For those of you who are unfamiliar with Paula Deen, she has a cooking show on Food Network. She has a loud, brash personality and specializes in tempting but not particularly healthy treats. One of her recipes is, no kidding, two cans of peas and a stick of butter. Really. No, really.
Not surprising, Ms. Deen is not svelte. She's a tad hefty. And has recently been diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. In a recent interview, she states:
"I have always eaten in moderation," she said. "You know, people see me on TV two or three times a day and they see me cooking all these wonderfully Southern, fattening dishes. That’s only 30 days out of 365," she said. "And it’s for entertainment. And people have to be responsible. Like I told Oprah a few years ago, honey, I’m your cook, not your doctor. You are going to have to be responsible for yourself."
Here is my response.
I am sad to hear that like many Americans, you have developed Type II Diabetes. Diabetes can be debilitating, but on the positive side it can often be well controlled with healthy eating and exercise.
As a celebrity cook on Food Network, you have an excellent platform from which to advocate. I read with dismay that you do not plan to use this platform to educate your viewers and encourage them to eat a healthier diet. You intend to continue to feature food which may be delicious, but are certainly not healthy choices.
I understand that this is how you made your fortune, highlighting tempting treats that aren't for everyday consumption. As you described your burger served on a Krispy Kreme donut bun - "you only get one." Moderation is certainly key to any healthy diet. And there's nothing wrong with an occasional treat.
But how many American families plan their meals from your cookbooks, enjoying the tasty treats within? How many struggle to control their weight, control their diabetes, struggle with heart disease, asthma, and many other conditions associated with obesity?
Not everyone can stop at one.
Yes certainly viewers are responsible for their own dietary actions. But as a public figure you also have some responsibility for educating and encouraging your viewers. Maybe you won't make so much money that way. Maybe people won't be so entertained. But don't you owe anything back to the viewers who made your fortune?
Your attitude strikes me as defensive. Perhaps your are in denial about how much your recipes have contributed to your own condition. Perhaps you are worried that your career is at stake.
Your son has recently launched a show on a different network, creating healthier versions of your fat and sugar laden recipes. It's obviously a viable model for a cooking show, so why not move in a similar direction yourself?
It also strikes me as an incredibly selfish outlook. You made a fortune from fattening treats, and when evidence of the negative effects of eating these treats is brought before you, you can only push off responsibility onto your viewers.
I can only hope that as you make lifestyle changes, you might consider sharing what you've learned with your audience.