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It’s Paula Deen Week at Stitches ‘n Dishes, but even the Butter Queen herself has her very own Wellness Wednesday story to tell. When we think about Paula Deen right now, thoughts of lawsuits, the “N-word,” racial discrimination, character assassination, extortion, to you name it spring to mind. Of course, the nation is clearly divided about whether Paula Deen is or is not racist. I’ve discussed this in detail throughout the week, and I’ve read all of the documents submitted to the court.

None of that amounts to a hill of beans – this isn’t the Paula Deen we all know. Sometimes we need to step back, regroup and put things into perspective in order for anything to make sense. We’ve all been in situations where life has dealt an extraordinary hand, and we feel overwhelmed, burdened and weighed by life’s trials and tribulations. Whether it’s trying to stretch a paycheck to make ends meet, or just watching the news, sometimes we just need to unplug.

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The fact of the situation for Paula is very simple. She financially supported her brother when they were young, then funded the restaurant that he now owns. She maintained 50% ownership of the restaurant, but never worked there. Years later, a disgruntled employee claimed that her brother sexually harassed and racially discriminated against her.

Somehow, the lawsuit filed against Bubba Hiers, Paula Deen’s brother has turned into a media smear campaign against Deen, herself. Imagine the stress that’s brought on by dealing with a situation like this. Put yourself in Paula Deen’s shoes for moment and breathe it in. Lisa Jackson, who is suing Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House in Savannah, Georgia never even claimed that Deen used the “N-word” or that she discriminated against or harassed anyone in any way. But Deen has lost relationships and business partners as the result of an obvious smear campaign.

What’s more disturbing is the media has quoted Deen’s own testimony in a deposition to use against her, I suppose assuming that no one would actually take the time to read the documents. And in doing so, words have been twisted, taken out of context, or even completely made up. In all of the media hype, claiming that Paula Deen used the “N-word” or is racist, there have been no stories about the actual law suit. Paula Deen is being tried and convicted by the media, when in fact no one has actually accused her of anything – no one but the media, that is.

Butter for Paula Deen - Following Today Show Interview Fans Launch National Campaign

John Schmitt, 49, and his dog, Mark. Schmitt is the founder of the We Support Paula Deen Facebook page that amassed over 400,000 fans since Friday.

Yesterday, I spoke with John Schmitt, lead night auditor for a major hotel chain in Indianapolis, and the founder of the We Support Paula Deen Facebook page. He and I spoke about Deen’s interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show, and John reflected on the brevity of Deen’s situation and the media smear campaign.

“I can’t believe that with all the things that are legitimate news in this country, that this is still in the headlines. How did this become more important than the NSA leaks or things that will really affect us five years down the road? How is this more important than what’s going on in Washington and why is it still news?”

Many of us have the same question, and I don’t doubt that Paula Deen wonders how this even happened, let alone how she got tangled up in it. And now, imagine the incredible stress this would bring to someone’s life.

But, what does any of this have to do with Wellness Wednesday?

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In all of the controversy throughout this week, one of Paula Deen’s greatest accomplishments can’t be overlooked. When Deen stopped living in denial about having type 2 diabetes at the end of 2011, she and her family cut down on carbs, cut back on portions, doubled up on greens and dropped she 40 lbs. She even made the front cover of People Magazine.

She’s since managed her diabetes, and has gone on to launch a line of healthy foods, and her new cookbook, “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up” is available now for pre-orders.

Bobby Dean, Paula’s younger son dealt with his own weight issues a decade before, and more recently launched his own Food Network show, focused on cooking healthier versions of his mama’s Southern comfort foods. His brother, Jamie lost 45 pounds, and Deen’s husband Michael Groover lost more than 60 pounds.

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Living with diabetes can be a challenge all on its own. In my own personal battle with diabetes, I’ve had to deal with completely changing the way I view food. That’s not easy for a food critic. Last week, I wrote about my own story for the first time, and I thought about Paula Deen’s announcement dealing with diabetes.

Stress is an ugly thing. Not only does it cause those physical symptoms we’re all familiar with – headache, nausea, loss of appetite, binge eating, drinking, sleeplessness, and the list goes on – it affects the immune system and people with diabetes in a very direct way.

With the amount of stress that Deen is dealing with at this very moment, her blood sugar is likely running quite a bit higher than usual. When we’re under stress, our bodies put out a lot of extra adrenaline into our bloodstream, which increases blood sugar to a very high level. If, like in Deen’s situation, blood sugar is already high, higher blood sugar caused by the adrenaline rush associated with stress can cause hyperglycemia.

During more stressful times, it’s important for someone with diabetes, like Paula Deen or me to take a step back and unplug. Last week, when she canceled her appearance on the Today Show, Deen said that she was physically and emotionally exhausted. Her blood sugar could very well have been at an all-time high due to the stress and anguish caused during these trying times. After pulling back, unplugging and regrouping, she came back and made that appearance.

While food had always played a major part in Deen’s life—from offering comfort during the tough early days to making mealtimes special for her family to inspiring her business and professional life—it now plays an even bigger role: as the key to managing her health. By taking charge of her life and making small changes—a little less sugar here, a slight substitution there—she reaped big results. Paula soon found herself forty pounds slimmer and feeling great, all the while eating the Southern favorites we all love: (oven) fried chicken, lower-fat biscuits, and red velvet cake… only lightened up.

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Her new book, “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up” is already topping charts, and isn’t even released yet. Amazon reported that pre-orders are up 1300% as the popularity and demand for the book surged over the last few days. I’ve already ordered my copy.

