is a doctor, and so wouldn’t know any better than I would. This goes for most spokespersons for prescriptions. I also never thought of her style of cooking as anything other than very occaisional food. I don’t think she thinks of it any differently. I do like to look in on her shows every once in a while, because she is funny, but I would never buy her books, because I save that for recipes I would actualy use.

    Mr Bourdain, though, was always a little too much for me, though, I don’t like mean, and while I can snob as well as the next person, I try to apologize when I catch myself at it.

    Do I apologize now….

  45. Had to stop in the middle and just comment: I hate that people look at me (morbidly obese) and automatically think: “diabetes! metabolic syndrome!” Because aside from my scale and my BMI, my numbers are very good. But no, fat people deserve diabetes because they eat fattening stuff. Well . . . what does that say about skinny people who get diabetes? God hates ’em and wants them to suffer? (NB: I’m an atheist, so I don’t believe that.) Or fat people like me who don’t have problems (yet)? Dionysus loves me, and I shouldn’t bother changing?

    Sigh. Anger is also a killer. And snark is a legitimate and often very funny form of commentary. And laughter is the best medicine. But . . . I love Paula Deen, and I think her triumphs should outshine the jealousy of the haters. (OK, going back to read the rest; and trying not to post more today (-:.)

  46. I wrote the today show after watching them persecute her supposed life style of eating
    and baking on her show with fattening foods, I call B.S. I adore Paula Deen and she
    can do no wrong, I workout pretty much every day and you know what after I put my
    feet up I turn on the telly and watch Paula make all those scrumptious dish’s .

  47. I agree with most of the posters on this thread that kicking a person when they are down mostly (or wholly) for the sake of snark is Not a Good Thing. Still, I think that there’s a lot of cultural reasons why the Paula Deens and the Anthony Bourdains of this world are likely to grate on one another. She clearly comes out of a culture (and I’m not talking merely Southern U.S. here — I’m talking more a kind of social network of sociable, cheery, “keep things pleasant” folks who avoid various kinds of blunt talk because it isn’t very nice) that wouldn’t be drawn to the activities and company that Bourdain keeps, nor would Bourdain, who is bluntness personified, feel drawn to the nice ladies who resemble Paula Deen. So adding the appearance of hypocrisy to the different social worlds they inhabit is just a recipe for conflict or distaste. And in his case, his distaste gets expressed via snark.

    Much as I can enjoy venting in an exasperated, somewhat snarky way about the behavior of people who are driving me crazy, a lot of me gets uncomfortable with too much snark. Unfortunately, it’s become the vernacular of our time. And it’s a big part of the entertainment we’re all bathed in, 24/7. Take that level of automatic, reflexive shared cultural snarkiness and add the oil versus water quality of Paula’s & Tony’s sociocultural differences and it’s going to result in vicious snark on his part, and that significant arch of the eyebrow while pausing, then blessing Tony’s heart that I’ve already heard two radio commentators make about him.

    And meanwhile, this site has it all over most of the rest of the internet when it comes to dissecting all the issues. Bravo, Jenny.

    1. Hey, it’s not me. It’s the commenters. Argh People are the smartest people on the net. Thanking you for the nice compliment just the same.

  48. Just one more comment and I’ll quit (-:. I thought Kate had it right when she said nothing is off the table for diabetics . . . as long as it’s eaten in moderation, anything is OK.

    It’s just that moderation is a much smaller serving size than many of us realize, I guess.

    But . . . is that not true? When the insulin receptors are hooked up, say, five million times, they give out? Or is there a “reset” button on them, and if you only eat the bad stuff four or five times a month (year?), your receptors have time to heal? Or is it really, really bad to eat a tiny bit of sugar/fat everyday, because it’s a slow, constant erosion of the insulin receptors?

    (-: I would like to game the system. Because sugar/fat really is the drug of choice for me (well, aside from reading-high). A chocolate chip cookie made with butter (no, wait, six chocolate chip cookies made with butter, if I’m being honest) is as soothing as a couple of back-pain-strength codeine . . . and I don’t need a prescription.

    (and for all the dieters out there, let me erase my faux pas of mentioning the c-word with this: fresh pineapple, juicy and fresh with a luscious sweetness that spreads like sunshine throughout your mouth. Red, giant strawberries that burst with vitamin C across your palate. Soft, ripe kiwi fruit that slides right down your throat with a lovely astringent cleanness.)

