By James Beckerman, MD, FACC
Paula Deen is having quite a week. Here’s the condensed version:
1) Paula Deen promotes a lifestyle associated with increased type 2 diabetes risk
2) Paula Deen develops diabetes.
3) Paula Deen endorses diabetes medication.
4) Everybody is talking about Paula Deen.
There is so much outrage and indignation in our tweets, blogs, and editorials as Paula Deen turns lemons into sweet, sweet lemonade. People are upset that she has not acknowledged — to their satisfaction — that bacon, egg and glazed donut burgers may have played some role in the development of her diabetes, or are frustrated that her pharmaceutical endorsement implies that a drug is the ideal solution to address a lifestyle problem.
But maybe we’re also upset because the joke is actually on us.
Paula Deen is not a role model for a healthy life, nor has she ever claimed to be. So why would we expect her to be one now? She is not a doctor with a financial interest in a drug company, nor is she a celebrity trainer endorsing diet pills. People have tuned in to her television shows for years not to learn how to eat more healthfully, but rather to escape into a world of sweets, salt, and fat. But now this role model for excess has become a victim of her own success.
And so have we.
The more we watch her shows, buy her books, and follow her recipes, the more we expose ourselves to the same risks. But a big difference is that pharmaceutical companies and the media are not coming to our rescue with sponsorships, renewed publicity, and fresh opportunities for future income. We are left on the sidelines, holding our half-eaten bacon, egg and glazed donut burgers, somehow surprised by our collective stomach aches.
Paula Deen has turned our missteps into her success. She has promoted a lifestyle that has not only impacted her health, but has also impacted ours. And rather than feed us real solutions, she appears to be playing a new game.
And unfortunately, we’re probably going to play too.