Too Mean to Paula Deen?

Paula Deen, the Food Network host who is often called the “queen of Southern cooking,” has encountered criticism for her work in the past — not surprising, given that her repertoire includes items such as fried cheesecake and hamburgers with bacon served in a glazed doughnut. But since she revealed last week that she has Type 2 diabetes, Deen has encountered a barrage of attacks that seems unprecedented for any famous person making such an announcement.


Last Tuesday, Deen announced her diagnosis to Al Roker on NBC’s Today, along with the fact that she would be working with “a very reputable pharmaceutical company” (Novo Nordisk) to promote a diabetes management campaign. Roker immediately pointed out that she was a paid spokesperson for the company, and followed up with the question of why she waited three years to announce her diabetes to the world (Deen said she was still figuring out what it meant, and “had nothing to give to my fellow friends out there” at the time). Roker then asked how Deen would respond to critics who allege that she withheld the diagnosis to protect her show and her brand, to which Deen responded that “people are not going to quit eating.”

Roker’s questioning was, it turns out, mild compared with what followed in several corners. One online piece at Gawker,Paula Deen Is a Greasy Villain,” suggests that she shouldn’t eat cake unless she does her squats, while Frank Bruni of The New York Times — a former restaurant critic — calls Deen’s decision to conceal her diagnosis “for three long, greasy years” a “profound, unsettling act of withholding.” Deen announced just one day after her Today appearance that she would donate a portion of her proceeds from the Novo Nordisk deal to the American Diabetes Association, but to some this decision seemed, no doubt, like just a calculated move to quiet criticism.

As Jan Chait pointed out here at, Deen did not seek out her endorsement deal, according to both her and a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk. The company was simply looking for a celebrity chef to whom people with a recent diabetes diagnosis could relate, and who might attract them to a Web site offering recipes for modified, healthier versions of comfort foods (the site also promotes Novo’s injectable drug liraglutide, marketed as Victoza). In a video introduction to the site, Deen announces that she has made “simple changes in my life” including cutting back on sweet tea and going for more walks.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether Deen will make any changes to the cooking on her show — whether, for example, she will still feel comfortable deep-frying macaroni and cheese. Many of Deen’s critics assert that regardless of her diagnosis, it was wrong for her to promote unhealthy food to a country in which obesity is epidemic. Others, however, such as Bruni in the Times, note that many other celebrity chefs, including those at the “high end,” promote high-calorie fare yet escape criticism — perhaps because they lack Deen’s Southern drawl and populist appeal. And although it might seem delayed to some, Deen’s decision to endorse certain dietary and lifestyle changes, even for pay, is likely to give pause to anyone who believed her recipes could be prepared every day without negative effects on health.

What do you think — are critics of Paula Deen right to condemn her for withholding her diagnosis and profiting from a drug endorsement? Or are her actions understandable, or even admirable? Do TV chefs have a responsibility to promote healthy dishes, or to share personal information about their own diet and health status? Is Deen’s talk of “simple changes” a good message that will promote lifestyle improvements, or does it downplay the risks of Type 2 diabetes? Leave a comment below!

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  • Bilal

    I’m a diabetic, I have been to Savannah and even went to Paula’s Restaurant but was disgusted to see that there was NOTHING there that i could really eat except lettuce and tomato. it was pitiful, i never went there again (hmmm probably 4 years now). But Im glad that she’s taking care of herself now, and No, Paula is NOT in the wrong, she has every right to show her recipies to people, we all have a choice, i’ve never seen her going XENA on anybody to make them eat that fried cheese cake.. Eat in moderation, and eat what you know that your system could handle. Life has much more to offer than food consumption only!

  • Jeny-Lynn

    I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes about 35 years ago. I have many relatives and sibblings with Type 2. Diabetes is a devastating diagnosis. Most people don’t understand the disease. It sometimes takes years to understand your own body and how best to control this disease for yourself. You don’t just take medication. You have to learn to manage it yourself, and no one can do that for you. I’ve been on a pump for several years now, and that was the best way for me to control mine as the disease progressed, and it does progress as you age and have the disease longer. I love Paula Dean, have her cookbooks, watch her show, and make some of her dishes for my family. I stay away from or modify some for myself, but it’s not fair to not serve good food that you can’t eat to your healthy family members. Instead of criticising Paula, people should put themselves in her shoes facing a life threatening, incurable, sometimes hard to control disease.

  • bj

    I’m disappointed in her behavior and I’m now questioning her integrity. Seems to me she’s
    been deceptive and manipulative about her disclosure. It is true it takes time to adjust, probably not 3 years, she certainly seems more interested in money than health. Sure she’s human and gets to make mistakes, it’s too bad she wasn’t more forthcoming. Her current statements and attempts to distance herself from her actions are unfortunate and probably making things worse.

