Around the Table: A Dinner Host's Responsibility With Paula Deen

By GabbyPA Latest Reply 2012-05-31 19:01:23 -0500
Started 2012-05-25 06:26:06 -0500

Rachel Garlinghouse
May 23, 2012

Recently, I was cuddling my sleeping toddler and watching a recorded episode of The View. If you've never seen the show, five well-known women discuss "hot topics" and interview guests. On the day I watched, their guest co-host was Paula Deen, the Southern chef who is best known for adding endless sticks of butter to her recipes.

Paula has been criticized for hiding her type 2 diabetes diagnoses from her fans. It is only in recent months that she's shared her disease and discussed it publicly. She's lost 30 pounds, as she stated on The View, and still enjoys comfort foods, but only one day a week. This is where the problem lies.

Now before I share the rest of Paula's story, let me tell you that I'm no saint. I have type 1 diabetes, and I work hard to keep it under control by eating a generally healthy diet, exercising daily, and getting enough sleep. But, I do have my faults. For one, I love dessert. For another, I love dessert. Oh, and did I mention, I love dessert?

I fight my dessert-obsession every day, and not just for my own benefit. I am raising two little girls who are watching my every move. How I react to my diabetes, how I speak of my body, even how I gaze at myself in the mirror, is being scrutinized and repeated by my children. They are learning how to view themselves and their health through me. Therefore, I understand that it's ok to mess up sometimes, but it's not ok to let all proverbial hell break loose. I am a role model for my girls and, therefore, I have a responsibility to treat my body in a way I wish for my girls to treat theirs.

Which brings me back to Paula. She continued by saying she allows herself to indulge just one day a week, the day her family comes over to her home to eat. My heart sunk a bit.
It amazes me how many family dining hosts believe that preparing and serving unhealthy foods to their family members is a way to show love. Gather around the table and heap your plate with steaming piles of fat and sugar. Once you are so full you could burst, here's some pie, cake, and cobbler. Would you like ice cream with that?

Paula stated on the show that she was shocked when the doctor told her she had diabetes. The show hosted a slew of other guests, many of them medical professionals, who shared the devastating effects of diseases like diabetes. As shared, diabetes is the gateway to many other major health problems—-stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, amputation, blindness—-the list goes on and on.

So why in the world would Paula, a woman who can afford the best medical professionals, a woman who can afford to buy the healthiest foods available, and a woman who can turn rocks into gourmet food, use Sundays to indulge herself and her family in her old habits, habits that lead her to a life-altering and potentially deadly disease?

No doubt, diabetes is confusing and misunderstood, and not just by the general public. Even many medical professionals are bewildered by diabetes and its complications. The diabetes web is cast over many aspects of life—-nutrition, exercise, sleep, hormones, other illnesses, medication, It's complicated. It's ever changing. It's exhausting.

However, once someone gets past the initial shock of the diagnosis and is becoming increasingly armed with knowledge, is there an excuse to not make positive and permanent changes in the way one prepares and serves meals to family members? At what point will someone like Paula decide that enough is enough, and that now is the time to create new family traditions that promote, not destroy, her family's health?

I'm not talking about a slice of pie or a serving of mashed potatoes. I'm talking about a continuous acceptance and promotion of an unhealthy lifestyle. 
You might picture a family dinner at Paula's house as a joyful and entertaining experience. At least I do. I imagine her home is like her—-full of Southern charm and incredible hospitality. Her dining room must be a dream, decorated like it's from Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I bet the home is noisy—-full of laughter stemming from family jokes and shrieks coming from the grandkids. It's a happy place where relatives plop on the couches to watch a ball game or sink onto a kitchen stool to watch Paula peel vegetables. There is probably much love and sharing.
The funny thing is this same experience can be had without unhealthy foods. Food, no doubt, is the center of many of our celebrations, even our times of mourning, such as a funeral dinner. Food brings people together. Over steaming plates, we laugh, we cry, we argue, we share, we learn, we joke. When did we decide that lean meats, raw veggies, homemade whole wheat bread, and a no-sugar added fruit cobbler wasn't enough? Why do we have to pour soda into grandkids' glasses instead of water? Why does the consumption of known unhealthy food and drink (known even to those who don't have diabetes) an acceptable form of loving?

The pro-diabetes food table will evolve over the years. (If you haven't heard already, the current generation of children will be the first to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.) More chairs will be empty, because family members will die of heart attacks or strokes. One family member, blind at the young age of fifty-five, is being lead to the table by her daughter. Meanwhile, a few children sit together on one end of the table; three of the four of them are overweight. They lack the energy to play outside, so instead they sit, each playing with their own hand held video game system, empty glasses of lemonade in front of them. An aunt wheels her husband to the table in his wheelchair; his left lower leg was amputated earlier that year due to his diabetes. Finally, grandma waddles into the scene. She's carrying a bowl of steaming white pasta, and she's out of breath from walking the few feet it takes to get from the kitchen to the dining room. She takes a seat in what used to be her husband's chair. 
And so it continues. But it doesn't have to.

