Queen Of Butter’s Big Fat Secret

Paula Deen, the self-proclaimed Queen of Butter, finally came out and said it: She’s got type 2 diabetes.

Why, thank you, Paula Deen. Thank you very much. Thanks for admitting you have a serious disease caused in part by the unhealthy recipes and lifestyle you promote and continued to promote for three years after you were diagnosed.

Thanks, Paula Deen, for keeping your diagnosis a big secret even from your Food Network bosses, apparently, while lining up your cool little endorsement deal with Novo Nordisk, a diabetes medication.

And mahalo for your thoughtfulness and commitment to your fans. You knew your devotees didn’t want to see anything as boring as a change to healthy eating. You knew going healthy would be a bummer, and would probably spell the beginning of the end of your financial gravy train. So you obliged us by merrily advocating your tasty recipes. What a trooper! You must love us a lot!

OK, I admit I’ve never really been a fan of Paula Deen. But I did make her Gooey Butter Cake once. And I liked her folksy charm.

Now I have to grab the remote when her show comes on. Because, well, the woman makes me sick.

Our own Leslie Lam, executive director of the Hawaii chapter of the American Diabetes Association, says she’s heard that reaction a lot. She actually is a little kinder than I am in her assessment of Deen.

“Well, unfortunately, Paula Deen falls in alignment with people who are in disbelief, or they have become newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and maybe they’re not ready to actually make any changes in their life. We do see that, unfortunately, even though people are diagnosed with type 2 or pre-diabetes, they are very slow to progress into the awareness and then the responsibility to make healthier choices.”

Lam makes a major point: Many people are in denial. They know eating poorly can make you sick. They know they need to exercise. They know, intellectually, about the link of obesity to disease. But doing something about it is something else.

Denial and delay, Lam says, are parts of being human. They need awareness, education and support, and that’s where her organization steps in. ADA has an excellent program called “Living With Type 2 Diabetes” that spells out how to change your lifestyle, step by step. It gives goals over a period of time. Lam says, “People find it very difficult to do it quickly. This new program walks them through it slowly.”

Diabetes is a huge problem across the nation and especially in Hawaii. According to the Diabetes Association, at least 113,000 people in Hawaii have diabetes and 28,000 unsuspecting people are undiagnosed. It is the seventh leading cause of death nationwide, but the fifth leading cause of death here in Hawaii. Of all the children born in the U.S. in the year 2000, one in three will have diabetes in their lifetime. Here in Hawaii, that number is one in two!

And oh, hey, Paula 90 percent of those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

Also, nice that you’re promoting Novo Nordisk. You said you waited because you wanted to bring something to the table, and I can appreciate that. But, Lam says, “We do not promote just medication” because what people really have to do is change the way they live and eat.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not upset about Deen’s recipes or her food. Rich foods are part of our culinary landscape everywhere. When I go to a restaurant I don’t want them to hold the butter unless I’m at a health food restaurant. But I do know the consequences of what I eat and what I serve my family at home, and make decisions accordingly.

What I’m angry about is what a New York Times writer called “a profound, unsettling act of withholding.”

To be fair, Deen now says moderation is the key. But consider this: Every year 1.9 million people are diagnosed with diabetes. If Deen had come out three years ago with her message, could she have prevented at least some of those people from getting sick? Even a teeny, tiny percentage of 1.9 million would add up to a lot of lives altered for the better or even saved.

Sorry, Paula, you don’t get a pass from me. It’s obvious you’re a smart businesswoman. But as an honest, caring human being, you fail.

Interested in the “Living With Type 2 Diabetes” program for yourself or for a loved one? Go to this website; https://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/local-offices/honolulu-hawaii/programs-and-support-groups.html.

And support the Diabetes Association’s local chapter by taking part in the “Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes” March 17 at Kapiolani Park. For information, go here: diabetes.org/stepouthawaii.