Dear Paula Deen, Sorry About these Idiots

You’ve probably heard by now that Southern Cooking Diva Paula Deen has announced that she has Type 2 Diabetes. She barely got the words out of her mouth before people started to write articles that came dangerously close to saying that she deserved the disease because she cooked unhealthy foods on her various cooking shows. As if, instead of allowing people to make their own decisions, these foods shouldn’t even exist.  As if it is possible to correctly deduce what Paula eats at home based on what she cooks on her show  (in which case do they also assume that the only thing Anne Thorton eats is dessert?)

Next it was about how she had the nerve to wait three years to tell people that she had a disease that is not communicable in any way or any kind of public threat.  Look, she’s under no obligation to disclose this ever and we need to stop acting like this is anybody’s business but hers.  Interestingly,  I don’t remember any articles that attacked Halle Berry when she went public with her type 2 diabetes.

Then is was her sheer audacity in not being contrite. Perhaps having some foresight into how she would be treated after being honest about her health, she lined up a sponsorship with a diabetes drug and had her sons start a show about making her food more healthy.  And she got criticized for that. You gotta love a no win situation.

Maybe “worst of all”,  Paula had the nerve to say that she had made “small changes” to her diet but that she had always eaten moderately.  People wrote blogs that just went ahead and assumed that was a lie and made up their own version of what she eats.  Because of course they are better witnesses to Paula Deen’s experience than Paula Deen is. Wait, no they’re damn well not. To add insult to making up stuff, typically those same writers also incorrectly said that excess body fat causes Type 2 diabetes, rather than correctly stating that it is correlated.  But, you know, who cares about accuracy when you can get a good fat shaming rant going.

Some of this is based around misinformation about diabetes.  We’ve already talked about the “diabesity” myth. Also, even if body size were a risk factor, so is age, race, and genetic predisposition, prolonged high stress, and being the subject of social stigma (so, incidentally, if you want to play “shame the fatties” then congratulations, you’re part of the problem.)  In addition to genetics, Paula was diagnosed at 68, has talked about living a high-stress life for many years, and has been the subject of all kinds of stigma for her weight. So if body size was a risk factor, it was just one of her many risk factors.

Which leads us to the very prevalent myth that anyone can successfully make their body smaller.  In truth, long term weight loss is unsuccessful 95% of the time.  We must face the fact that, as was beautifully stated by Wayne Miller of George Washington University:

There isn’t even one peer-reviewed controlled clinical study of any intentional weight-loss diet that proves that people can be successful at long-term significant weight loss.  No commercial program, clinical program, or research model has been able to demonstrate significant long-term weight loss for more than a small fraction of the participants. Given the potential dangers of weight cycling and repeated failure, it is unscientific and unethical to support the continued use of dieting as an intervention for obesity.”

If these people believe that body weight causes diabetes then they should be telling people not to diet, because statistically the best way to gain weight is to try to lose it.  And weight cycling (aka yo yo dieting) opens people up to a number of other health issues that these people will have to find the time to police and shame them for.

A lot of this is based on the idea that a fat body is public property.  You can see it all over the place.  The way that they photograph us without heads.  The way they wage a war against us “for our own good” – the way  people are encouraged to tell us, at family celebrations, that our bodies are not socially acceptable (like we somehow missed it the first 386,169 times we heard it this year.)  The way that some people think that they know everything about us just by looking at us.  The way that when we speak out and say that people’s assumptions about us are wrong they call us liars. Or the bullshit “Oh won’t somebody think of my tax dollars” argument that falls apart under the most moderate scrutiny.

You do not owe anybody an explanation for your body or your health and they have no right to ask you for one. These people need to let go of the ridiculous notion that they can look at someone’s body size and know what their habits are. Everybody knows people who eat tremendous amounts of crap food and yet they stay thin.  If you believe that’s possible then you must also believe that there can be people who eat moderate amounts of healthy food and stay fat.  You cannot believe in one situation and not believe in the other.  Once people grasp that concept, they should also understand that they can’t make guesses based on size. But get this – if I polish off an entire pizza waiting for my Chinese food to arrive it’s still none of anybody’s damn business. Singling out fat people because you can see the size of their bodies is just bullying unless these people are also shaming and stigmatizing people who jaywalk, run Ironman Traiathalons,  don’t get enough sleep, live under a lot of stress and on and on.  Somehow people have gotten it into their heads that once a body becomes fat it’s theirs for the commenting, shaming, stigmatizing and metaphoring, and that they can claim that it’s all for the fatties own good,, or in the interest of public health.  Those people are wrong, and I’m happy to disabuse them of this notion.

Public health does not mean public thinness.  It also doesn’t mean being a judgmental busybody who shames or stigmatizes people who don’t look or act like you think they should.  Being for public health means that you are for people having access to the foods that they choose to eat, safe movement options that they enjoy,  and affordable evidence-based medical care. If public health is important to you then you fight like hell for people to have access of these things, then you butt out and let people make their own choices.

Advocating for public health is neither rocket surgery nor brain science, it’s a three step process:

  1. Work for access
  2. Make decisions for our own health
  3. Respect everyone else’s choices and body

This blog is supported by its readers rather than corporate ads.  If you feel that you get value out of the blog, can afford it, and want to support my work and activism, please consider a paid subscription or a one-time contribution.  The regular e-mail subscription (available at the top right hand side of this page) is still completely free.   Thanks for reading! ~Ragen

Published in: on January 19, 2012 at 8:35 am  Comments (75)  

75 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I also thought the piling in on Paula Deen was disgusting and the many ‘she brought it on herself’ comments demonstrated how ugly the discourse around fat is.

    But in her case, there’s an added twist that makes this story not so simple. It’s the fact that she waited to announce it until she had a drug deal to offer. As far as I’m concerned, she’s under no moral compunction to tell the world about her health status. But that she did so in conjunction with shilling a drug makes it look like she’s profiteering from her disease.

