Dining With Miss Lil: A Little Paula Deen In All of Us

By Lil Nickelson

Leave Paula Dean alone! Just because she is a celebrity chef/restaurant entrepreneur that cooks like our Grandmothers and Mothers does not mean she had to share her health condition as soon as she was informed that she had become a type 2 diabetic. She has the God given right to keep her health issues private until she is ready to deal with them publicly. The fact that she became financially rich on cooking Southern cuisine and that a lot of us grew up eating shouldn’t justify her being “attacked” by others in the media.

We always want to blame the eating practices of Type 2 diabetics as the reason they have diabetes. Some are naïve enough to believe it was caused because they ate too many sweets. We don’t want to acknowledge that as a nation our portion sizes of food and sugary beverages have increased while our exercise levels have decreased as the main reasons that 2/3rds of the American population are overweight and unhealthy.

We don’t want to acknowledge that our going from small farms to our current method of factory produced food supplies has changed us physically as well. Keeping the animals warehoused in confined areas and pumped up with feed and drugs to make them grow bigger and faster is impacting us negatively, because you are what you eat.

We don’t want to acknowledge personally that diabetes may be a part of our own family medical history and what that means we have to do if we want it to pass us by. Diabetes has reached epidemic levels in places like NYC (which includes Harlem). We wonder why the “kids of today” are getting bigger, and develop faster than we did. Could it have anything to do with all of the “processed foods” they have been fed? Can we admit that we don’t know if “what’s in it” is blowing them up?

Parents today buy more “fast food” for their kids to eat on a daily basis than parent of the 1950’s and 1960’s. We don’t know which or how many of the “whole meal in a box wonders” contain genetically engineering foods because the FDA does not presently require food manufacturers to disclose this information.

Paula Deen signing a deal with a diabetic drug manufacturer means she has found a way to pay for her additional health care costs, and that is a good thing. Do you know how many additional health care professionals Paula will have to visit annually as a diabetic? Podiatrist, ophthalmologist, and a nutritionist are three I can name off the top of my head.

The drug companies give out the blood glucose meters for free when you are diagnosed because they will make a fortune off of you purchasing the over the counter test strips if you test yourself as often as you should. For some diabetics, weight loss could reverse their diabetes permanently like the former GOP presidential candidate and Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee. But some of the drugs contain blockers that prevent you from losing weight. Why is that ingredient put in the drugs you wonder; to maintain their revenue flow!!

Did you know that most diabetics have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol issues as well? Additional medications will have to be taken for these conditions. Addition testing will be required every three months to make sure the meds aren’t damaging other major organs. Some of the diabetes medications also make your skin more sensitive to indirect and direct sunlight so you will need to wear sun block as long as you are on them.

Celebrities cash in on their afflictions when companies are willing to pay them all the time. I didn’t even know that some of the stars like Vanessa Williams, and Diddy had acne problems until I saw them on the Proactiv skin care commercials. Look at some of the celebrities that are cashing in on weight loss programs right now: Janet Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, and Mariah Carey. How many reality television shows are on that deal with losing weight (like Celebrity Fit Club or The Biggest Loser)? Long time soap operas like All My Children and One Life to Live have gone off the air and been replaced with shows like The Chew and The Revolution that try to connect what you eat, with how you burn it off, look and feel about yourself as their main theme.

Still, Paula Deen is going to have to deal with being a diabetic and what that means every day just like the rest of us that don’t have a TV deal. The deal won’t make her any more disciplined to make right choices each day; only God can do that, and that is only if she chooses to be obedient. But let’s face it; some days you feel like a nut and sometimes you don’t. You can only pray that you can string enough good days together that your A1C test score is below 6. Ask a diabetic what that means if you don’t know.

Bottom line, her coming forward with the changes she has been gradually making in her life can encourage others to make changes in their lives because they can identify with how she has cooked and eaten most of her life. Her cooking has brought her fame and I hope that she can teach how to maintain great taste in healthier recipes to come.

Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center, 1150 Saint Nicholas Avenue, New York, NY 10032, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, (212) 851-5494 ‎ nbdiabetes.org

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