What’s no longer on celebrity Chef Paula Deen’s menu? Deep Fried Cheesecake, Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding, Twinkie Pie and dozens of other high-fat, gazillion-calorie dishes. These days Deen’s eating healthier—and serving as an example to millions of diabetics that their condition can change for the better.
Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes three years ago, Deen, 65, kept her condition under wraps until this year, when she went public—and was criticized for keeping her secret while peddling unhealthy dishes to her fans. Maybe it was the public scrutiny that finally made Deen get serious about her condition, or the fact that she stopped being in denial about it. In any case, she started eating a healthy diet, avoiding gooey desserts, fried food, and buttery dishes. And she lost 30 pounds.
Deen, 65, is just one of 26 million Americans who also have diabetes (It’s estimated that millions more have the disease but don’t know it.) In type 2 diabetes, the body can’t metabolize sugar correctly because either the pancreas is not making enough insulin or the body is resisting its own insulin. As a result, too much sugar builds up in the bloodstream. That can cause devastating complications--everything from vision loss and nerve damage to heart disease.
The illness is most often seen as a progressive condition that leads to deadly consequences, and in all too many cases, that’s true. But it’s also possible to control and even (some say) reverse the condition.
Deen started her personal anti-diabetes campaign by deciding to lose weight, since one of the big risk factors in developing type 2 diabetes is weight gain. In a recent interview she told “People” magazine, "I'm redoing the way my plate looks. I'm doubling up on salad or vegetables and putting smaller portions of carbs and all that. I try to walk 30 minutes a day.” Exercise also helps control diabetes.
She’s also learned to eat enough healthy meals to keep her feeling full. “I was bad about missing breakfast,” she told the magazine. Now, she relies on low-fat smoothies (fresh fruit blended with artificial sweetener) to kick-start her day.
It’s paid off. The southern chef has gone from a size 18 to a slimming size 10. But that’s not all. Deen, who gives herself an injection to help control her sugar levels, says she’s also feeling heaps better: sleeping more soundly and enjoying a boost in energy.
Doctors say with significant weight loss, some folks with Type 2 diabetes can go into remission, regain normal blood sugar levels and no longer need medication. But if the weight comes back, so does the diabetes.
For now, Deen is determined to follow doctor’s orders – take her insulin, exercise, watch her weight and kiss the coconut cake goodbye.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge’s Medical Director. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is “V is for Vagina.”
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