The Internet is buzzing with the news that Paula Deen, the folksy, down-home queen of Southern cooking and star of the Food Network show Paula's Best Dishes, has been living with type 2 diabetes for three years. Deen has built her career creating calorie-laden, butter-rich recipes. She evens sells a butter-flavor lip balm.
She said she found out during a routine exam and kept her diagnosis a secret because she needed time to learn about diabetes.
After a public flogging following her confession that she has had type 2 diabetes for three years, Deen admitted during a phone interview Wednesday to feeling a little vulnerable.
"I've been accused in the last couple of days of holding out because of monetary business deals, and I have never heard of anything so crazy," she told Diabetic Living magazine.
Deen and her sons, Jamie and Bobby, are paid spokespeople for Novo Nordisk's program "Diabetes in a New Light," a health initiative to help people find simple ways to manage life with type 2 diabetes. "I don't have to make my living doing this. Of course I'm being compensated. There are many other ways I can make a living instead of putting myself naked in front of everybody."
Deen says she and her sons are giving a certain percentage of her earnings from the endorsement deal to the nonprofit American Diabetes Association. She didn't specify the amount.
Here are her answers to questions Diabetic Living readers wanted to know:
On her critics: "I am so lucky that I am computer illiterate so I can't see firsthand anything mean that has been said about me. There are people who love me, and they will love me, flaws and all. And there are people who hate me, and this just gives them another reason to hate me. I learned a long time ago that you can't please everyone. You will drive yourself insane if you try."
Why wait so long to reveal your diagnosis?: "I was not in a position to come out and announce it three years ago. I had to absorb it, my family had to absorb it. I was so worried that I would have to change this life that I have come to love. So when I came out with the news, I knew I had to be able to have something to put on the table."
Your reaction to the diagnosis: "I was a little depressed. My life is surrounded by food--it's all about food and my Southern heritage. I love my life. I had grown into my life and was embracing it, and I did not want that to change. That frightened me."
Does diabetes run in the family? "My great aunt on my grandfather's side had type 1 diabetes. But my brother and I have lived the same sort of lifestyle, and he doesn't have type 2 diabetes. Certainly age has something to do with it--the old pancreas just ain't acting right."
Will she start cooking healthier fare on her TV show? It doesn't sound like it. Deen's son, Bobby, lightens up her trademark comfort foods on his TV show Not My Mama's Meals, which airs on the Cooking Channel. "He is addressing those issues," she says. The recipes in the "Diabetes in a New Light" campaign are all recipes Deen loves and has tweaked to make "diabetes friendly." The website is diabetesinanewlight.com.
What diabetes medication do you take? Deen takes a daily metformin pill and a daily injection of Victoza, a GLP-1 analog that triggers beta cells to make insulin when blood sugar is too high. "I'm so happy to say that my diabetes is under control. I to go to my doctor every three months for blood work. That is so important to see your doctor on a regular basis."
Will she publish a diabetes cookbook: "I don't know. I never say no to anything, but I have to think about things for a while."
Will she still cook with butter? "Of course. I would never eat margarine. I have not eaten margarine in years. I don't want to rain on anybody's parade, but I have been told that margarine is one molecule away from plastic. I want my food as pure as I can make it. Will I eat a stick of it every day? Of course not. I have told people all throughout my shows--whether or not they have decided to listen--that it's all about moderation and portion control."
The future: Deen, 65, says she feels good about where she is headed. "It's always hard to put yourself out there, but I feel very hopeful. I've got big strong shoulders. I'm on a mission, and I feel good about it. Between me and my God, I'm doing the right thing."
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