    This isn’t a benign drug. It’s not only extremely expensive, but has been linked with pancreatic cancer and thyroid disease. The FDA has even issued a warning over it.

    She comes across as a very sincere person who is standing up for the right to prepare the food that she wants and have the heritage that she has. Good for her. A public figure using her status to promote a dubious drug, though… that’s not so admirable.

    • That’s exactly what I thought, and in discussing this with my friends, we all felt like she kept it private until it became obvious that she could use it as a money-making venture.

      I’m sorry she has diabetes though. That’s rough.

    • I have always been dissapointed by her endorsements – Smithfield ham for example has horrendous records for how they treat the illegal immigrants they employ.

      But the dialoge around this news is disgusting.

      Its basically if we can even sort of blame you for your disease you damn well deserve it and worse!! – disgusting.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this! I cannot believe the firestorm over this, of all things! We have had numerous heated debates about it at work as well. One of my points in response to Bourdain’s nasty comments about her being most dangerous person in america was what crap! There is nothing wrong with what she cooks in moderation! She never touted herself to be low fat or anything else that she wasn’t! And people should have the right to choose anyway and it’s frankly no one’s damn business! People also criticized her saying she was fat……wtf! She’s 68 and a high stress dynamo! Are you kidding me?

  3. Well said Ragen, I compeltely agree and would like to add my voice to those apologizing to Paula Deen for all the crap she’s been getting.

  4. The problem I have is that she’s going to get paid to promote Big Pharma’s newest snake oil (type 2 diabetes glucose lowering drugs arent quite the miracle drugs big pharma wants us to think they are)…. And she’s doing it after suddenly publicising her relevant health problem after years of promoting foods KNOWN to play a role in these same problems. This isn’t a fat thing to me. To me it’s as of she taught folks how to mix cocktails for years, gets cirrhosis, and then gets on the payroll at some pharmaceutical company that treats that ailment. Yes, people have the freedom to do what they wish with their bodies and careers, but we also get to decide how much clout we’ll give those folks in the public eye.

    I’ve never had a use for any of her recipes, and dont think she contributed anything good to the food convo with her association with Smithfield… Then suddenly she has an illness that can sometimes be caused by bad food, but don’t worry, she’ll now tell us what drug to take to fix that right up.

    I’m a fat chronically ill person… And all this looks like dishonest corporate crap to me. No one should be judging her for her size or health. But the ethics of her career path is fair game, in my opinion.

    • Jennifer,

      I totally get that you don’t like the ethics of her career path, and I support you in that. I haven’t done a ton of research and my current view is that I’m absolutely not a fan of the drug, but just like I don’t have to eat a double bacon cheeseburger made with a donut instead of a bun, I don’t have to take the drug that she is promoting.

      I do think you’ve overstated the science – the foods she promotes are not known to play a role in developing diabetes. It’s a complex disease that requires a genetic predisposition so some people could eat nothing but those foods and would never get diabetes and everybody could eat them in moderation or as treats and not get diabetes, these foods are not scientifically proven to cause diabetes in any way. Body size is a risk factor for diabetes only in as much as they are correlated but again, we don’t want to confuse behavior with body size, and people of various sizes eat Paula’s recipes in different ways and most will not develop diabetes. Diabetes is not caused by the existence of any kind of food, or by Paula Deen cooking any kind of food on her show, or by eating any kind of food for the vast majority of people. Excessive alcohol consumption on the other hand is proven to directly cause cirrhosis so it’s not a particularly apt comparison. Also, if we assume that Paula Deen has diabetes because of her diet then we are choosing to discount her first person account of eating in moderation which I think is problematic at best. There’s a really good article about it here: http://www.phlaunt.com/diabetes/14046739.php I think too that, even if we disagree or think it’s a bad drug, we need to be super careful not to blame the victims of type 2 diabetes and then create shame around treating the disease with medication.

      But I do absolutely see where people have issues with ethics and credibility based on some of her actions, I just haven’t studied that enough to have a fully formed opinion. Thanks for the comment!

      ~Ragen

  5. It’s dumb how relevant this is to me right now. I’m still struggling with my mother’s concern trolling over my weight the other night, including her argument that being the size I am because Teh Diabeetus runs in our family. Her mother (who was not obese but was an alcoholic) had Teh Diabeetus.Her grandmother, who died at age 80, not from any Fatty McFat diseases but from acute myeloid leukemia, may or may not have had it but there’s no way to tell as the woman died in 1963. My mother is a nurse and so am I, although she is an RN and I’m an LPN. I told her that the diabetes-obesity connection was not really that strong and as she should know, people of all sizes get diabetes.
    All this hasn’t really helped me though. I’ve been depressed as hell for the last three days and haven’t been eating either. Yes, I am a fat person with disordered eating. I tend to respond to criticism of this nature by either bingeing (which I already did) or anorexic behavior.
    I wish people could just leave other people alone, and if they can’t or won’t do anything helpful, then don’t do anything at all.

    • {{{{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}}}, Fayc! I know how hard it is. My family has a lot of the same problems, to the extent that I didn’t even know diabetes ran in the family because NO ONE publicly admits having it, because as soon as they do, they get attacked for “eating themselves to death.”

      But hold strong and keep working to accept yourself and love yourself! If I can do it (and I have!) then you can do it! If you need to, limit contact with the toxic family members, and do spend lots of time on the Fat-o-sphere! You’ll get there!

  6. I don’t have any problem with Paula Deen working with Novo Nordisk. Among the decisions we are allowed to make for our own selves is who to work for. It could be that this is a drug that has worked for her. Diabetes meds are not one-size-fits-all, and ALL the diabetes meds have serious side effects.

