What Paula Deen Teaches Us

As you may have heard, earlier this week celebrity chef Paula Deen admitted she has had type 2 diabetes for the last few years, and since she’s a food person it seemed an appropriate topic for Foodie Friday.  I’ll begin by saying that I’m sorry to hear that she has the disease.  Apparently she also has a marketing arrangement with a drug company to be a spokesperson for their diabetes drug.

Paula Deen holds court

Image by Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway via Flickr

More about that next week.  Today, I want to talk about some of the things she had to say this week and what they have to do with a sane approach to business.  It a horrible disease, and what she had to say is, in my mind, not much better.  But let’s see what you think.

This quote is from a USA Today article:

Deen says she’s not going to change the focus of her cooking shows because of diabetes. “I suspect I’ll stick to my roots but will say a little louder, ‘Eat this in moderation.'”

“You don’t want to make a steady diet of just lettuce. You don’t want to make a steady diet of fried chicken.”

She cooks the foods featured on her show only for the six weeks of the year when she is taping the show, but “I don’t cook that way every day.” She doesn’t have fried chicken regularly, but “when you want fried chicken, nothing will take the place.”

The same is true for some of her other favorite dishes. “I don’t want to spend my life not having good food going into my pie hole. That hole was made for pies.”

I’m not a doctor, I don’t even play one on TV, but I can tell you that she’s wrong.  If you’re going to manage the disease or avoid it as your symptoms begin to emerge, you need to make radical changes in your diet.  Radical as in a completely new approach, not as in switching to unsweetened tea and pie only once a week.   It’s revisiting all of your recipes and learning what you can substitute – quinoa or farro for rice as an example – or what you just can’t eat at all any more.  Her argument has been that what she eats is only one factor in the disease  – genetics and other factors are just as much as issue.  In a sense, she’s throwing her hands up saying that she was going to get it anyway and now that she has it the solution is to take a pill.  In a nutshell, that’s the business point too.

When our businesses begin to show signs of being seriously ill, too many managers assume there is a quick fix and opt for that instead of stepping back and taking a hard look at the underlying causes.  The fixes require hard work and discipline and are rarely as simple as taking a pill yet as a culture, that’s where we are.  We treat constant headaches with pain killers instead of looking at the stress that’s killing us.  We treat diabetes with $500 a month drugs and not by changing what we eat.  We fix our businesses by looking for quick wins and easy profits rather than taking the time to install a culture of excellence, transparency, and being supportive.  I’m all for making things easier – that’s what tech does, right? – but at some point it becomes all about hard work and not the easy way out like taking a pill.

I hope Paula Deen does well with her disease.  All the coverage her “coming out” received this week has brought out a number of other chefs who admitted they too either have or are on the road to having this awful sickness.  A few – Art Smith being one – have spoken about how they dramatically changed their eating habits and warded it off.  No pills – just hard work.

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks

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