    1. Weirdly, I’m not missing sugar. I had a cake moment today when I saw a checkerboard cake pan set and wanted to make cake, but for some reason, I’m not jonesing for sugar the way I thought I would. Of course, that could be because I’m abusing sugar free pudding, but I have a bowl of Dove minis and mint M&Ms in the kitchen, and I haven’t thought about it twice. (I was going to throw them out and then realized if I had a chocolate crisis, half a dozen M&Ms or one Dove mini could probably resolve it better than, says, a dozen chocolate iced Krispy Kremes.)

      1. Surely there’s a cake out there you can eat? I googled and got these:

        I note that one of them is by Antony Worrall Thompson, chef who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago and got it under control with changes to his diet. Unfortunately he is now in the news as he was found guilty of shoplifting the other week. There’s a joke to be made there, I’m sure, but I’m sleeplagged so can’t quite get it together.

      2. Chocolate is something I still do. Not everyday, but at least once a week. But I’ve discovered through trial and error that ice cream does not affect my blood sugar on the short term. So my once a week choice for dessert? Chocolate Ice Cream. I’m cranky and I’m sure it’s the no wheat thing. But so far so good. One coke zero and one dessert a week. That’s my nod to Alton Brown. No wheat because my brother is smart and he suggested it.

      3. I had to cut out sugar some years ago, along with a whole lot of other things, because I was getting really bad intolerance-related eczema. I have a really sweet tooth, but oddly, I didn’t crave sugar once I’d kicked the habit. There were a couple of bad weeks, when I desperately wanted chocolate, but after that the things I missed most were cheese and, of all things, peanut butter.

  49. We used to call AB the New York Asshole areound here (then we stopped talking about him.) But I do think that a man who has a) abused his own body so much and, b) is now making his living as a TV Chef Personality when he so thoroughly and publically derided them early on his career, should maybe go a little easy on calling other people hypocrites.

  50. Being the sole caregiver to my mother (68) my step grandmother (92) , and cook for my stepfather ( 64) who all have type II diabetes, I can assure you that moderation is the key.
    Paula is not the food police. She is not responsible for what we put in our mouths, she is not responsible for our genetic dispositions, or with the population not getting off its ass to exercise. She is not required by moral law to teach us how to cook healthy just because she has a disease. Good grief. She has NEVER claimed to eat the way she cooks on TV every night, and being a southern woman ( I only live a few minutes south of Savannah, myself) I can tell you , most southern people I know DON’T eat like that every night.
    If you are eating broiled fish, lean meats, fresh and steamed veggies, whole grains and keeping your fat/sugar/salt intakes as appropriate, you can eat fried chicken once a week. Or hell, even a bite or two of fried butter (As I remember, it was a fan who brought that to her show, not one of Paula’s recipes).
    Food is meant to be enjoyed, not gorged upon. And “people need to learn to keep their penis of judgment in their own pants” as my grandaddy liked to say.

  51. When my (non-smoking) MIL died of lung cancer at 60 everyone asked if she had smoked. When my (previously a smoker, quit-15-years before) mother died of pulmonary hypertension, a rare disease with no defined known cause, every assumed it was because she had smoked previously. People want to find the reason for the disease / death so that they can avoid it if they can – no one wants to think about the complications and contributions that genetics and lifestyle add, or that even if they do “everything” right the Universe might strike at them randomly anyway. If you happen to be a celebrity that people love to hate besides, then all bets are off. Doesn’t make it right, just makes it how things are these day. I think it does indeed go back to reality shows (as a previous commenter mentioned) and the disconnect that so many people feel from using the internet to interact. Few of the people who are attacking PD now would likely be so aggressive or nasty if they were sitting with her face to face.

    1. I think you’re right on the blame-the-victim thing. If he just hadn’t walked down that dark alley, he wouldn’t have been robbed. If she just hadn’t worn that short skirt, she wouldn’t have been attacked. If she just hadn’t eaten all the fattening food . . . And if I don’t do those things, then I’ll be safe, unlike him/her. So much of it comes from fear.

    2. Exactly. I really do love this blog. I’ve been mulling this over for a few days, and there’s definitely a blame-the-victim vibe to this. I agree with Jenny that it’s fear based – there’s this attitude of “just tell me the rules so I can follow them and keep bad things from happening to me”. And this kind of sick glee when someone didn’t follow the rules and bad things did happen. And it’s really easy to fall into thinking like this. Because not thinking like that means accepting a level of uncertainty and lack of control that’s scary. At least it scares me when I think about it.

  52. I will also point out that although the emphasis on *preventing* disease is great and important, once people have a disease, figuring out “causes” or “cures” can turn into a bit of blaming the victim?