I'm not saying it's easy to change, nor am asking anyone to eat perfectly healthy at all times. But I think it's time we stop sugarcoating the realty of diabetes and its complications. And it's also time to stop passing the disease on to children and grandchildren, one family dinner and one heaping plate at a time.
—-Information taken from ABC's The View from 5/21/2012

46 replies

Nick1962 2012-05-29 14:47:07 -0500 Report

Well, Paula Deen aside, I think the article made a different point. We were taught to eat this way and have been told it’s acceptable. Since the advent of television, very few cooking shows have ever focused on what might be considered healthy eating. I know in my youth the only people who ate “healthy” were hippies and vegans (which were usually the same thing). Even today I see very little that condemns fast food in the portions that are now served.
Yes we have free choice to consume as we wish, but that’s only half-true. A child whose parents either don’t know what a healthy meal is (or don’t care), is pretty much condemning that child by educating him/her with poor dietary habits that will be ingrained long before he gets to school and is told otherwise.

GabbyPA 2012-05-29 18:19:15 -0500 Report

I have to agree. I watch the Food Network...a lot. I get ideas there for all kinds of things and I am fearless in the kitchen, so adaptation is easy for me. But really, every chef on there cooks things we love to eat, but have no business putting in our mouths. Emril, Guy, Rachel, Alton, and even Bobby Flay. Our day will come.

For now, really healthy living is restricted to the internet. There is a lot out there, if we want to look. Vegan, Raw, Palental, and on and on. Once we find it, we just have to reprogram our brains. That is the hard part.

Nick1962 2012-05-29 18:33:01 -0500 Report

So true. But as much as I've invested in research, i still see such a disconnect between what we as a society knows is unhealthy and what we're willing to do to become healthy eaters.

GabbyPA 2012-05-29 18:37:52 -0500 Report

There is so much emotion tied to food, that is one of the huge problems. We use it to celebrate, to mourn, to show love and to ease loneliness. Food evokes strong memories and so it is not so much the food, but the feeling the food gives that makes us struggle so much. Those who have learned that you eat to live are miles ahead of the rest of us.

Nick1962 2012-05-29 18:57:01 -0500 Report

That's true, the comfort factor/quality of life issue is there, but why don't we see anyone coming forward and saying "hey, that KFC Double Down or Hardees Triple Thick burger really isn't good for you"?

GabbyPA 2012-05-29 19:08:15 -0500 Report

True, it's like when I watch Man vs Food. That show makes me want to puke. Really? Do people eat that much in a sitting? Gaggggg. But it is a sport. A challenge to show off. Why? I don't know. Maybe it's because we live in such abundance that we see food and sport and not necessity.

But we do live in a free society. (at least we used to) It all goes back to taking responsibility for our own choices. I don't want meddling in my private life, so it is up to me to make better choices. I cannot blame someone for the brownies I eat or give them credit for the salads I enjoy. It is my choice, and I really want to keep it that way.

The other thing is that options come into play. Don't get me started on why I think crap food is cheap and good food is expensive. But just like our dumbing down of education, we dumb down on food choices. People can be ignorant, but when you have to choose between a single healthy meal and 4 crappy ones, the rule of quantity will often win. It is sad, but it is where our society is at. And we are gladly sharing it around the world and increasing the girth of other countries with our western ways.

Nick1962 2012-05-29 19:17:10 -0500 Report

Well, it's said most great societies only last about 200 years. I guess we know what'll kill ours off.

Caroltoo 2012-05-29 15:20:37 -0500 Report

Very true, Nick. When I work with young mom's I'm really shocked at some of the total ignorance I run into w/r/t healthy food choices. I don't expect them to share my desire to eat organically and be chemical free as much as possible, but they don't even know the basics of how to get the nutrients they and their children need.

Nick1962 2012-05-29 18:05:28 -0500 Report

Not just ignorance, but total lazyness. Got a friend who's wife grew up in a family of 6 kids and mom always scratch cooked. She on the other hand can't to save her life and continues to by pizza abd fast food for family dinners during the week. Yes, the whole family is overweight by at least 100 lbs. each.
Question is, what can we do to stop it?

Nick1962 2012-05-29 18:30:14 -0500 Report

At least 100 pounds each. They can't fly - won't fit in seats - but yet the massacre continues and for one of them on the highest dose of Met allowable.

dietcherry 2012-05-29 21:24:22 -0500 Report

Nick would it be too intrusive for you to contact one of those TV weight-loss shows and ask for help for your friend and his family? Has The Biggest Loser ever featured an entire family??