  • Marg

    Paula has been cooking southern since she learned how to cook. There is nothing wrong with showing people what is eaten in their part of the country. None of us are required to eat it. We have choices that is why we live in America.

    There are settlements of all nationalities all over America and when you travel there it is delightful to try the quisine.

  • Sally

    No, I am diabetic and I watch her show. I know what I can eat and what I can’t. People have to use common sense when watching cooking shows. Most chefs use too much salt for people with high blood pressure . If the recipe looks like one you might enjoy just adjust the recipe.

  • Forest

    Neither She nor is Novo Nordisk, We as individuals are ultimately in charge of our care. All our Doctors can do is make recommendations and write prescriptions. Diabetes requires lifestyle changes and a life long commitment.

  • Buddy Ochoa

    Yes, this woman has a deal now with some diabetic pill company to make thousands of dollars because she now has diabetes???? PLEASE…THIS WOMAN IS THE CAUSE OF SO MANY HAVING THE DISEASE…GET HER OFF THE AIR…

  • Johnnie

    I do not think it is anybody’s business but her’s if she did not want to tell anybody that she is diabetic. She has a right to her privacy just like anybody else. You don’t have to make her receipes and you choose what you want to eat. Nobody makes you eat anything.

  • Michael Elias

    Of course the comments and outrage are justified. Paula Dean kept it secret for 3 years to increase her fan and money base under false pretenses. There is no shame in have diabetes, I am a type 2 diabetic for over 15 years, some genetics, mostly lifestyle. But you learn to adapt and take care of yourself without hiding from you family, friends and collegues. In addiiotn, it made me become creative in cooking and baking to satisfy a need that commercial food stores, etc. have no interest. Instead of hiding and creating recipes with frying, butter and such, she should have embraced it and help develop new recipes to help diabetics instead of mocking their condition by her brand of cooking. The only conlcusion is that she is blinded by MONEY!

  • Becky

    We all have to make our own choices about what and how much we eat. We don’t have to make what she cooks. That said, I would be more impressed with her if she made more than simple changes and took her own health seriously. If she wants to be a spokesperson, she should take that seriously too and promote health eating. If I was the CEO of Novo Nordisk, I would not have called upon her to be my spokesperson unless she was willing to practice what she preached. It makes one wonder what the company’s agenda really is.

  • Amy

    I enjoy Paula Deen and her recipes. I am a PWD type 2 and also understand I can make substitutions so I CAN enjoy Ms. Deen’s recipes without sacrificing taste. Moderation is the key. It’s nice that her son now has a show that showcases healthier versions of his mama’s recipes. When I was diagnosed, I did not share the information outside my immediate family until I had a good understanding of the disease and how it affects me. Ms. Deen obviously needed the time to understand the same and the announcement three years after diagnosis is understandable. After all, how other chefs on TV have some medical problem or addictions but don’t tell their viewers? I would not be surprised if at least one popular chef is attending therapy for drug addiction or AA as a recovering alcoholic. Of course, it’s really none of our business now is it?

  • Vickie Moore

    Number one, I’m a Type II Diabectic on set at the age of 50. My mother was a Type I. (deceased 29 years ago) Even though I lived my whole life with this disease in my life, IT IS an individuals’ right to keep their personal life private. Paula Deen doesn’t owe her viewers any explanation what so ever. You need to live in the South to understand Southern Cooking from many decades ago. Just like you have to live in Italy to understand they style of cooking. People from the South understands this. It took me several years to learn my body and make yes life style changes to be a healthier eater. Yes, I’m sure overtime Paula will introduce healthier meals on her show. She is experincing a change that I don’t wish a single person would have to deal with in there life. This disease takes over your whole body. It is very serious and someone that doesn’t have it, well; frankly dear needs to Shut It UP! I praise Paula, she is one of the sweetist southern lady’s I’ve seen in many years.
    God Bless You Paula, and just keep trying.

  • cde

    I don’t have diabetes and should admit to being originally from the south and having relatives with the last name of Deen, but don’t think we are related. However, having worked for years with people with diabetes, I know it is not an easy diagnosis for some people to accept. Denial is not just a River in Egypt!!! It serves a purpose by letting us accept just what we can handle at the time. She had a right to her privacy and still does. She had a right to wait to reveal her diagnosis until she was ready or had a reason to do so. Having a show that demonstrates some less than 100% healthy recipes doesn’t change that in my opinion. I don’t think she claimed her cooking was healthy. I always told my patients they could eat anything, it is all a matter of how much and how often. If you need insulin to be able to use your food, then it is also adjusting that insulin as needed. All that takes a lot of learning. Give her some slack. And for goodness sakes, she sure did not cause other people to get diabetes. It is bad enough people blame themselves for getting this disease.

