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Does Paula Deen Have a Social Responsibilty?

January 25th, 2012 by MomsLA

Does Paula Dean have a social responsibility?There has been a fire storm surrounding the controversy of Paula Deen’s recent public announcement that she is diabetic. Many suffers of diabetes are calling her a hypocrite for continuing to promote high fat and high sugar foods while knowing that she is suffering from diabetes.

Paula Deen has a unique opportunity to use her television show to help teach people how to turn around their diets. Instead, she is promoting drugs and plans to continue to prepare food similar to the way she has for years. What she does not know, is that while drugs can help mask the symptoms of diabetes, it cannot prevent the disease from taking a life.

I was extremely close to my Grandfather growing up as a child. When my Grandfather got diagnosed with diabetes – his life changed forever. Although he did everything to change his diet habits, exercise and take his medications – the disease slowly took his life. I had to grow-up watching him slowly get his body dismantled with amputation after amputation. He would have to go every day and sit in a chair for hours of dialysis. The disease slowly killed him in a way that I felt was the most horrible way to die. He suffered for years up until the day that his kidneys finally failed. He died just a body without limbs in horrible pain. Hours before he died he whispered into my ear, “Do whatever it takes to prevent this from happening to your children.”

Now, I am watching the same painful experience slowly happening to my father too. When I go into his bathroom, it resembles a pharmacy, with drug bottles covering the counter. The amputations have just begun with the lose of his first toes. If he does not change his lifestyle, it will slowly be followed by more amputations. He has tried to change his eating habits and manage his weight, but it is not easy.

The disease is almost unstoppable.

I feel that Paula Deen has a social responsibility to help guide her followers to change their eating habits. It is heartbreaking to think about the amount of people who are losing their lives today, because of the high sugar deserts that she made look so desirable on her show.

The bigger problem is that many people do not know how to change their eating habits. It is like a circling drain that keeps sucking people in. People might attempt to eat healthy, but then watch a celebrity on television encouraging them to eat a 3,000 calorie piece of cake.

Paula Deen is quickly going to learn that no matter how much medication she takes, that unless she makes drastic diet changes she will also start to feel her life slip away just like my Grandfather.

I hope that she makes the powerful decision to use herself as an example to help encourage people to change their eating habits, using her social status to make a difference in the world.

Shelby is the author of Glitterful Felt Stories, where she writes about parenting, work-life balance, healthy eating, and life as a Mom. She is also a columnist for a local newspaper and various magazines. She has three little children under the age of nine, and lives in Orange County, California.

MomsLA (499 Posts)


  1. I’m not sure I would say it is her responsibility. It’s definitely an opportunity though. One that is likely to earn her a lot more money than staying the high fat, high sugar course.

    I’m not so quick to judge because so many factors make a diabetic. High fat, carb laden foods contribute to the disease but don’t cause it directly. A combination of genes and diet do. Overindulging can occur with healthier food to negative effect as well.

    Personally I’d love to see her address her own issues and discuss plans for modifying some recipes and keeping others as is, but enjoying them with conscious moderation. I think it would be a good message and good for her career.

    But she’ll be criticized no matter what she does. She’s being seen as struck down by the gods of diet with this disease. We’ll never really know whether she “deserves” it for her unhealthy recipes, because who knows if she ate all that stuff all the time. It’s not fair to assume she did. Maybe she just got dealt a bad deck of genes and didn’t do enough to prevent it.

    Julia Child promoted rich foods for special occasions but never faced this sort of scrutiny. It’s somewhat unfair.

    Poor Rachael Ray. She’d better go for a Glucose Tolerance and cholesterol test stat before the food gods start eyeing her up.

    • That is a really good point about Julia Child. Her recipes were very rich – yet she remained healthy. I wonder how much the change in our food supply for the 20th century impacts diabetes?

