Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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For Paula Deen, both sympathy and ire

The Paula Deen diabetes debacle has stirred interest from every camp imaginable. Last week, I wrote a column about what I thought and asked readers to share their own opinions.

To recap — as if we can't recite the story in our sleep — the Food Network celebrity revealed last month that she'd been diagnosed with diabetes three years ago. When she went public with the news, she also announced that she had an endorsement deal with Novo Nordisk, which manufactures the medication she takes.

Media reaction has been swift and mostly negative. How could she go on with her Southern-fried TV show without telling viewers? Why did she time her announcement to a moneymaking deal? Is it all about the money?

Tampa Bay Times readers have questions and opinions, too, ranging from "Stop blaming her from your health problems" to "I'll never watch her show again." About 100 readers shared their thoughts, many of them saying to leave her alone. Here's a sampling of comments, some edited for length.

"I don't think Paul Deen's health issues are anyone's business but her own. The idea that she should have 'come clean' is preposterous! She doesn't OWE her readership/followers any personal information — only recipes! Consumers can then use them or not."

Stephanie Graham, St. Petersburg

"Paula is not responsible for what we eat or even that we overeat. We are all being bombarded by ads in every media form promoting food items high in sugar, fat, sodium and calories and as adults we need to pick and choose and practice moderation. … I have no trouble fiddling with Paula's or any recipe to reduce the sugar, fat, sodium or calorie content. I use the recipes as a jumping off point to be creative in the kitchen."

Kathy Frontz, Trinity

"I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes probably around the same time as Paula. I am an overweight, fairly active middle-aged woman, and the diagnosis knocked me on my extra-padded butt! I made huge changes and put me first, walking miles everyday. But I didn't have to smile for the camera as every Tom, Dick and Harry, including Anthony Bourdain, took jabs at me. … I would like to ask everyone to walk in Ms. Deen's shoes for just one week. It's not easy being the jolly chubby girl with a lifetime challenge. Of course, should you talk to Ms. Deen please tell her I've been tweaking recipes and would love to share a few with her."

Lisa Liberi McGarvey,

St. Pete Beach

"I thought the bodyguard and chinchilla coat was a little bit much for entrance for NBC Today Show."

Dorothy Saunders,

New Port Richey

"Don't make Paula your scapegoat for healthy eating. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of Paula's kitchen."

Barbara Siterle, Spring Hill

"… As for people blaming her cooking style for their weight issues, isn't that just so typical these days — 'oh, it can't be my fault, I blame (fill in the blank).' How about a little self-restraint, folks!!! And that goes for everyone who blames KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, etc."

Sue Conrad,

North Redington Beach

"In your article, you also mention Paula Deen's story and her roots. I often think about the relationship between our roots and our food habits. Most of us came to our food likes and dislikes from our family background, and of course two generations ago, lard and sugar were plentiful, cheap and good fillers, especially as most folk were naturally more active daily. Now, we don't need fillers, we need good nutrition and extra activity to help us burn any excess intake off. It seems as if our food 'experts' have not yet come to grips with these changed circumstances and needs."

Veronica Weir, Zephyrhills

"This whole situation screams greed, and it sickens me. Paula endorses the outrageous diet because it was so profitable regardless of the influence of bad eating habits on her followers and in a country with an obesity problem. I am disgusted with her, to say the least. We certainly don't need her as a spokesperson for diabetes after her career of promoting (unhealthy) recipes."

Alice Ward, Tampa

"I am from Texas and can turn on the drawl anytime I choose to impress or confound people. This isn't about authentic Southern cooking. It's about greed. Her face and name are everywhere. I turn her off when I'm surfing channels."

Martha Smith, St. Petersburg

"I could not disagree with you more. Paula Deen used people to make lots of money. Super-sizing, lard, butter, sugar, etc., are costing all of us. Some people are obese, but we are all paying for their care. Diabetics who don't take care of themselves cause the rest of us to pay for their medical care. People must be responsible and have self-discipline. Say 'no' to what is bad for you."

Martha C. Minahan, Tampa

"I find it so 'overwhelmingly charitable' that Paula Deen will donate 'part' of the money made from Nova Nordisk and give it to the American Diabetes Association! Kudos to Rachael Ray for donating the entire proceeds from her line of pet foods to aid in the support of pet foundations. And poor Rachael does not even own a restaurant!"

D. Monte, Seminole

"I cannot think of her and her team messing this up more than they have, but it was her, and her team, no one else. Paula Deen is not evil, but size 20 clothes make her 'moderation' claims farcical, at best, outright lies at worst. The timing of her diagnosis, her son's new 'lighter' show, her sponsorship, her foolish 'God told me to wait' line, not to mention a multimillionaire 'giving a portion' of her endorsement fee to charity, smacks of shameless opportunism and outright greed." Mike Benninger,

Burlington, Ontario

"I am shocked and sickened by the venom directed at Paula Deen since her announcement. Is this how we treat people with illnesses these days? When somebody gets cancer do we say, 'So what, you must have deserved it?' Not only can I understand why she waited so long, I am surprised that she ever chose to go public."

Karen Marr, St. Petersburg

"I believe Paula Deen is completely entrenched at the top of the Food Network, and while her position may teeter a little, I don't think it will negatively impact her brand that much, certainly not knocking her off the 'food pyramid.' Unfortunately, her handling of this has knocked her completely off mine, and I am so sorry to have to say that."

Paula Hochman, Clearwater

"I have never made one of Paula Deen's recipes (I am quite familiar with the kitchen) but enjoy watching most of her shows as she has a flamboyant personality and entertains the audience quite effectively. That's all I see the TV shows as: entertainment. While she does sell cookbooks, people with any sense should know that you can't eat her show's type of cooking every day and live to tell the tale."

Christine James, Largo

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