  • Joe

    While it’s obvious that Paula Deen is a shameless self-promoter, she has never claimed to be anything else. She certainly never presented her brand of cooking as healthy. Although personally I don’t care for her style or personality, I can’t see where she did anything heinous here. Her medical condition and when she chose to disclose (if at all) it is her own business. As for her deal with Novo Nordisk, hey, if I could find a way to make money from my diabetes, I would.

  • Cathy A.

    I agree with Michael. Paula says she has changed her lifestyle? Just look at her!

    I am a Type 2. Diagonosed at age 49, probably had it for a year before that. Didn’t do much, but that changed at age 53 when I had a heart attack. Now at age 61 I realize it had to be ME that changed or it would be ME who died.

    Changes have to be made. Paula just hasn’t figured that out yet. And yes, she has a golden opportunity to change her recipes a bit so we can all eat them. People aren’t going to change unless they are confronted by their own mortality like we with diabetes have been. Pray for Paula that she sees the slippery slope on which she is standing.

  • Colleen Sheehy

    I am newly diagnosed, but always knew it was only a matter of time, as I’ve lived a lifetime with obesity and genetic predisposition. I can empathize with Ms Deen, as I don’t go around blabbing my diagnosis to all and sundry either!

    Bottom line – WE CHOOSE what we cook and what we put into our mouths. Cooking programs are a form of fantasy – fun to watch, good for inspiration occasionally, meant to be adapted to our own needs and means.

    So continue whoopin’ and hollerin’ if it pleases you – maybe y’all will burn some calories that way…I’m going for a walk instead!

  • plilly64

    I really think people should leave Paula Deen alone. I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2007, I am not famous but I know the turmoil that I had to go through when accepting, deal with, and informing others of my condition. This diagnosis has not been a walk in the park. However, famous people are already under a microscope without having been diagnosed with diabetes.
    Paula had to come to terms with this diagnosis in her own time and way. I do not think that anyone who hasn’t walked in her shoes has the right to criticize her. God almighty is the only one that has that authority and not any human being that I know. I am rather proud of Paula for coming forward and trying to assist others by creating healthy food choices.
    Furthermore, any one with half a brain that has ever watched Paula Deen cook knew that her dishes weren’t healthy. She has said this many times. I actually have always loved to watch the lady but that doessn’t mean that I made the choice to prepare and eat those meals. It’s called common sense.

  • L. Griner

    I’ve been a Paula Deen fan for years. I was raised on cooking just like hers. I learned to cook the same foods. I was diagnosed with T2D about 2 1/2 years ago. I have 5 siblings, all older, none diabetic. Paula Deen did not give me diabetes. McDonalds did not give me high cholesterol. Morton Salt did not give me high blood pressure…I did. Personally, I admire her sharing her story. She didn’t have to, it’s none of our business. I see no deception in her actions, I am still trying to work out what works for me. She has my support, and just maybe, with her celebrity, some more good toward diabetes research can occur.

  • MaryLou Harms

    I was dx with Type 2 diabetes at age 68 (1 year ago); after I became critically ill. I have watched very closely what I eat since I take insulin. I try to figure out before I go to a restaurant. I know this isn’t always possible . I think Paula needs to take charge of herself and maybe create a new show just for diabetics. I know her son is working on changing his mother’s recipes but he doesn’t include the total carbs or sugar information. Good luck Paula

  • Tom Williams

    Paula Deen to me is nothing but a self-promoting phony.
    I lived in Savannah from 1990-1993. I ate in every establishment there during that time and I never heard of her. Queen of Savannah my rear end.
    I do no wish harm on anyone, but I do expect honesty and integrety from anyone who is a public figure.

  • L. Franken

    I am disgusted at some of the people who have written in to vilify Paul Deen. I have been a diabetic for over 10 years and thought at the time that it could not happen to me because I tried to keep fit and eat right. I found out that it isn’t all in how you keep in shape but how your body reacts to different things, Agent Orange didn’t help.. It is up to each individual to come to grips with their own problem. I read and study articles to better understand how to control my diabetes and not blame it on someone else.
    I also visited Lady & Sons in Savannah last year and found plenty to eat. I just did not pig out like so many people do when they eat off of a buffet.
    The people who complain the most are probably the same ones who want the government to take care of them and give them every thing without them having to work for it.