  2. Adrienne Van Houten

    I too am on the fence with this. What bothers me the most is that she has known about this for THREE years. I understand her wanting to take time to figure things out with her family, but furing that time perhaps her shows could have been scaled back and reworked. I also think the timing was “perfect” in that her son’s new show premiered at the same week as her announcement. When everything you do is revolved around publicity and marketing you lose your credibility with me.

  3. I think it should be her responsability to her fans.
    I mean meals are a recipe for gaining weight, she should be an active spokesperson to help reduce the obesity rate in this country!

  4. I love paula but I know better than to follow her recipes since they are so unhealthy. I respect what’s she’s accomplished in her life but that’s about it.

  5. She has said before in interviews that she did not eat that way every day nor was it meant for her food to be eaten every day.
    Would it be good for her to do some good episodes on diabetic meals and become a role model? Yeah. Does she have to? No.

  6. I do think she has a responsibility to her audience. She’s known for quite a while about her own diabetes. And her public announcement comes just as she’s being paid to promote a diabetes medication. Her recipes are over the top unhealthy and while her audience should be able to figure this out for themselves, she’s been a highly respected chef through her shows, books and more. She chose to be a public figure and there’s a certain responsibility that comes with that role. She’s acted without integrity and should be taken to task.

    We joke about her recipes–that every one of them has to contain a whole cup of butter, sourcream and shortening or it’s just not Paula Deen. Somehow, this isn’t seeming quite so amusing to me today.

  7. As a nutritionist as well as chef who loves food, 2 things bother me here. 1) Paula knew about her diabetes for 3 years, but continued to get more rich and more famous by encouraging other people to eat rich fatty food. 2) She partnered with a drug company, rather than a non-profit that promotes fruits & veggies or healthy eating in general. It’s so sick that she’s using her scenario to profit. I’m all about delicious food, but these two things disgust me. She’s lost her endearing appeal if you ask me.

  8. It would have been nice of her to tell people (maybe inspired or helped some of her fans)- but no.

    Even if she wasn’t diabetic that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of her food is unhealthy. I am hoping the general public is educated enough to know regardless of her own health, they should refrain from eating this daily.

  9. The whole Paula Deen thing bugs me and I would be happy if people ignored her instead of giving her more attention – the attention that her drug company is more than happy to capitalize on. That said, Shelby, it was very brave of you to share such a personal story about your grandfather. You have my sympathy and respect.

  10. Shelby thank you for sharing your personal story, I cannot imagine what you and your family are going through, I have a long story in diabetes in my family and I need and should start taking big steps to prevent it. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    Regarding Paula, I think it would be a great opportunity for her to use her social presence and food knowledge to create healthy recipes, it seems she has decided not to. Sad.

  11. I think she has every right not to share her private life. However, what is alarming is that she came out with the story at the same time she started promoting a pharmaceutical diabetes aid.

  12. I think expecting Paula to change her whole brand is lot to ask for. However, it would be nice to see her incorporate healthier options more often than not to balance and embrace a change. She has a tough road ahead of her — it’ll be interesting to watch how it all unfolds.

  13. This is tough…..while she chooses to be in the public’s view, she has a right to privacy about something like this which is so incredibly difficult and personal. While I definitely know better than to consumer the foods she promotes, I think there is equal responsibility….her to promote healthier foods and me, the consumer to make wise, discerning food choices.

  14. I dont think it is her responsability. I think she has the opprotunity to, but at the end of the day, this is her job and we all do things that we dont like or want to do – at our jobs.

  15. We are so hard on people who seem to not take their own advice — or those who run from what their lives have become. Paula built an empire on butter, shortening and decadence, not on whether it was healthy for her or us. To chop her down as hypocritical is not fair because, in each of us, we have a bit of hypocrisy, too. I have some health issues that could benefit from taking better care of myself. While I try to do just that, I do not follow any to a T.

    However, I think that Paula is in a unique position of have great influence, and that in changing her own life and modifying her recipes, she could be a great example for people everywhere struggling with diabetes and other endocrine/metabolic health issues.

    - Julie

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