Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Defense of Paula Deen...Sort Of...

I'll just jump right in and say it because I feel it needs to be said:

America, Paula Deen did not make you fat. 

Sorry, but, she didn't. 

She also didn't give anyone diabetes (except herself, apparently…)

Paula Deen did not (that I know of…) prevent anyone from exercising, did not force anyone (that I know of…) to eat fried butter and did not keep anyone (that I know of…) from attending regular doctor visits in which someone whose job it is to help a person make healthy decisions can give them advice about eating and exercising.

And now that we've got that out of the way...

Anthony Bourdain, I love you. I truly do.  I just don't think that the guy who smoked cigarettes on television on so many occasions is really the one to comment about anyone poisoning America.  The leg breaker comment, though, was f*cking brilliant—more on that, later.

As a grown up, I just don't get it.  I don't get the whole "Paula Deen Is The Devil" business.  I've been making my own decisions for an awfully long time now and I must tell you, neither Paula's cooking nor Tony's smoking has ever inspired me to do anything I didn't want to do.  I may be a sucker to some of the more subtle advertising messages that I see in the media, but with the giant, overt "isn't this yummy?" stuff, I've managed to maintain some level of control.  I like to think of myself as typical.  Don't we all?  And I don't think you'd find too many people in this country who would say that they do only what they see people do on television.  When we do find those people (there are a few out there…) we call them what they are:  Idiots.

If I want to eat fattening food and spend sickening amounts of time on the couch, guess what?  That's my doing.  Am I stupid to do that?  Duh.

Just like I was stupid to smoke cigarettes, which I also did and somehow managed to not blame Anthony Bourdain…

The notion that we don't have enough healthy role models in this country is ridiculous.  Anybody check their email around the New Year?  I personally had Eleventy Billion businesses offering to help me get healthy and lose weight.  Every grocery store in town had their "healthy diet" stuff on sale, and every Walmart/Kmart/QuickyMart had closeouts on exercise equipment.  I got so many emails from Jillian Michaels, I figured her next step to get me to sign up for her web site would be to reach through the computer and drag me in--and she was just one of dozens of such people touting fitness.  We have so many people telling us how to be healthy, we actually have to devote additional hours of television and other media to helping people sort which of the healthy information is the most healthful for their personal needs.  We're choking on information about healthy lifestyles.  For that reason I say, if you can't find healthy lifestyle role models in the United States of America, then you're not looking. 

And what I'm ultimately saying is, we're not fat because of Paula Deen.  We're fat because we choose to eat poorly and not exercise, even though we know better.

Does that make us stupid?  Duh.  Now stop pointing at "bad guys" and look in a mirror, fatty.

Now then….about the leg breaker.  In what can only be described as an incredibly bad PR move, Paula Deen has chosen to become the spokes person for a line of pharmaceuticals geared toward diabetics.  Yep, along with her many other products, the woman is out there shilling insulin.  In response to this announcement, Mr. Bourdain tweeted: "Thinking of getting into the leg-breaking business, so I can profitably sell crutches later."

Which is funny as hell…

I don't subscribe to the "we have a pill for that" attitude in this country—never have.  It used to drive my doctor crazy—I'd tell him if he diagnosed me with some random crap for which there was a convenient, accompanying pill, I'd fire him.  We came perilously close to a fibromyalgia diagnosis in the early days of the Chiari saga, but I put my foot down.  Whatever we could do that didn't involve a pill, we'd do that first—that included, among other things, traction (Woo!), quitting smoking (Didn't work!  Go figure!), neck braces and a host of "at least it's not a pill" methods.  Eventually, it was a combination of things, all of which involved changing my life, that brought me to a level of relief that was tolerable.  Also worth mentioning?  It took years to figure all this out, and figure out what kind of Chiari patient I would be.

If I had chosen the pill route, this post would probably have been written (or more likely not written…) by someone addicted to narcotic pain relievers, because that's about the only "cure" for Chiari malformation that the medical community has up their sleeve--except for surgery, which is not a guarantee of pain relief.

I see Paula making baby steps toward "lighter" meals and the possibility of maybe admitting to a thing or two about the food.  She appears next to her son on his show "Not My Mama's Meals" while he dissects her fatty recipes, makes lighter versions of them and gives her a grief about it, right there on TV, in front of everybody.  Baby steps.  She's no different from any other woman that age, including my mother, who was diagnosed pre-diabetic and faced a change in her life, too.  It's hard.  It sucks.  No other way to say it—having to change what you've known your whole life, sucks.

The best PR move for Paula would have been to take the three years she's been on TV not talking about diabetes and use that time to slowly lighten up—people would have hardly noticed you were serving steamed veggies after a 36 month lead-in.  Unfortunately, she didn't go that route, but again, she's not so very different from any other woman receiving that same diagnosis—how would you have reacted?  How long would it take you to change everything?

While her missed opportunity is a bummer, and it's a little boneheaded from a business standpoint, it certainly doesn't make her a bad person—nobody's forcing you to eat bacon, so lighten up, America.  We're all responsible for our own choices—we always have been.

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