  • janie

    I have read all the above comments and agree with most of them. I used to love Paula Deen until she got so much in love with herself. I also am a Type 2 diabetic and I have followed Paula’s show every since she has been on TV. BUT, I know where my limits are and what I can and cannot eat, so I am responsible for what goes into my mouth. The same as all you other people. I also am a 7 year user of Novo Nordisk Insulin with no complaints until now. I was shocked that they would have Paula Deen sponsor them when she promotes the exact opposite way of eating when you are a diabetic. Now, what makes me feel really bad is that her two sons, Bobby and Jamie, are getting their own TV shows to redo all of their mommy’s recipes, covering up for her.Why don’t she stop traveling and making personal appearances on other programs and do some new shows showing us how she is going to change some of her recipes herself. I think Novo Nordisk should have her sign a contract that she will modify all her recipes before she brags about them on TV and then if she fails to do that, take her to court for misleading her followers. Better yet, insist she write another book with ALL proceeds going to the American Diabetes Assoc.
    And in this cookbook she could show two ways of cooking, one the diabetic way and one the southern way, so people can get the same taste from either dish. I know that is possible because I do it a lot.

  • Shirley

    Paula should not be condemned for not announcing her personal medical record earlier. I, too, am diabetic. Those who do not have the disease do not know that it can take many months, even years, to learn how this horrible disease affects each person. Our bodies react differently to the same foods. It is the responsibility of each one of us to choose the foods we eat. Paula has wonderful dishes which can and must be eaten in moderation. A wise adult would not need to be warned of this by Paula who is the cook, not the doctor.

  • Barbara Berger

    Please leave the poor woman alone. Like the rest of us diabetics, we have enough problems managing our condition. We do not need or want your criticism. Judge not… on your conditions and problem, and perhaps help someone that needs your help. There plenty of ways to do that!

  • Joyce

    I can not believe the lack of personal responsibility a lot of people seem to have. this is where people are responsible for their own choices. I have had diabetes for 24 years .I know I can not do some foods as they raise my blood sugar but that is a fact of life and so I eat so I feel good. We as a people want someone else to blame for our own lack of control.Parents area responsible for their child not living on a diet of soda and candy .I for one do not want big brother telling me what I can eat If you keep up the irresponsible behavior food will go the way of tobacco!

  • carol craven

    i think it is wrong for people to attack her.

    i dont think that the people who have done this, don’t understand what diabetes is, how insulin helps us, verses our food intake. Mine was aggraveted into existance from pancreatic cancer. i dont even eat foods that she has been cooking. I rarely eat on time. i have a disease, yes I am overweight, but i inherited this from my paternal grandparent. it just does not go away. i lost 169 pounds, but i still have this disease. i take lantus twice a day and r insulin when i eat something in restaurants i am not aware will hurt me by the way it is cooked. i learn by minutes, i resent the way people have attacked her.

    each dr is different in treatment, as each person is different with this disease. walk in a diabetics shoes before you point fingers.

  • jim snell

    Attacking Paula Deane is ridiculous.

    I am sure she will have valuable inside thoughts and suggestions as she moves forward.

    This society has totally ignored the fact that the hunter gatherer gene set/digestion system does not do energy balance internally and was left out by the gene optimization process thousands of years ago when optimizing against starvation to ensure the survival of human race.

    I am 60’s plus and NOBODY mentioned, taught about carbs and energy balance and ensuring one was not chronically oversupplying the body. The ADA didn’t and still in question if it does.

    Human body was bult to burn energy and hearty exercise needed to keep the temporary glucose stores of the skeletal muscle cells topping off and saturating the body.

    Human glucose regulation system of the blood system relies on insulin when issued will cause the transfer/storage of glucose to the temporary glucose stores of the skeletal muscles. Hearty exercise is crucial to keep this local stores glucose level burn’t down. They are one way – once loaded – not unloaded till exercise causes it to be burnt up.

    Paula Deanne did not cause all this diabetes problem, and in fact, if you are still getting extensive hearty exercise on the job/life working moving 2 ton stone blocks by hand for the pharoh’s projects, one should not have any issues. The rest of us using cars, couch potato tools – laptops, PCs and couch potato entertainment – video games, wide screen TV’s etc need to seriously scale back energy input and up the hearty exercise to prevent saturating the glucose stores of the human body. As these new couch potato tools and grain production have soared, so has type 2 diabetes.

    So lets get real!

  • Ferne

    I have watched Paula Deen for several years. Since being diagnosed but not revealing for 3 years she now says she has been advising moderation on her show. I thought I listened to her but never heard her say anything about moderation. I have quit watching her because to me she has become overbearing. Now she can not only make money on her show she can make money for a drug company. We need to watch her son’s show who is advocating healthy eating. Good for him.

