Last week, to absolutely no one’s surprise, cooking show personality Paula Deen announced that, yes, she has type 2 diabetes.
And what made her decide to go public now, three years after her diagnosis? As she told USA Today,
“I felt like I had nothing to offer anybody other than the announcement. I wasn’t armed with enough knowledge. I knew when it was time, it would be in God’s time.”
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She says her delay in talking about the disease had nothing to do with fear about hurting her reputation. “That was not why. My knowledge about the disease was very limited. But now I’m coming with good information, something that can help and bring hope to other people. It may sound cliché, but it’s the God-honest truth.”
That “something” wouldn’t happen to be an endorsement deal with a drug company now, would it?
Of course it would.
So now she’s the star of a new website from Novo Nordisk, maker of the daily injectable Deen takes to “manage” her illness. While the site purports to be educational – a source of “recipes, lifestyle tips and support” – there’s only one lesson: Got diabetes? Inject Victoza! Hence, the FDA-required risk disclosure that appears toward the bottom of every page.
None of this is surprising. It’s PR, not news. And it reinforces a lot of ideas that can keep us from enjoying more optimum health and wellness.
Deen says that when she first heard she had the disease in 2008, she was surprised and “a little sad because I thought my whole life was going to have to change, and I like my life.”
But after a conversation with her own doctor “and Dr. Mehmet Oz, one of my precious friends, I realized you can live a full life.” Deen says her blood sugar “is good. It’s under control.”
Besides using the medication, Deen is walking a mile or more a day on the treadmill and no longer drinking sweet tea. “That’s a big trick for a little Southern girl. I calculated how much sugar I drank in empty calories, and it was staggering. I would start drinking tea at lunchtime and drank it all the way to bedtime.”
She hasn’t made a lot of other changes in how she eats and cooks….
In a way, how we are is who we are. We define ourselves by the way we live. Why would we want to change anything? Real change is hard. There’s comfort in the familiar. It’s easier to start taking a drug to “manage” symptoms than to replace illness-triggering and -spurring behaviors with health-promoting ones.
But even when we know that what we like is harming us, many of us still hang on fiercely to what we know. Consider results from a just-published study in Cancer. If there’s any time a smoker should quit, it’s after a cancer diagnosis, right? Yet tracking more than 5000 lung and colorectal cancer patients, the study found that about 1/3 of lung patients and nearly 2/3 of colorectal patients still kept up their habit 5 months later.
But we can look at this another way: about 2/3 of lung patients and 1/3 of colorectal patients did change. “Hard” is not a synonym of “impossible.” For each of us is agent of our own health and well-being.
In his book Confessions of a Medical Heretic, Dr. Robert Mendelsohn mentions one reason why some of us choose to be passive agents: alienation from our own “body and its natural processes.”
When you fear something, you avoid it. You ignore it. You shy away from it. You pretend it doesn’t exist. You let someone else worry about it. This is how the doctor takes over. We let him. We say: I don’t want to have anything to do with this, my body and its problems, doc. You take care of it, doc. Do what you have to do.
But the result isn’t health – just the semblance of it: an absence of symptoms. Health is bigger than this. And more dynamic.
Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only,
but the mind and spirit as well…and not today’s pain or pleasure alone,
but the whole being and outlook of a man. – James H. West
Health is also a choice.
Conscious health means choosing health. It means choosing health with understanding,
awareness, intention, and vision. Conscious health is the active and deliberate
creation of a vital body, mind, and spirit, with full knowledge, understanding, and belief.
We create our lives, and we have the power to re-create them. When we are
fully conscious, we can take responsibility for our own health. We can make
the necessary choices and decisions. We can determine our health destiny. – Ron Garner
Image by lucias_clay, via Flickr