    I believe that Ms. Deen is acting according to her own beliefs and morals and that’s really all we can ask of anyone!

  7. I don’t like to see celebrities promoting dangerous drugs (I don’t like the whole adverts for prescription medicine thing you have in the US), but that’s my only problem with Paula Deen’s behaviour. I’m a vegan and I’ve had to stay out of a lot of discussions I would have liked to have been part of because the topic kept turning to Paula Deen and how she deserves horrible diseases because she’s fat and likes fried food. I do see the animal products she uses as problematic, that’s a strong belief of mine, but there is no moral value to fried food, dietary fat or bodily fat! There are plenty of non-vegan chefs to pick on, but not many are fat women who dare to be fat on tv and eat fatty foods without apology. And some of these people consider themselves the enlightened sort, social justice activists and so on! It really is shameful behaviour.

    • I’ve been reading Alicia Silverstone’s vegan cookbook, and it’s full of elaborate, fancy recipes including some deep-fried croquettes. But then in the personal narrative, she says that most of the time, she just eats simple grains-and-greens dishes… I can’t imagine anyone saying she deserves a disease for promoting fried foods and yummy desserts. (But oh yeah, she’s thin.)

  8. I utterly loathe Paula Deen. Her food is repulsive, her personality is grating, and her voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard.

    But the people who are gleefully attacking her for *having a disease* are just appalling. Even if they’re right and she brought it on herself, that doesn’t make it any less terrible for her to deal with. People need to STFU.

  9. Thank you thank you THANK YOU!

    I’m a culinary professional myself (I’ve been both a cook and a restaurant owner), and am particularly interested in the social politics of the food industries (including misogyny, homophobia, and fatphobia, as well as others), and the constant vilification of Paula Deen has pissed me off for years (as a fat Southern woman cook, who does in fact know women much like Mrs. Deen, despite all the people who say she’s so fake), as has Bourdain’s consistent and virulent misogyny. I have entire rants about these things, some of which friends of mine can recite from memory because they’ve heard them so often.

    Anyway, you hit pretty much everything I have to say on the topic except the Bourdain stuff, and I am going to link this article everywhere.

  10. Next it was about how she had the nerve to wait three years to tell people that she had a disease that is not communicable in any way or any kind of public threat.

    Yeah, she didn’t offer herself as a cautionary tale fat fighters require. There is a classist element here, her audience is looked down on as not following the orders of their social betters. I’m sure her tearful “admission” that she has a disease-I love medieval thinkng- would shock the heck out of them in a way they desperately need to.

    I personally barely know who she is or care. Point is, if it’s acceptable to attack anyone this way, then its acceptable to attack all of us this way. It’s like Sarah Palin and sexist attacks on her.

    Rather than concentrating on what people think is wrong about what she stands for, they prefer the apparently easier route of attacking her because she’s a woman. If the media has issues with PD’s ethics, then they should talk directly about that and fulfil their function to inform the public about the machinations of those who may have influence.

    They cannot get to that through fat hating, indeed, I bet it displaces that, meaning those who may need to be warned about the downsides of this drug don’t get that information.

  11. You never hear: Maybe if Halle Berry dropped a few pounds and improved her diet, her diabetes would go away.

    • Just for the record, Halle Berry has diabetes type 1 which is not the same disease that Paula Deen – and myself – suffer from.
      I’m disappointed that Paula has decided to support a dangerous diabetes drug, but that’s my issue. I like her because she’s funny, fun and out there.
      I am disgusted by what people are saying about her and the diabetes. However, this is nothing new, people commenting on line have become disgusting about everything, cruel, rude, etc. A sign of the times.

    • My bad, I have read in several articles that Berry is Type 1. Thanks for the info. I did find this which may be of interest as to why there is confusion about the type of diabetes she has:

      She is a Ketosis Prone Type 2 Diabetic. This is a common type of diabetes amongst people of color in this country. There are an estimated 1,000,000 of them. They present with acute onset like type 1 but after withdrawal of insulin will actually be type 2. Here’s a brief video on it: http://myown.oprah.com/audition/index.html?request=video_details&response_id=8826&promo_id=1
      Here’s a blog on it: http://ketosisprone.blogspot.com/

      I do know that Dr. Bernstein, who has written a couple of books about his diabetes cure and has had diabetes 1 since the 1970s, has drastically reduced his insulin to very little with a strict low carb diet. While dieting is not what this blog is about, for diabetics, it is a life saving way of eating.

      Again, thanks for correcting my misinformation! Appreciate the clarification.

      • And thank you for the info, very interesting!

  12. Amen, you never do hear that. I know nothing about the drug Paula is taking & I agree that I hate the marketing of drugs to the public on tv commercials as if they were selling cookies or breakfast cereals. I do wish her well & hope that whatever medication she is on works for her & that she avoids the side effects which seem to be a huge downside to every damn medication one might need to take for anything.

    No, you cannot EAT your way to diabetes. It is at least as heritable as Type 1, but, while Type 1 diabetics get all kinds of sympathy & ‘oh, you poor thing’ reactions, Type 2 diabetics are always accused of bringing it on themselves. Indeed, many people, including my own grandmother, eat all of these ‘bad’ foods all their lives while never becoming diabetic (nana lived to be 90, fatty meats & desserts were her religion, she cooked with lard, she put 4 spoons of sugar in her coffee, she didn’t exercise, etc.). Others exercise & eat ‘healthy’ & become diabetic. And they say fat is ‘correlated’, but it seems as if a lot of people gain weight BECAUSE of the diabetes rather than the other way around, diabetes make the already nearly impossible task of losing weight much harder, & thin people do indeed develop diabetes. 90% of the fat people in this country are not diabetic, about 75% of them will never be; about 27% of all adults over 65 of all sizes develop at least mild degrees of diabetes. And diabetics can live perfectly normal lives for many years by adjusting medication, food intake, & exercise to keep their blood sugar balanced. I personally know a lot of old people who have lived with diabetes for some time, including one gentleman of 86, not fat, who has had it for 30 years now. It is not communicable, it is not a death sentence.

