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Paula Deen is not a food role model

February 5, 2012
The Mining Journal

Idon't watch too much TV. The hand-me-down 20-inch boxy screen in my apartment is only connected to a DVD player, so I can watch seasons of shows, if I feel inclined to rent or purchase them (ahem, "NCIS").

But if I really feel like vegging out in front of the tube for an hour or so, I'll head to my parents' house and flip on the Food Network. I've been working quite successfully over the past year to find other things to do with my time than watch TV, but the Food Network is something I could sit and watch for hours.

Whenever I read about the various Food Network celebrities outside of something directly connected to the channel, I usually check it out, because, hey, it's nice to feel like you know something about pop culture sometimes.

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Anyway, a few weeks ago, Paula Deen, one of the Food Network hosts, announced she has diabetes, and has had it for about three years. And that she's now a spokesperson for a company that makes medication to treat diabetes.

Enter a chorus of criticism, particularly from fellow chef Anthony Bourdain, calling Deen out for continuing to host shows dedicated to unhealthy foods even when she knew she was suffering from a chronic condition that affects so many Americans.

If you know anything about Paula Deen, it's probably that she's all about Southern cooking and gratuitous use of butter. Turn on any one of her shows and she's likely to be found waxing poetic about her love of sugar, fried things, mayonnaise - basically it'll sound absolutely delicious and (literally) heart-stopping.

So I guess I feel like it might be a legitimate criticism to say she should model more common sense recipes and diet. She has probably millions of fans and it would probably be nice if, realizing her food may have contributed to her own health condition, she addressed that by providing healthier alternatives. Ok, I'll buy that.

It would be equally nice if every politician, recording artist, actor and other public figure modeled moral and ethical behavior. But we all know that isn't how things work.

Paula Deen is in the entertainment business. She sells food entertainment and she sells it pretty dang well. Half the fun of watching her shows is seeing what kind of outrageous recipes she's going to make for that particular segment.

Why all the uproar? Paula Deen's food has always been unhealthy, before she had diabetes, after she developed it and apparently committed the heinous sin of not telling the entire country (can't say I blame her), now that everyone knows she has it. She shouldn't need to get sick for people to be like, "Hey, those peanut butter cup brownie s'mores probably aren't a healthy everyday food choice." It should be pretty dang obvious to anyone who has watched five minutes of her show.

Why isn't anyone jumping on Guy Fieri for the recipes and restaurants he showcases on "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives"? I can't say any of that food is something I want to eat on a regular basis. Why is it OK to be upset with Paula Deen, but be OK with shows like "Cupcake Wars" and "Man vs. Food"?

All these are intended to be entertainment. Paula Deen isn't a doctor or a nutritionist, she isn't forcing people to make her recipes. And if you thought for some reason that eating your way through a Paula Deen cooking show every day was good for you, sorry, but you get zero sympathy from me.

What I find more disturbing than the fact that she has diabetes or that she's now apparently helping to sell the medication is the fact that we've allowed ourselves to become so detached from what health is.

We shouldn't need experts to tell us that we need to eat smaller portions or that we need to move our bodies in order to be healthy. We shouldn't need documentaries that point out that eating fast food every day makes us not function properly.

We, myself included, should care enough about ourselves to become our own food role models, and there are more and more resources out there to help us do that. Try "Food Rules" by Michael Pollan. Try the Internet. Find sources you trust.

It's common sense, y'all.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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