    Example: someone has cancer. People ask, “Did he [smoke, drink, eat crap, stay in the sun too long, not take vitamins, take vitamins, live near a toxic waste dump, drink too much coffee]? In other words, “Did he do it to himself?”

    Do people who are sick *deserve* to be sick? Why the moral judgment?

    I know it’s human nature (and good healthcare) to want to say, “How did that happen, how can it be prevented, and [most important] how can I keep it from happening to me!!” But honestly. Has any person lived so “perfectly” that his or her physical body hasn’t died? Something gets all of us eventually.

    1. I think some things can be delayed, but not prevented unless you delay them past your expiration date. Maybe that’s the way to couch that: you’re going to get this hereditary disease sooner or later, but if you make it late enough, you’ll pop off from something else first, like extreme old age. Because guilt? Not helpful and also bad for your health.

      1. I like to imagine that Smug Superiority is as bad for you as guilt is. But then I realize that if so, I’m screwed for being smug about not being smug.

    2. There is some smug, new-age healer guy who says it IS the victim’s fault — s/he invites sickness into his/her life. And I don’t think he’s alone.

      Now, I think there ARE things we can do, and not do. I also think the placebo effect, if effective, is a good thing that should be taken advantage of. But sometimes shit happens, and wasting time placing blame is time not spent finding solutions. Or just enjoying the blessings one DOES have.

      One close relative had a heart attack, spent a couple of years depressed because of that, then got lung cancer. Then died of something else. His mom is still chugging along at 90, despite being a smoker from age 14, and overweight for at least 50 years. Life is weird. So is disease.

      1. Prevention is good, and we should all know how to take care of our bodies to prevent whatever disease we can prevent. Feeling empowered about our health is good. To twist positive empowerment into saying “you invited the disease” is just…wrong.

        It all has practical consequences, too.

        The money that goes into prevention and education isn’t going into care for those who already have a disease or into research for cures for the disease — OR EVEN into research for better understanding of the disease process, which could lead to even BETTER prevention strategies.

        And as Jenny already said, blaming and guilt are NOT empowering and do NOT help people care for themselves.

        I’ve been around sick people a lot lately. It takes a certain kind of generous spirit to cope with a chronic disease or condition, to say nothing of an acute illness, in today’s world. It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that most people really mean to be supportive and loving.

      2. one of the smug new age healers of blaming the sick is Louise Hay. I think she was one of the first. her deal is basically that disease is rooted in self-hatred & self-rejection, which lead to not taking care of yourself properly. her book expanded from pamphlet to, well, book, just as AIDS was really hitting public awareness.

        okay, now I’m really mad.

  53. Bourdain is a schmuck elitist. Pfffft to him. After reading all of these posts. all I want to do is go have a deep fried Krispy Kreme Hamburger and a side of fried butter on a stick slathered in creme cheese! This post needs a warning label to not read when hungry! 🙂 I will admit I did feel a little..disappointed that she chose to disclose her disease because of a medication. It just didn’t sit right. I don’t care that she has diabetes other than sorry it happened to her and hope she takes care of herself. I practice restraint and don’t eat like she cooks on her show. And it’s a show..on TV..not real life. Moderation is the key. I certainly hope she continues to cook with butter and glee but I may find myself watching more of the “not my mama’s recipes” show than her’s from this point on. I just want to learn how to cook more healthful but still have the ‘southern’ flavor. It will be interesting to see what she cooks now that the secret is out.

  54. My rant:
    1) Tony Bourdain is courting his own diseases. He smokes like a chimney, eats all kinds of unhealthy foods, has used all kinds of drugs, and he drinks like a fish. He will probably be diagnosed with his own health problems soon and start his own endorsements. Tony’s behavior is pretty standard for him.
    2) My husband and I watch his show and groan. Tony is a jerk. Paula, however, seems like a very nice person who sincerely enjoys food. I think it’s her only vice.
    3) Paula helped to invent butter-flavored chewing gum, not the diabetes drug that she is endorsing, so what is the problem? Life gave her lemons and she is making lemonade, bars, tarts, and cake.
    4) Having a celebrity publicly admitting to a disease and raising awareness can’t be all bad. I hope that Paula’s fans (and people in general) get involved in Diabetes education, prevention, and find a cure.