    I basically cannot watch the Food Network these days because it is controlled by the food nannies & everyone seems to have to feature a lot of ‘healthy’ or ‘light’ dishes, etc., & it takes all the fun out of it. I have watched Paula in the past & I wish her well. It is something of a miracle that she has lived long enough to be in the midst of this firestorm in one sense…her father died at 40, her mother at 42, &, no, I don’t know the cause of their deaths. She herself has dealt in the past with depression & extreme agoraphobia. No I don’t think she should be selling a drug, but I do hope that she can live a good life & manage her diabetes. And I cannot even tell you how much I despite Anthony Bourdain…as if he knows anything or is in any position to take…this chain-smoking, heavy drinking ex-heroin addict. I won’t watch him or any show he is on, but I have seen commercials of his Travel network program where he was eating anything & everything & talking about at times eating large amounts of food. I guess it is alright, though, because he is thin. Thin people can do anything, live any way, & if they get sick, they are poor unfortunate souls who don’t deserve to be sick because ‘he’s always been so thin.’ Fat people, on the other hand, however much we exercise or however well we eat, whether or not we drink or smoke or use drugs, always deserve to get sick & preferably die young, because we ‘brought it on ourselves.’

    • You know, that was one of the nice things about living in South Korea. I never saw a SINGLE TV ad for prescription drugs. I barely saw any for OTC drugs (which weren’t over the counter in SK, you still had to go to a pharmacy to get them; you had to go to a pharmacy to even get yeast infection medication and pregnancy tests!) with the exception of Tylenol and a liquid heartburn medication. Yeah, they were THAT rare. Now anti-aging serums commercials, I saw PLENTY of those! Cosmetics were definitely a big deal over there.

      My mother has diabetes as does my older half brother. Hers is controlled with medication. Diet is limited due to where she lives as is exercise because she only gets one hour a day out of her cell (yes, she’s in prison, very long story). Everything is where it should be as far as her numbers though she’s close to being at her heaviest weight ever. She’s disabled which doesn’t help but that was due to issues with her back from various falls and needing two back surgeries. She’ll be 66 in February (was diagnosed back when she was 43). So far, longevity in my family I think is right around average. No one has lived past the age of 70 but hard to say if that’s within the average life span for when they were born or not. We’ll see how my parents do, I suppose.

      I’m actually more worried about my brother and as far as us siblings go, I think he’ll be the first of us to die because he has no health insurance, is not able to get treatment for his diabetes or medication, already has some kidney damage, and just isn’t able to take care of himself or his condition as well as he could due to finances. Plus, he does tend to be under a lot of stress which probably doesn’t help. I wish I could do more to help him but we’re just getting by ourselves so I do worry about him. I don’t say anything though because I know a lot of it is outside of his control.

      A lot of drugs out there for many conditions scare me. Many seem to have some really scary side effects and yet doctors prescribe them like candy. I try to avoid taking any kind of medication when I can but I know too that that’s not always possible.

      As for Paula Deen, I haven’t really watched any of her shows (though my sister, I guess, has her pots and pans set, lol). I know that if I’m going to bake, it’s going to be with butter and sugar and stuff like that not with sweetener or margarine. That’s me though. It’s funny because I can still remember talking to a friend of my brother’s who I had asked to help with the food for the wedding and he was telling me I NEEDED to go with a sugar free wedding cake because of my brother (and also because it would probably be a good thing for me too with my weight and all). My brother laughed at that and told me to go with what I wanted. Still, since he and his wife also provided the sodas and THEY had their own issues with weight and whatnot, they bought considerably more diet soda than was needed and it sat in my fridge for months because I couldn’t stand it. It wasn’t even brand name soda which made the fact that it was diet much worse. lol I got a regular wedding cake though and it was good! lol

  13. I ADORE Paula Deen and I actually Share a Birthday with her (Today actually) My Mom told me last night that she had it and was making a new cookbook, or revising her recepies to make some that are Type 2 Diabetes friendly, this means something for us because my step-father has type 2 Diabetes as well, and is currently on a VERY dangerous drug to fix it which could end up killing him. So he chose (finally) to get his blood sugar under control a more natural way. So we were happy to be bale to make the foods that she so often makes, for the entire family. I hat to hear that someone I enjoy watching and sharing a b-day with gets bashed so much. I honestly don’y even read it ya know, cause really, it just is awful.

  14. Slight tangent here…I more or less stopped watching Food Network a while ago. PBS has wonderful cooking shows (Sara Moulton has a new home there, for example, and my long-time favorite, America’s Test Kitchen). Either Food Network or Cooking Channel – I forget which, but they seem to be closely affiliated – has a new show starting soon called “Fat Chef.” The commercials for it are what you might expect, playing into every possible stereotype of fat people’s relationship with food in a 30-sec. spot. Definitely NOT watching that program. Ugh.

    Thanks, Ragen, for the post on Paula Deen. I have mixed feelings about her and her situation, but the vitriol being thrown her way is completely out-of-line. I’ve been thinking the same thing you articulated in your opening paragraph. Do people honestly believe that her daily way of eating is exactly like what she cooks on her shows? She specializes in a certain type of cooking, so that’s what she makes on the show. I doubt that she eats that way all the time. Otherwise, as you note, it would follow that the dessert person would eat desserts all day, the Italian cook eats nothing but Italian food, etc.

    Anyway…I need another cup of coffee. Oh, and did anyone catch Dr. Linda Bacon on blogtalkradio yesterday? That was interesting…

    Ragen, you rock!