Nick1962 2012-05-30 11:04:47 -0500 Report

Yes, in this case it would be intrusive. There’s already a good bit of strain on our relationship because of it. It goes way deeper than just a personal trainer. They all know the issue exists, and I got to the point (which was not correct on my part) that I said "if you’re going to continue to complain about it, I don’t want to hear it." Additionally, the environment/area they live in isn’t really supportive to a “healthy” lifestyle. Its depression and obesity rates are sky high (which is one reason I left), and quite frankly, thin, healthy people are viewed as elitist. About 70% of the population is in the same boat.
It’s not that they’re not active either; they’re probably more active than I am. This also has the negative effect of proving that even though they have a problem, it’s clear to them it’s not an issue.
The thing is I lived the same way and didn’t understand it until I left and got an outsider’s view of the community. I went through high school and college at times weighing as much as 300 pounds. Always had a girlfriend or at least female companionship, always managed to get to a job, partied, and lived life like anyone else, just fatter.
I’ve offered help, multiple times, to the point I have probably been harassing. I’ve recommended they check out our site. Like all of us here, there is a whole chain of things that will have to change, and unfortunately I think it’s come to the point where it’s going to take a life changing trauma to set it in motion. To compound this, each has different issues both medically and emotionally, so a single, group effort wouldn’t be beneficial.
To answer you next question; would it be worth risking the relationship to do something like has been suggested? Yes, because right now it’s pretty much circling the drain anyway. Unfortunately, the environment would quickly suck them back in. All I can do is offer up prayers.

Nick1962 2012-05-30 13:37:38 -0500 Report

Oh there's little sadness about it. It's a menatlly toxic environment that unfortunately many people just resign and adapt themselves to. The chain of events in my life at the time kind of opened my eyes.

Caroltoo 2012-05-30 14:57:26 -0500 Report

I mean: it's sad to consider that environments like that exist throughout communities. I've seen it in the isolated family, but not usually as a community value.

Nick1962 2012-05-30 15:28:30 -0500 Report

It is pretty common to small midwest towns. Winter keeps you inside half the year, so that's an automatic depressant for some. Add to that, even if you do well in school and go on to college, chances are if you want to earn more than 40K, you'll have to leave town or at best commute. Those that don't do well are pretty much trapped. And those that realize that become even more depressed, and of course food (and beer) is a sedative. More to Gabby's original post, the battle on depression is primarily just as the article points out, everyone gets together to cook/bake, then eat and drink. Diabetes is just an evetuality that many have come to expect.

Caroltoo 2012-05-30 15:40:38 -0500 Report

Sounds a little like the isolation I felt when I lived in rural WA for 10 years and had to adapt to the beautiful, but cold and isolating winter weather. I just didn't have the groups of people to reinforce the negatives, so it played out much differently. My excessive habit is reading, not eating and drinking.

Nick1962 2012-05-30 15:51:52 -0500 Report

Isolation is a big factor along with complacency. Roughly only 10% of the workforce holds any type of professional degree, so reading isn't really a hobby. I didn't start reading for pleasure until after I left, and that alone was a whole new world to me. Sadly, these are not lazy ignorant people, but in an effort to maintain a comfort zone, they just get sucked into it and perpetuate the lifestyle.
Of the 150 in my graduating class, only about 5% still live there.

Caroltoo 2012-05-30 16:14:17 -0500 Report

I hope the other 95% who have left the area, have also made significant changes in the thought pattern, as you have. Hopes aren't high for that, but we can hope.

Nick1962 2012-05-30 16:35:22 -0500 Report

Of those we've tracked, the majority have gone on sucessfully. In viewing pictures from the last reunion, most have picked up the age related weight, but the "outsiders" are all pretty healthy. Even those that didn't move far away seem to be living lives completely different.

Caroltoo 2012-05-29 22:57:48 -0500 Report

Great idea! I think Biggest Looser has only done 2 from a family: mother, daughter; father, son; brother, sister. There is another program on Sunday that might be more family oriented because it works with a person in the home following a period in the out-of-home setting. Oh, help me someone, can't recall what this one is called. Nick: are you familiar with it, maybe?

dietcherry 2012-05-29 23:05:42 -0500 Report

I know what youre talking about! Hes a personal trainer/diet coach-type and works with the person for several months and rewards them along the way if they reach goals, yes?
I would love to see this family get turned around; my heart weeps for them.

Caroltoo 2012-05-29 23:19:16 -0500 Report

Yes, that's who I'm thinking of. I think he works with each one for a year. Yes, it is sad. I wonder if they know it's a problem? Sometimes self perceptions are very well defended from facts.

