More than a year ago, I gave Paula Deen a pretty rough review for the way she announced a very serious diagnosis, and what she planned — at least publicly — to do about it (see “What Paula Deen Should Have Said“).
I lamented the fact that she didn’t use the spotlight to shed light on some staggering statistics about diabetes and obesity in our country. I wept over her flippant note to people about how she was just going to lighten up some recipes and take a few pills. And I even wrote the letter I thought she should have shared.
I stand by that post. I think she had an opportunity to really stand up and tell America that the type of eating she and so many of us do or have done is not only unhealthy, it’s unsustainable and it’s frankly ignorant. And I think she wasted that initial opportunity.
But even in the post, I acknowledged that this was a longterm platform for her, and I kept the door open for her to impress me.
She’s walked through it. This week, I had the opportunity to attend a special Paula Deen event (put on by a Growing Bolder client, Florida Hospital’s Healthy 100 program) and I really hoped I’d hear a stronger message.
(note: this was a free event, open to everyone, and I was not required to post about it)
And I did. Hallelujah. As a health activist, I’m thrilled. As a Paula Deen fan, I’m ecstatic. As a producer, I’m glad that she’s found a way to keep her Paula personality while inspiring millions of people to make some changes.
At the event, where Healthy 100 announced a new “Approved” menu at more than a dozen Orlando-area restaurants, Paula was perfection. She shared some very personal notes about her diabetes diagnosis, including the fact that she’d known about it for more than a year before the Novo Nordisk team approached her (they didn’t know she had diabetes — they just wanted her to create some new recipes for them!) and that she has really had to commit to portion control and exercise in addition to the medication.
For example: Paula told the crowd that during a shopping trip with a girlfriend, she overindulged on food — she ate a cheeseburger and fries followed by frozen yogurt and marshmallow cream. When she got home and tested, her blood sugar had skyrocketed. Remember, this all happened despite the medication she takes. So she put on her sneakers and took a fast-paced walk. By the time she finished, her levels had dropped significantly.
Healthy food choices + exercise + medicine = a healthy, happy Paula Deen.
She told us how scared she was to hear the bad news from doctors, especially since her parents had died in their 40s. She talked about wanting to live not only a long life, but a healthy one (especially
for her grandchildren). And she urged people to take a hard look at their own lifestyles and make some changes.
And she made some suggestions that I think may help people who are intimidated by the idea of a major overhaul (use wheat tortillas instead of flour and spices instead of heavy sauces on chicken fajitas).
Gone were the excuses, and in were the healthy tips with a Paula Deen twist. I was really impressed. She made me laugh. She made me think. And she made me thankful that she’s taken the mantle on a very important issue.