  55. Thanks to everyone for all of the interesting comments. Having to to take charge of my health at 33 (think booby-trapped spleen) has been a frustrating and tedious journey but I just keep plugging away. I lost the genetic lottery and have family history of diabetes and heart disease, so I figure that any good deed I do for my body at this point will hold those off down the road. Hopefully.
    As to Bourdain vs. Deen, he’s a snotty bully and I would love to take him down a peg or two. I’m sure Paula is too nice to do it, but I adore a good verbal scrap. Much to my husband’s distress.
    Best of luck to you Jenny on all the health issues. Kale chips are okay, especially if you don’t burn them like I tend to do. Try some spinach sauteed with a bit of olive oil and garlic too.

  56. yes! “tv queen of southern cooking” is perfect–Mizzrizz Deen is SO telegenic it’s a little ridiculous. 🙂

  57. I’m a long-time fan and blog-reader, and I’ve just been lured out of lurker status.

    The diet/genetics/diabetes discussion reminded me of an online petition, which is written in the form of a letter to the editor: it is signed by (I believe) 250 medical professionals. Its main point is about obesity, but don’t let that distract you: it’s also relevant for diabetes.


    To get back to Jenny’s original point, our cultural attitudes on type 2 diabetes seems to be sliding into ‘blame the victim’ territory–to join up with attitudes on obesity. The authors’ position that the rising tide of both conditions is the result of a colossal failure in the scientific community is worth considering. It’s easy to see how, in the struggle between two paradigms, the simple (calorie) equation topped with a large dollop of blame would win out.

    And now that I’m thinking about it, here’s a link to study on a short-term diet which might shake up the common wisdom on Type 2 diabetes:

  58. As Jenna B said, being an asshat is Bourdain’s brand, like Simon Cowell. I figured that out when he compared vegans to Hezbollah. He’s got some valid opinions behind his criticism of vegetarians and of TV chefs, but putting his opinions out there in the most obnoxious way is presumably what his fans like.

    “As I’ve said to [Emeril Lagasse] many times, ‘I hated your show, dude.’ I made my career making fun of the poor b*stard.” – Bourdain

  59. I’m late to the conversation and I’m trying to read this on a tiny phone screen so my apologies if someone has mentioned this, Bourdain actually discussed his cholesterol issues is several episodes of “No Reservations”. He decided not to change his diet or lifestyle and just do the meds instead. Is the only difference here that he’s not doing ads for Lipitor?

    1. He does seem to be targeting the pharma shill, but in a weird way, as if she did this deliberately (it’s her fault she has diabetes, and now she’s making money from it while giving other people diabetes with her cooking).

  60. I wound up in the emergency room due to kidney stones. Because I was the 3-Fs — fair, fat and fifty — the Doc immediately diagnosed me with diabetes, gall bladder trouble and hypertension. Well, one out of three…hmmm, I was going to say “ain’t bad,” but yes, when it comes to medical diagnostics, it really sucks. My blood pressure was ski high, but I was in a lot of pain and more or less having a panic attack because it felt like appendicitis, and my appendix was long gone. I was terrified it was an ovarian cyst, or worse, so, hypertension not a surprise.

    My blood values were atrocious at that point — kidney and liver failure it seemed. I kept saying, “No, it’s just because I’m so sick. I’ll be fine in a day or two.” That elicited a lot of eye rolling, but having lived more than five decades, I kinda know how my body works.

    I had to go back three times, a week apart for the same bloodwork before they’d believe it. Not complaining about that because, really, it was best to be certain. Two days after the ER visit, everything was back to normal, ditto the next two times. “But you have to be diabetic! You have to have gall bladder trouble.” because you’re fat and middleaged, implied. Well, no, I don’t.

    I grew up in a family that ate lots of red meat — not so much on the gravies or desserts, however. I’ve always eaten butter because margarine just sucks, and the artificially hydrogenated fats are much worse for you than butter. And there is the key to Paula Deen. Those folks who are making fun of her and mocking her are probably going to keel over from all that margarine they’ve eaten…and all the aspartame they’ve been drinking.

    Personally, I wouldn’t eat a Krsipy Kreme unless forced, but that’s growing up on the west coast where our donuts are much lighter, less greasy, less spiced and less sweet. 😉 Yes, a lot of overweight people get Type II diabetes in middle age, but a lot of thin ones do, too. It’s all in how your body handles fats and sugars. And don’t we know that a lot of the crazier things she cooks are pure showmanship???

  61. i am from the south i only moved to minnesota from the east because i met my husband on line and he insisted on me to move in with him he is retired and to beat all odds he is 19 years older than me and treats me like a queen we were married in ohio with my family and friends we are attending church and i persuaded him to become a baptist (fundimental independent)grew up lutheran

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