    • Ms. Deen’s food stylings have always left me kind of nauseous, but then again, I’ve been a vegan for the past three years and a vegetarian since 1980. I try very hard to not be the stereotype of a bossy, self-righteous vegan though, because I feel that by just by making that choice, I am already inadvertently judging other people without even meaning to. But nobody guesses I’m a vegan, because I’m a fatty. 🙂

      But Paula Deen reminds me of some of my mom’s more rambunctious friends, so I like her.

      • Laura, I’m also a fatty vegan, and I feel the same way. I am repulsed by the food because any recipes requiring the killing of animals that obviously want to live are undeniably unethical. However, I try not to be the stereotype, either, and I definitely feel that Deen’s body and health are none of anybody’s business.

      • So happy to see other fat vegans!! I feel rarer than a unicorn most days, other people are so skeptical. 🙂

  15. Great post! Do you have a source for the Wayne Miller quote? I’d love to read the rest of the article/study/whatever.

  16. Well said! I have always loved Paula`s work (I have a love of southern food) and I felt sad when I heard of her heath issues and saw how people were judging her. My family fights diabetes and I would not wish it on anyone.

  17. I’m actually a pharmacist at a major retail chain, as well as an independent diabetes educator and work in conjunction with a dietitian and her physician husband.

    I would also like to note that during my third year of pharmacy school (fifth year of college overall) there was a major “lab event” where all the diabetes meter representatives came in to get hands on experience with the meters. At that time, I stood 5’2″ at a weight of 145lbs, with a strong family history of diabetes. My blood sugars after lunch were a whopping 300. I have since changed my lifestyle and exercise regimen to follow the ADA recommendations for diabetics. I have managed to keep my fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin levels down with modifications. I will forever need to keep checking my sugars and my A1C to ensure the disease is not creeping back in.

    I also understand that diabetics and hypertensives keep my prescription volume up and help pay for my building’s rent, light bills, and my salary. It is also important to note that fasting blood sugars (the one’s that are usually checked on blood work) take nearly seven to eight years to even show a difference, it is really good at keeping up. Nearly 50% of your pancreas’ insulin producing cells are dead at that seven year mark, and even more die as you are in the “prediabetic phase” of watch and wait.

    Most of the older (cheap) drugs do not change how the body functions, they just help your pancreas keep up with the increased demand on the pancreas (basically hit the pancreas over the head and tell it to keep going, like a whipping a horse during a race.) At the end of the race, the horse is still tired. It still can only keep up for so long. Newer drugs can help some of the body chemical signals and help a diabetic’s body respond more like a non diabetic’s body, but still not magic. I don’t agree with going into sponsorship with drug manufactures. Each drug should be prescribed on a case by case regimen, and not because “Paula Deen sponsors it.”

    I do, however, love the fact that she did come forward to let everyone know that she is suffering from the exact same conditions as a lot of other Americans. She also did come forward about her smoking habit. I think her speaking of her troubles will give strength and empower others.

    What she eats at home is no one’s business, and she doesn’t have to let others know of her habits, but I do feel that if she did come forward and is sponsoring drugs, that she shouldn’t hold back either. It is a double edged sword. If you are going to publicly come forward with the disease, she should expect others to become critical of her behaviors. It wasn’t much different with me when I was standing at a lab bench with my 5 closest friends. OMG–let me see if that meter is broke. Well, Christina, check it with this one, it read my sugars at an 89! We were all in dismay, the professor (and another diabetes educator) came over to see what all the fuss was about. Each and every one of them because critics of how often I worked out, how many miles I walked (and started to run) what I ate for lunch, and I can today thank them for all of their criticism and support.

    Today, as an educator myself, I drive to southern Ohio about once a month to teach a series of classes. We speak of the “what now.” You cannot begin to think about the what ifs, or I should have. This is now the cards you have been dealt, don’t sit around and pout about it, figure out what needs to be done, and take charge of what is going on inside of your body. We do not preach restrictions, we preach in moderation. For insulin dependent diabetics, we teach carb counting and insulin dosing accordingly. If you want the plate of pasta fine, instead of using your typical 10 units of insulin for dinner, maybe bump it up to 20. Check your sugars, see how your body responded, and document.

    My uncle passed away at the age of 62 almost one year ago from major complications from type 2 diabetes. I took off and went home for a week for the dialysis catheter placement. I witnessed first hand the diabetic peripheral neuropathy, the slow progress of retinopathy, the suffering of him not being able to sleep at night from shooting pains in his legs from diabetic ulcers on his legs and on his feet. I was there when he had his toes amputated from a necrotic ulcer. I’ve seen the suffering first hand, and now my father was diagnosed with pre-diabetes on his recent blood work. The last thing I would ever hope from anyone in the world to suffer the same end as my uncle.

    I hope that everyone reading knows that the science available to help change the course of your disease. I hope Paula beats the criticism and takes charge of the diabetes. I hope everyone is empowered and instead of blaming society or whatever, we take charge of our bodies, what goes in, and what comes out (as in performance.) Let’s take where we are (and what genetic cards we are dealt) and play with them. Play the cards right, and win at this game we call life.

    • I don’t mind if people want to criticize her for being a drug company shill. That’s something she does and has no bearing on her disease.

      I have a huge problem with people judging her for having the disease. For looking down their noses with smug superiority as if her diabetes is a well-deserved punishment for cooking chicken-fried steak.

  18. Well said, well done!

  19. I referenced this post in a conversation on FB. People seemed to be relying on Paula’s decision to come out with her diagnosis now when she got a spokesperson deal as this whole “trying to make money out of being unhealthy” thing.

    My response?

    Dick Clark has Type II diabetes and only went public when he had an endorsement deal with the American Association of Diabetes Educators. But no one is raging against him. I’m not accusing anyone of anything (other than accusing Anthony Bordain of being an asshole of epic proportions). What I am saying is that we should step back and see where our body-size and food biases affect our perception of reality.

