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Is Paula Deen a “one-woman pandemic?”

An episode of This American Life from August, 2011 covers gossip.

The first act discusses how gossip is important in Malawi for AIDS prevention. People don’t really get tested, so knowing who slept with whom is critical.

Over the course of the program, the narrator brings up an attractive woman who has intimate relations with men despite being HIV-positive: a “one-woman pandemic.”

In America, obesity (and its related illnesses) is our biggest health concern, yet we continue to eat crap, as evidenced by the popularity of television personalities like Paula Deen.

It’s recently been revealed that Paula Deen has type-2 diabetes, the form of the illness typically caused by obesity. She’s made a fortune encouraging others to eat her meaty, buttery, deep-fried recipes, even publishing a terribly unhealthy cookbook for children, and this is killing her. And us.

Even Anthony Bourdain, who has made his living off of other forms of indulgence, has called her,

“the worst, most dangerous person to America.”

Further perpetuating Bourdain’s notion is that she’s been knowingly living with the disease, the consequences of her lifestyle, for 3 years. She’s been encouraging others to follow suit, knowing that her baconballs are ticking time bombs for those genetically predisposed to diabetes, for 3 years. She’s been placing the loaded gun of culinary Russian roulette to America’s head and asking them to pull the trigger for 3 years.

If I could think of another weapon-based metaphor for what she’s been doing to America for 3 years, I would include it.

There’s denial, there’s ignorance, and then there’s the conscious decision to push something you know will harm others just to make money. Despicable.

So, does this make Paula Deen a “one-woman pandemic”? I’d say that continuing to peddle dangerous food in full knowledge of the outcome makes her a public health threat indeed.

She’s not alone in this, of course. The Food Network is obviously also a culprit for airing Paula Deen — she’s popular, she makes money, and she makes money for them. They aren’t blameless, but they also didn’t know she had the disease. She hid it from her bosses.

Sure, people can choose what they eat, but people can also choose who they sleep with — many people in the US are uneducated about the consequences of unhealthy foods just like people in areas with high HIV rates may rely on superstition to stay safe. At some point, even the smartest people just give up and accept what they think is inevitable: they will get AIDS, or they will get fat.

So, now that the woman with the butter-clogged arteries is sick because of lifelong bad decision-making, she’s promoting a diabetes drug — why should anyone trust her pharmaceutical recommendations? Clearly she doesn’t know how to keep herself healthy.

As Catherine Aird said,

If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.

May Paula Deen be this horrible warning.

I hope that this whole incident will encourage the American public the think about what they put into their mouths, and that public consideration of food will lead to greater awareness of the food production system as a whole. If this could ultimately push people towards veganism, that would be great, but just a healthier population would be a nice start.

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