This is a different Paula Deen, and no ordinary cookbook. She shares for the first time her personal story of triumphs over adversity and explains her decision to go public with her diabetes. In this book, she’s the Lean Queen of Southern Cuisine, bringing fresh twists to her treasured recipes for anyone who wants to lose weight, control blood sugar, lower high cholesterol, or just serve healthier meals to their families. Filled with 250 lightened-up-but-still-delicious recipesPaula Deen’s New Testament offers classics like:

  • Everyone’s Favorite Pimiento Cheese
  • New Savannah Gumbo
  • The Lady’s New Cheesy Mac
  • Beaufort Shrimp Pie
  • Nutty Sweet Potato Balls
  • All-New Peach Cobbler

And soon-to-be favorites such as

  • Crabby Shrimp Dip
  • Kale Caesar Salad
  • Better-Than-Basic Meat Loaf
  • Southwest Chicken Enchiladas
  • Baked Coconut Shrimp
  • Flourless Chocolate Fudge Cake

74870-1-zoomSo far, I’ve lost 60 pounds since I turned a new focus on my health in April, and began working with a health coach at Take Shape for Life. I talked about it in last week’s Wellness Wednesday article. I’ve developed a new outlook about food, but I can’t say I’ve adopted an entirely new lifestyle. I’ve made adjustments, and changes like Paula Deen made, and the improvements to my health have been remarkable. The way I see it now is if someone like Paula Deen or someone like me can do this, anybody can.

“She’s been somebody to look up to for years,” says John Schmitt. “She’s had some great breaks and she’s the same person she was when she was selling sandwiches. I think she’s had some good advisers around her over the years.” And he’s probably right. Getting control, especially getting diabetes under control isn’t something we can do alone. That’s why my doctor suggested that I have my own adviser, and it seems to be working. I’ve lost another four pounds since my last Wellness Wednesday story, and my blood sugar has been normal for well over a month.

Paula Deen means something special to John Schmitt. He created the We Support Paula Deen Facebook page in response to the media smear campaign that appears to seek nothing other than to destroy her reputation and her business. Deen has become somewhat of an institution – she was the backbone of Food Network, and millions of fans have invited her into their homes every day for 13 years. Like the We Support Paula Dean Facebook page, and join the Butter for Paula Deen campaign. It’ll cost you nothing – except a postage stamp. Read about it here.

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About the Author

Chris Ford is the founder of Stitches 'n Dishes and editor in chief with a passion for food, photography and travel. Chris is a Media Correspondent for the Food Network TV show, Eat St, a syndicated blogger, seasoned event organizer and promoter, a food critic, a marketing consultant and Social Media Marketing expert. Chris is also a fashion and entertainment photographer. When he's not dining on the sidewalk, he's snapping photos on the catwalk.

  • Kathy

    Thank you so much for this article!! You are the FIRST one that has printed exactly what I have seen in all this media frenzy! As I do not know Paula personally, only through the TV and her magazine… my heart goes out to her and her family. There very few people that welcome millions of people into their homes, their kids homes, their husbands lives except for those idiotic “reality” families (which I do not watch!) She and the rest of her family make us feel like we are (at least make me feel) a part of her family and would welcome a “hey” anytime we saw her or the boys on the street at any time. Being a transplant to CA, she always brings me home to my beloved southern VA roots. Thank you again for this!

    • http://www.stitchesndishes.com/ StitchesnDishes

      Thanks for the awesome comment, Kathy! We’ve dedicated the entire week to Paula here. I was reluctant to cover her situation when I was first asked, because I didn’t want to write about the topic. My researcher handed a copy of Paula’s transcript to me and said, “If there’s anything you read today, it’s this. It’s a witch hunt.” I read it front to back that day, and made tons of notes… I needed to cross-check some facts. It just got bigger from there. I was more than convinced at that point, so we declared Paula Deen Week at Stitches ‘n Dishes! You’re right about Paula – even if you don’t know her in person, she’ll make you feel like you do through her shows. She’s become a part of so many families. I’m glad you enjoyed the article… I’m looking forward to what’s next on the menu for Paula Deen Week – I hope you are, too! :-)

  • Michelle Renee Wells

    Thank you for putting in words everything I have been feeling about this debacle. The lack of intelligence to read the documents, the lack of respect not only for Paula, but for every individual that works to manufacture her products, to cutting ties because it just seems lie the right thing to do. As well as I too suffer from Type 1 Diabetes (adult onset) 16 years now, and I can so relate to the stress thing, which is more of a factor than food for my my type, but making healthier choices in food is still a plus. I commend Paula and her boys, for taking the most FANTASTIC recipes and making them healthy, because this girl be loving her some good ole’ southern food! Once again, thank you for this eloquent article.

    • http://www.stitchesndishes.com/ StitchesnDishes

      Thank you for your comment, Michelle! I have a friend who’s always reminding me, “people don’t read anymore.” I think he’s right. So many people listen to soundbites and look at headlines and stop there.

      I can’t wait for the new book to come out. I’m looking forward to trying out her light recipes!

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  • Emma Lou Van Atta

    Thank you for his insightful article! If only the mainstream media would slow down and take a breath and consider what they are doing to this lady! I cannot believe the publisher is reneging on the cookbook that would undoubtedly be a blessing to diabetics across the nation. Surely another publisher will do what is right and publish it. I hope Paula comes out of this with her head held high.