Paula Deen–This Lady Has Your Back

I love Paula Deen. Poor thing has been through the ringer this week, especially in the comments section on places like CNN. She “came out” and told everybody she has Type 2 Diabetes and people used this as an opportunity to rail at her about her liberal use of butter and smiles.

I love that she uses butter.

I love that she smiles.

If she were French we would ask her which red wine complemented our favorite casserole.

I love that she has worked hard and has made a living for herself—when years ago she was home bound due to a phobia that kept her from leaving the house.

I like it when people are resourceful, overcome obstacles and are successful. She could have died a poor single mom with no money for a tombstone. If she had, people could have yelled at her about that too.

Get a grip.

If you don’t want cocaine don’t do it. If you don’t want red hair—don’t go to the hairdresser and pay for it to be dyed red. If you don’t want to eat butter don’t eat it.

Never mind that Type 2 Diabetes for some is more complicated than an over indulgence of butter.

The part of public health that has always amazed me is that in many ways it gains its legitimacy on the premise that people are stupid and must be told exactly what to do and how to do it. And that no one else should be allowed to present a differing message than the prevailing public health message of the time. It’s just too distracting from their good messages.

  • We have praised the disruption in health care that brings power to the patients, consumers and advocates.
  • We want electronic medical records.
  • We want to be able to see our health records without permission.
  • We want accurate nutrition labels so that we can make adult decisions about what to buy and eat.
  • We want patient centered medical homes so that the care is about us medical system.
  • We don’t want closed managed care systems because we want the liberty to choose our providers and make educated decisions about how and where to seek care on our own.

But as I listened to the shrieking about Paula—I realized that people want those things AND to be told what to do.

Let me tell you a story.

I had the good fortune to be a nursing student and then go on to work at the same urban-ish hospital for 5 years. In that time I got to know certain “frequent flyer” patients and their families very well. One of the more infamous patients, I’ll call her Willie Rae, was admitted to the hospital because after she ate two sheet cakes-went into a little diabetic coma—on top of her heating pad (because she had hurt her back earlier) and got a 3rd degree burn. As I’m getting her settled in on the floor and asking her all the admission questions…I have to ask “Why did you eat TWO sheet cakes?”

“Girl, cause they were on sale at Kroger!” says Willie Rae.

They had been on sale. When I saw the sale sign earlier in the week I had wondered who needed to buy two sheet cakes at one time. It may have been graduation season. I don’t remember. We were in Ohio. This picture was taken just a few weeks ago in Ohio. We love to eat sweets and get a good bargain.

Anyway, Willie Rae and I had a good talk. At the end of the conversation I tried to work on behavior modification. To make a long story short—we started negotiating about future eating habits and it ends in Willie Rae agreeing to eat ONE sheet cake at a time instead of TWO.

This was a success. Truly.

Change is hard.

Change takes time and I think we set people up to fail if we don’t give people the tools or remind them of the skills they already have to be successful change agents in their own lives.

When we get all judgmental or create expectations that are so out of line with where people truly are everybody loses.

I’d much rather people cook using Paula Deen’s recipes than go to KFC every day. That means they are going to the grocery store and cooking. Halleluiah!

Her diagnosis is a mixed blessing.

She is planning on making versions of her favorite recipes with a light touch. Paula has the ears and trust of people that most public health interventions just don’t reach.

They might even trust her to use one stick of butter instead of two.

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