    So sick of everyone thinking they have a say in anyone’s body but their own.

    • It’s funny because people make fun of Dick Clark for still looking so young for his age. There was even something on The Simpsons about it, I think it was about how he was really a robot and not a human being. Just goes to prove that people will look for just about any excuse to bash someone.

  20. Hi, Ragen – Question…..I know that you are a science stickler, and you’ve stated in this blog and others that the dangers of yo-yo dieting are documented. Can you point me in the direction of those studies? Thank you.

  21. I really hate when celebs open up about stuff like this. They invite the public to rip them apart, just like Adriana Lima did when she talked about her pre Victoria Secret diet, Jennifer Hudson, etc. It’s no one’s business but their own but when people hear celebs initiate discussion on their weight, everyone thinks they can say whatever they want.

  22. It is so nice to know there are other people in the world like me, meaning you, that can think for themselves. I have said this for years and years. Keep up the good work. Thanks so much.

  23. First I have to say I’m biased because I think Paula Deen is adorable.

    I once tried to explain to my father that diabetes and obesity were correlating factors, not that obesity is the causation and this is why plenty of very thin people suffer from teh diabetus.

    He didn’t believe me. And when I found the article online that talked about it he WOULDN’T READ IT.

    The fact is, people like to hold onto their prejudices. Why do you think so many people still believe that gay and lesbian people choose to be gay – despite a legacy that LONG out dates religions that condemn them. They don’t want to see the truth because they would HAVE TO STOP LOOKING DOWN ON OTHERS. And who wants to do that? /end sarcasm

  24. OK, well, being British I’m not familiar with either this lady or her cooking, and I don’t know how accurate any of these stories are about either, but anyway –

    I’m annoyed by the many people saying ‘She shouldn’t be shilling a diabetes drug, she should just eat healthy and lose weight and control her diabetes that way!’ Fact is, while eating adjustments and exercise (not weight loss) can help control blood glucose, most Type II people will need meds anyway at some stage – so demanding she uses the control method non-diabetics would prefer she used is both unfair and misinformed. (I won’t debate the safety or otherwise of the particular meds she’s touting – just to say that meds in themselves aren’t inherently less ‘moral’. Her selling them is a separate consideration, but how many celebs tout diet products, often dangerous ones?)

    Basically, though, I’m struck by the intense hatred – I can’t call it anything else – for Type II people out there. What’s even sadder, perhaps, is that at least some of this rhetoric is now coming from people with Type I diabetes – almost every article on diabetes these days (including some of these Paula Deen stories) has some comment from a Type I person saying ‘Please don’t confuse the two types of diabetes, Type II people bring it on themselves but we don’t’ – or, even more sadly, the parent of a Type I child saying that their kid gets bullied at school because the other kids think diabetes is something you get from being fat. When we’ve reached the point that people with one form of a disease don’t want to be stigmatized by being associated with people with the other type, isn’t it time we (by which I mean researchers, medical providers, charities, and most of all the goddamn media) took a good long look at how we’re depicting this disease and its sufferers to the world in general?

  25. What bothers me is just the lack of compassion. The woman got a terrible illness, why are people so gleeeful? My godmother smoked like a chimney and I would beg her to stop. When she got lung cancer, I didn’t say “Haha, told you so.” I cried and vowed to be at her side. She died a few years ago and I still miss her.

    There’s a strange schandenfraude we have with food, that eating a certain way deserves to be “punished” by getting diebetes. It’s sadistic and really makes me wonder about a person’s morality. I think it’s a lot more moral to cook and promote foods you enjoy, than make fun of a person with an illness.

    I was sitting at the food court near my home and heard a mother sternly tell her child no cookies, she doesn’t want to be FAT. The kid was three.

    I wish I could give that mother a mirror into the future, so she could see the pain of an unhealthy relationship with food.

    I wish Paula Deen a long and healthy life, with the strength to manage her illness and live each day to the fullest.

    • Honestly, I think that people have this attitude because deep down they want to eat the way they think that Paula Deen/random fatties eat, and their glee over them getting a disease that they think is caused by such a diet is merely the outward expression of their relief that their own dietary restriction has been justified in their eyes.

      • I can honestly say that I have no desire to eat anything Paula Deen makes.

  26. This right here is a sound, informed and thoughtful rant, if ever there was one. Just wondering if you got so incensed while drafting it, that you wrote, “brain science” and “rocket surgery” or if that was an intentional mélange.

    • Hi Amy,

      I’m glad that you liked the blog, thank you very much for your kind words. Yes, it was indeed on purpose – my attempt at spicing up my ranting with a little wit.

      ~Ragen

      • Heh, I’m so used to my husband saying that that I didn’t even notice lol… great minds think alike I guess heh. Although, his is more along the lines of referring to his boss as either a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist depending just how dimwitted the man is being that day lol.

  27. If Paula Deen wasn’t a big woman known for her deep-fried Southern cooking, this wouldn’t even be news. But thanks to obesity being the moral panic of the ages, combined with the medical community’s insistence on trying to label Type II as a “fat person’s disease,” everyone can’t stop talking about it.

    Diabetes can be controlled with medicine and non-weight loss dietary changes. It runs in my family, so I should know. The mass freak-out over this medical condition is unnecessary and some serious re-education about it is in order.

  28. I hadn’t actually heard of Paula Deen until the other day as I’m a Pom living in Australia and she’s not on our TV here (as far as I know). But I simply love your articulate, intelligent response to the obvious barricade of abuse that seems to have been thrown at her. So refreshing to read a well-written, well-argued post.