  • Carol Christiansen

    Any person with common sense would know that no sane person would eat a complete Paula Deen meal daily, much less three such meals. I love watching Paula for her personality and have never tried one of her recipes.

    More importantly I remember my diagnosis, delivered without fanfare over the phone, and was given an appointment with the clinic endochrologist. The diagnosis leaves a person bewildered, and until it settles in enough for you to start researching and learning, the diagnosis isn’t exactly shouted from rooftops. When we find a reliable source such as Diabetes Self Management that provides HOPE, encourages diabetics, it brings to light this is a manageable issue.

    God Bless Paula. No one knows until he walks in the same shoes.

  • Laurelle A. Cummings

    Paula Deen has a right to promote southern cooking and prepare it as she sees it best. The fact that she has type II diabetes has nothing to do with her cooking show. People with diabetes know what they should and shouldn’t eat. Let the viewer beware. Viewers need to look after themselves and prepare and eat what is best for them.

    It reminds me of the people who sue McDonald’s for preparing food they know they shouldn’t eat. Give Paula a break here!!

  • Maximillian Titus

    I am a type 2 diabetic and as far as Paula Deen goes,it’s her life. If you watched her show before, nothing has changed. If people didn’t like the Bad stuff that she cooked and still may cook, then simply don’t watch the show. There is hardly any restaurants, chefs, or tv shows that cater to just diabetics anyway. Its a new lifestyle that has to be changed by you (diabetics) alone. Business is business, bravo for Paula Deen. Besides I still watch Paula Deen’s show sometimes and I still cook for the rest of my family and/or friends who aren’t Diabetic. Move on.

  • Susan

    Paula is not the cause of people having diabetes.
    People can chose to or not to eat the food she
    cooks. I just pray she is taking care of herself.
    I have type 2 diabetes and my mother had diabetes
    before I did. She did not take care of it and
    would not listen to her children. She has pasted
    away now after being in a home. Diabetes can be
    horrorable if not taken care of.

  • Alan Craig

    As far as I am concerned Paula Deen is entitled to her privacy in this matter. So she took her time telling the world about her diagnosis. She could have kept quiet about it. Since it is only a matter between her and her family and her doctor. It is frankly no one else’s business. Her life choices are hers and hers alone. As for what she cooks and what she eats she is a product of her upbringing.

  • Sharon Whitten

    Paula is entitled to her privacy in telling or not telling everyone that she is diabetic. The problem that everyone seems to have a opinion about is did she tell everyone that she was a diabetic before she ever was offered a very large amount of money (reported to be in the millions)to represent the insulin company or did she tell about her diabetes only because she was going to make lots and lots of money and and had to tell because she now was the new spokesperson for Novo Nordisk insulin and had to fulfill her contract.
    I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic the fall of 2005. It is my responsibility to take care of myself. I must say that I was disappointed about the timing of being a spokesperson for Nordisk and the telling of her disease. One article that I read said that her sons were upset because Paula was on another product and doing well for 3 years when she was approached about Nordisk and changed her protocal in order to be a Nordisk spokesperson.
    I was confused that Bobby had his new show in the works for awhile and in a way is dishing his mom’s recipes and all the while he knew that Paula’s recipes should be more healthy let alone be what Paula should be eating. It kind of comes off as a joke with his mom. The whole circle of events and timing was wrong but it is not my life or family or business. Just stating my observations that I know lots of people are seeing and hearing too.
    I have watched Paula for years (I’m 58 years old) and have learned alot of great tips and know that I can’t eat most of her recipes unless I adapt them for myself and that is OK. I still will continue to watch and I truly enjoy her personality and feel like she is right in my kitchen and part of my family.
    I hope everything settles down because diabetes is a life changing experience in its own right that Paula has to deal with, but can be managed well. It is a process and challenge daily but workable.
    My grandson (14 years old) just was diagnosed this past year with type 1 diabetes and I know with his disease, I am always looking for recipes that are healthy and great for him and I to share and know that there is always room for a great cook to share health-smart sensible recipes for so many millions of people to learn and try. Paula has an opportunity to share new healthy recipes, but that has to be her choice not my opinion. Paula has the personality to do anything she wants and I will continue to listen and try to adapt and just say no I can’t eat that or make that for me and my grandson. That’s my problem to figure out!
    In closing good luck to Paula Deen and family and my prayers are for you to be healthy and safe. Take care and I will do so with my family! (I have 13 grandkids)