It's official: TV chef Paula Deen admitted on the "Today" show Tuesday that she has Type 2 diabetes and has become a paid spokeswoman for pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.
After rumors about her condition ramped up last week, Deen talked with weather anchor Al Roker (who underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2002) Tuesday about her diagnosis three years ago, and why she decided to wait so long before going public with the news.
"I'm here today to let the world know that it is not a death sentence," said an upbeat Deen, adding that she is being compensated by the pharmaceutical company and is collaborating with them on a website, DiabetesInANewLight.com. The site offers recipes and information about the disease. "I'm going to be there for you and help you manage every day of your life with this, because it can be done."
When asked why she waited three years to talk about her diagnosis, Deen said, "I came home [from seeing the doctor], and I told my children, I told my husband, and I said, I'm going to keep this close to my chest for the time being. Because I had to figure things out in my own head. I had to give time to think about it, talk with my doctor .... I had nothing to give to my fellow friends out there."
And what of the scuttlebutt that Deen delayed going public because it would damage her reputation as a Southern cook who uses copious amounts of butter and sugar in her recipes?
"People are not going to quit eating," she said. "If people quit eating, we're all out of here. I wanted to bring something to the table when I came forward, and I've always been one to think that I bring hope, because I've had lots of obstacles in my life, y'all."
Deen told Roker that she's always eaten in moderation. "People see me on TV two, three times a day cooking all these wonderfully Southern, fattening dishes, but that's only 30 days out of 365, and it's for entertainment. People have to be responsible." She also cited other risk factors for the disease, including genetics and age.
In a recent interview with USA Today, Deen said she had given up her favorite sweet tea, which she admitted to drinking from lunch until bedtime. She also said she's exercising regularly on a treadmill and taking Victoza, a Novo Nordisk non-insulin injected diabetes medication (ads for the drug are obvious on the website).
Fattening foods aren't Deen's only vice: In October she went on the "Dr. Oz Show" to get help for her 50-year smoking habit. In some studies, smoking has been shown to increase the risk of developing diabetes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that diabetes affects 25.8 million Americans. The most common form of the disease is Type 2 diabetes, characterized by insulin resistance or an inability by the body to produce enough insulin to sustain standard glucose levels.
Deen's son Bobby recently debuted his own show on the Cooking Channel, "Not My Mama's Meals," in which he lightens up his mother's traditional comfort food.
But will Paula change her cooking M.O.? She was a bit cagey about that, saying that on her show she advocates moderation.
"You can have that little piece of pie," she said, "but here's what I want to get across to people: I want them to first start by going to their doctor and asking to be tested for diabetes, then get on a program that works for you. I'm amazed at the people that are aware they're diabetic, but they're not taking their medicine. They're not doing anything."