  29. Wonderfully put! I for one know that type 2 has far more to do with stress than weight. Also loved your comments about people feeling they have a right to comment on a physically obvious condition. Wonderful post

  30. I am so glad that her announcement is stirring up so much controversy. She’s a tough one and I think she can manage the pressure just fine. What a platform to better understand the multitude of factors leading to this disease. I think looking at lifestyle isn’t so fun or juicy in this culture of public shame projection onto fat bodies. Thanks so much for your thoughtful and stimulating posts.

  31. I agree, people need to take responsibility for their own health and mind their own sweet business.

    Also, I don’t recall ever hearing Paula Deen claiming her foods will reduce cholesterol, clear your arteries, reduce bunions, make you a better golfer, clear your pimples, or give you shiny hair. Mostly she’s just said, “This is delicious, y’all.”

    She’s a plump little lady who likes to cook. Go, Paula!

    • I had a FB (considering defriending) friend have the unmitigated GALL to say that Paula Deen has psychological issues with food because she has the nerve to say “This is delicious, y’all.”

      Seriously? In a world where we’re taught to be AFRAID of food, Paula Deen has a psychological issue?

      Dear GOD!

  32. I just can’t see how her health or what she eats is anyone’s business or has anything to do with how good her food tastes. (I really know nothing about her except she makes Southern food. We’re in the deep South and no one in this house will eat Southern or even American food.) I’m not in the habit of finding out what a cook’s personal life is like before I decide to use a recipe. Who are these people with this much time on their hands?

    A bit off topic but drug commercials are incredibly damaging to people with the advertised condition. Ever seen a fibromyalgia drug commercial? “Take this pill & you’re cured.” That’s the basic message. So my family sees that and wonders why I can’t just take the magic pill and be cured. I don’t know anyone with fibro who is on one of the 2 “approved meds”. We’ve tried them and they consistently fail to!help. I nearly died after trying the newest one. So it’s our fault the med didn’t work and we might as well quit out complaining, get off my “lazy” butt, suck it up, go for a run and while I’m at it I better lose the 60 lbs I’ve gained trying every off label med known to man. (Nothing against running – I love to when I can!) Ok I’m done!

    • Not to mention that fibro drugs don’t really work. But they make a shitload of money advertising and prescribing muscle relaxants and antidepressants. If you have Fibro, check out Doctor Lowe’s site. He recently died but the sites are still up. You can just search for Dr. Lowe. He speculated that fibro was caused by a thyroid imbalance and had a lot of success treating patients with natural desicated thyroid.

      Also, many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are similar to fibro and poorly-treated hypo patients are often diagnosed with fibro and chronic fatigue and given those drugs instead of getting proper treatment with dessicated thyroid.

      If you look up fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism you’ll find a lot of hits.

      Also, many people with hypothyroidism have normal numbers (I did), because those tests measure the amount of hormone in the blood, not at the cellular level. It’s the cellular level that matters.

      I had to have a thyroid antibody test to finally get a proper diagnosis — an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

      Also, (to get back on topic) if you have any autoimmune disorder, like Hashi’s, you are more likely to develop another, like type II diabetes.

      • Dr. John C. Lowe:
        http://www.drlowe.com/

      • Not to be a conspiracy theorist here but isn’t one of the possible causes of diabetes (especially type 1) vaccinations? I know I have read that there has been some concern that vaccinations increase the rate of auto-immune disorders. So, looking at that, could definitely explain why those with diabetes are often attacked. It’s easier to attack a person’s lifestyle than for people to look into the possibility that it’s caused by vaccinations. It’s another one of those follow the money things. Now, I’m not trying to say that people should avoid vaccinations, not at all because that’s a very personal decision to make but it would explain a few things in as far as the vicious attacks done on people who do get diabetes. Hope that makes sense. And I know that there may not even be a link between vaccinations and auto-immune disorders but I do feel that it’s not entirely impossible for there to be a link, you know?

      • “natural dessicated thyroid” is animal sourced. We don’t have the same hormone profile as a pig, dried-up pig thyroid really isn’t natural to us. Also there is the possibility of disease transmission, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy(mad cow disease). Generally, it’s best to take synthetic T4, which is is identical to what is produced by our bodies. Some people may also require T3 replacement. In addition, thyroid activity is strongly influenced by our ovarian hormones. If your ovaries aren’t behaving themselves(and many women begin to lose ovary function years, even decades before menopause), it is difficult to support your thyroid properly. You should also stick to brand name thyroid hormones, generics are not consistent in the actual hormone levels of their drugs, so you may not get an adequate amount of hormones.

      • Emi, if ovaries have a role, wouldn’t it be possible then that those who had a tubal done could possibly end up with thyroid issues since the ovaries are in a sense cut off from the rest of the body? I haven’t gotten a tubal though it has crossed my mind as I really don’t want anymore children but I have heard of a number of issues that can occur due to having a tubal done so I wonder if this was possibly one of them.

      • Janeen, I think tubal ligations as well as hysterectomies can cut off some blood flow to the ovaries, which leads to decreased ovary function(which may affect any organ/system in your body). Not 100% sure about the tubals, I don’t have my reference handy. For more info, check out this book: It’s MyOvaries, Stupid! by Elizabeth Vliet, MD. Lots of fascinating and useful information. Helped me resolve my hormone issues.

      • T4 only does not work because it relies on the (broken) thyroid to convert it to T3. SOME patients may do well on synthetic T4/Synthetic T3. Me personally, and for many others that I’ve talked to, the synthetics suck.

        Porcine thyroid is close to human and HIGHLY bioavailable. I take it an am asymptomatic. On T4, I was not.

        Porcine was also the gold standard before the drug companies created synthetics (which are more expensive and, NOT as effective).

        Synthetics are absolutely NOT the way to go for many hypothyroid patients. At best the keep the TSH levels stable, which is useless as all TSH measures is pituitary function.

