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Paula Deen on Her Diabetes Confession: 'The Time Was Right'
Celebrity chef Paula Deen has cooked her way to fame and fortune with calorie-rich recipes. But her love of down-home comfort food hasn't come without controversy.
Now, the 64-year-old Food Network star is addressing rumors and opening up about her Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis.
"I was diagnosed three years ago during a regular physical exam with my doctor," Deen revealed Tuesday on the Today show. "I'm here today to let the world know that it is not a death sentence."
After that appearance, the queen of Southern cuisine talked to Parade.com about going public with her diagnosis, the steps she's taking to improve her health, and why she won't be saying goodbye to butter.
How do you feel since making the big announcement that you're living with Type 2 Diabetes?
"I feel really good about it. It was like taking a weight and lifting it off my shoulders. When I was first diagnosed, I was totally unprepared to talk about it. I felt like I had nothing to bring to the table other than to just say that I had been diagnosed. But this time has given me the opportunity to work with my family and with [drugmaker] Novo Nordisk to launch the Diabetes in a New Light campaign, so I know the time was right. Now I have something to offer people."
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What was your biggest fear in opening up about your diagnosis?
"My biggest fear was people expecting too much out of me, more than I could possibly give. And that my life was going to have to change so drastically that I wouldn't want to hop out of bed every morning loving life. That the pleasure was going to be taken away from me. I think that was probably my biggest fear."
How did your sons first react to the news?
"They are the most precious things in my life. They have always been so supportive of their mother and when times are hard they've never left my side. The most important thing in the world is family."
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What do you want to tell your fans who have cooked along with you all these years?
"My message has always been the same: We have to use moderation. I don't want a person who suffers from diabetes to think that they can never have that piece of pie or have something that tastes good. That's something my family and I are working on — recipes that are diabetic-friendly without sacrificing the taste and the flavor."
How has your diagnosis changed your lifestyle?
"The first thing I did was give up sweet tea because I drank so much. I'd start drinking at lunchtime and wouldn't set it down until I went to bed. When you calculate how much empty calories and how much sugar I was consuming, it was staggering. So I haven't had a glass of sweet tea in three years.
"If I have to think that for the rest of my life that I can never have a piece of cake, that would make me so sad. That would make me wanna cry! And I know I don't have to live my life that way. I'm making little changes in my life to take care of myself, like putting in a mile or two on my treadmill every day. And I always practice moderation. I think people have a hard time understanding that because they see me two or three times a day on TV cooking these high-calorie, fabulous-tasting foods, but that's only 30 days out of a year that I'm doing that. Those other 335 days a year, I'm not eating that way."
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What kinds of healthy foods are you enjoying?
"I know when you think about the South, you think about fried foods, but we eat a tremendous amount of vegetables. I have my own garden, so vegetables have always been a big part of my life. I love broccoli. I love fresh beets. It's not all about the fried chicken and the biscuits."
What's your response to your critics?
"I understand that there's going to be some negative conversation, but that's all right. I've had to face many obstacles in my life and my concern is more for people out there that need the hope, the help, and the encouragement. They're more important to me than the haters or the naysayers."
We all know that you love butter. Will you use a substitute now?
"No, I will never use a substitute for butter. Margarine is one molecule away from eating plastic. If I'm going to eat that type of food, it's going to be the real deal. There is a good chance that I can cut down on the amount of butter now that I'm aware, but will I cut butter out of my life completely? No. I will take measurements to manage it."