Just Joyce
Just Joyce 2012-05-27 17:06:39 -0500 Report

I don't watch the view. Not one of those women has anything worthwhile to say in my own opinion. I don't care about how they live, where they live, who they are involved with or any of the lives of celebrities on the show. The only one with a brain on the show is Whoopie. I was in my local Safeway Supermarket looking at a can of White Hominy when a woman asked me how to cook it and what it tastes like. I turned and it was none other than Whoopie Goldberg. Very polite and friendly. I ran into Oprah many years ago at the gas station. She lost the screaming match we had. She thought she was so important that I would wait for service. She found out she was wrong. I have no interest in lives of celebrities their job is to entertain me once the entertainment is over, I have no interest in them.

I don't knock Paula because she takes one day out of the week to indulge. My doctor told me to do the same thing. Even though I can do this doesn't mean I go all out, I have had my fried chicken and fries today. Diabetes isn't a death sentence and if a persons numbers are in a range where they can indulge one day a week so be it.

Yes she can afford the best medical care there is but I think people forget she is still a human being and no better than any of us. I don't care what she cooks or eats because it is her life to live as she chooses.

Not every diabetic can indulge as some of us can. After all we are each different when it comes to having the disease. So if Paula bakes a triple fudge chocolate cake and deep fries it and eats the entire cake, let her. There isn't anything we can do to stop her but only she will suffer for it in the end. Hope she gives me a sliver before she fries it.

Holly hoffman
Holly hoffman 2012-05-26 20:04:07 -0500 Report

Funny my Dr also told me to take one day out of the week and eat what i like to example chips and dip. So i don't knock Paula Deen for what she has done.And besides everyone's body is different!

GabbyPA 2012-05-26 20:51:35 -0500 Report

Specially if it keeps you from going off the deep end. Sometimes total abstinence is hard and sets us up for failure. You are right, everyone is different and how we deal with our disease is custom made for each of us.

pixsidust 2012-05-26 14:24:25 -0500 Report

Paula Deen gets TV time.
My DC family here gets my attention and love.
You are my hero's, my examples and have the best ideas!
We can help each other to make it through all the needed changes!!

Paula Deen, I am worn thin on hearing about her, it does not matter either way what she does. I do not dislike her or like her but its just overkill keeping her in the news

cindygal1 2012-05-25 10:07:10 -0500 Report

Even I myself give myself one night a week to have Pizza, but the rest of the time we stick to a strick diabetic diet, and one of Paula's son has taken a lot of her receipes and turned them into food that a diabetic can eat. It seems ev eryone is knocking her without knowing all of the fact. Everyone will break a rule ever once in awhile but that doesn't make it all bad. How often do you have desert or serve it to your kids. Have a heart and give Puala a break.

jayabee52 2012-05-25 07:47:38 -0500 Report

Rachel's points are well taken, however isn't she turning into the "diabetes police" the food critics most PWDs love to hate?

I don't necessarily agree with what Ms Dean is doing either, but if she needs to have one day of indulgence to feel more human again, I support her in it, and pray that she eventually weans herself down to perhaps one treat every so often.

As most of you know already I am a long time Person with Diabetes (PWD) who had started on oral meds and needed to be put on insulin due to kidney issues. I now am managing my Diabetes Mellitus (DM) type 2 without the use of DM meds simply through what I eat and avoid eating using the insulin my pancreas produces. I have been doing that now for about 1.5 yrs. It took me about 14 yrs of wandering around in the wilderness of DM, and coming on DC here for about 2.5 yrs and see how others handled their DM, before I could even hope to do what I am doing now: Manage my DM without the use of meds.

Ms Dean is just a newbie to DM. I pray that she gets some good information and that she may even come to DC and get a good feel for this place and its people. Perhaps then she could do what is needed to manage her DM the best way for her particular manifestation of this hydra-headed disease.

I suggest that we all give Ms Dean some "space" to develop and grow into a better PWD.

I may not win many "likes" or kudos for this viewpoint, but that is the way I see it.

GabbyPA 2012-05-25 06:27:16 -0500 Report

I think she needs to hang out with her one son who is revamping her recipes to make them healthier. (though not 100% healthy, they are better)

jayabee52 2012-05-25 09:47:28 -0500 Report

as said above, I think she needs to hang out with US on DC, even though with the criticism she has received here it might be personally painful for her. I know I'd certainly welcome her warmly!

June Tademy
June Tademy 2012-05-28 19:30:58 -0500 Report

Me too James. I think people should ease up on her. WE all have done the wrong things in eating, exercising, etc., we just were not on the front page for the world to see and give their opinions, thank goodness:)

GabbyPA 2012-05-28 20:51:30 -0500 Report

Oh yes, THANK GOODNESS is right! OMG, I would not want my every move put in the public eye. YIKES.

GabbyPA 2012-05-25 21:54:23 -0500 Report

Me too. It's so hard to find positive articles about her, and that has to hurt. I posted it because it was news, but I would really love to see her really find her way to helping other diabetics. But it may not be her calling.