      • It is absolutely true that so-called female hormones can affect thyroid utilization. Progesterone is the pro-thyroid hormone and helps your body use thyroid efficiently. Estrogen is the anti-thyroid hormone. This is one of the reasons that hypo is more common in older women. However, men also have progesterone and estrogen, albeit in smaller amounts.

        Regarding the controversy over natural vs synthetic check out Mary Shomon’s pages on About.com, Stop the thyroid madness, and Dr. Lowe’s site, to start.

        There are plenty of valid arguments as to why synthetics are shit for treating hypo. And many valid arguments as to why the idea that porcine doesn’t work because humans aren’t pigs is absolutely ridiculous (including the fact that human hearts aren’t made of pig either and pig VALVES work just fine).

        The same way that drug companies publish medical texts that list obesity as a disease (with corresponding drug treatments), the same way drug reps go into medical colleges and donate materials with drug logos and information, the same way drug reps take doctors on golf outings to sell their weight loss “miracles” so do they push synthetic thyroid drugs.

        BTW, Synthroid had it’s FDA approval pulled a while back and is STILL pending reapproval. Because it’s pending, they can still sell it but that shit isn’t even approved and they have had several issues over the years with bad batches.

      • I stand corrected. Approval was pulled in 1997:

        “after it was determined that Synthroid and other levothyroxine drugs had significant stability and potency problems. Synthroid and the other levothyroxine drugs had never gone through FDA approval; they were grandfathered in under claims that they were in the same class of drugs as the natural thyroid drugs such as Armour Thyroid, which existed before the FDA was instituted. ”

        Approval was reinstated in 2002. Still, Synthetics have had plenty of problems. Armour has been consistent until it was reformulated about five years ago. Even after reformulation, the only issue was with absorption – patients had to chew it instead of swallowing it whole. Armour has been around since the early 1900s.

        http://thyroid.about.com/cs/synthroid1/a/approvedfda.htm

  33. Wonderful points. Someone accused me last night of having an obese friend posse because I was pointing out such facts. As a vegan, I am dismayed at the enormous number of vegans who have come out with hate toward her. While I personally dislike that Paula encourages the use of animal corpses and body parts in her recipes, I have never felt more protective of her in light of all the ignorance regarding her diabetes. Have you seen this study that shows that health is a matter of healthy habits, not weight:
    http://www.jabfm.org/content/25/1/9.full.pdf&pli=1

  34. I’m generally with you, but this 95% study is one of those myths that I think has been misused and distorted. From what I read, the study was done on a very small sample of people, they were people who had tried repeatedly to lose weight and failed, and that the method of weight loss attempted was calorie restriction. The authors of the study came out against CALORIE RESTRICTION specifically not the much broader WEIGHT LOSS>

    A comparison: I used to work in the field of chemical dependency. There has been much talk and research in that field about the challenge of studying success rates in the people who end up in the Betty Ford clinic, those who are – for whatever reason – the hard cases.

    Turns out there are many people who go through a period in life of substance abuse that looks to from the outside like the behavior patterns of the “hard cases.” But they just stop at some point in their lives without treatment. They may even be treatment “failures” who later quit using on their own.

    I am NOT saying here that “everyone” can or should be trying to lose weight. But the story of the individual who is a fat teen and gets lean after taking up cycling in his 30s is not all that rare. The 95% number doesn’t pass the smell test.

    • Where did you get the information that you used to criticize the study? It is one about healthy habits. I am not sure what your comparison means in regard to the validity of the study I cited. I am very much against bogus studies and pseudoscience. I am really not following you.

      In any case, I was sent to the study from a skeptic friend of mine who looks objectively at studies and passes along ones that are worthwhile sometimes to me. I think it is fascinating. It is not really to do with this blog entry, but I found it relevant to many of the topics discussed here so I just included it in case it was missed. 🙂 Take care.

    • Hi Barbara,

      Although it was originally based on a study from 1959, it has been reinforced by almost every clinical study since then, and was acknowledged at the inaugural International Obesity Summit in 2010. I blogged more about this here: https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/do-95-of-dieters-really-fail/

      ~Ragem

      ________________________________

      • Oh, now I realize that you are referring to the study in the original article. Silly me. It came in my email as a response to my particular comment. haha Great writing, Ragen, and great citations.

    • The authors of the study came out against CALORIE RESTRICTION specifically not the much broader WEIGHT LOSS

      Thus far calorie restriction is the only method of weight loss made available, that’s the problem. I do agree that weight loss isn’t the same as calorie restriction though, but I’ve never seen any official or medical authority acknowledge it yet.

      Feel free to describe any non CR weight loss method, I personally would love to hear one.

  35. I posted this on George Takei’s page since he decided to use a diabetes demotivational poster to bring it up.

    • then I unliked his hypocritical ass.

      • Fandamntastic. 😀

        I did that very recently to opera bass Sam Ramey. I have admired and loved Sam and his work for YEARS. He has been my idol for a very long time. I was THRILLED to the nth degree when he accepted my friend request recently….and then I defriended him a few days later after he posted really ugly comments about a fat singer who performed in public. I was disgusted, disillusioned, and felt dishonored myself as a fat singer. I left a comment explaining my feelings, and then defriended him with a lot of sadness. I don’t care if you are Samuel Ramey or Oprah Winfrey, or Barack friggin’ Obama. You don’t get to make fun of people for who they are. Period.

  36. I love that you defined public health for people. I am a current public health student at Georgia State University and every class I am in calls obesity a “risk factor” for disease, advocates weight loss, refuses to acknowledge that it is possible to be fit and fat and doesn’t see anything wrong with it. It makes me sad to listen to this and realize that this is the future public health workforce being trained to incorporate stigmatizing attitudes and behaviors into their work. It is often offensive and cruel and it makes me sad to see how many people agree with this way of thinking. Thank you for putting yourself out there in opposition of this BS.


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