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Paula Deen appears in a 2010 promotional photo posted on the Food Networks website. - Provided courtesy of Food Network

Paula Deen: having to deal with Type 2 diabetes was a blessing

Get more: Celeb Lives
02/25/2012 by Olivia Allin

Food Network star Paula Deen opened up about the changes she has made since being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and said it's a "blessing" to have lived as long as she has already.

On Friday, Deen and her son Bobby visited "The Today Show," where she originally revealed her diagnosis and told Al Roker that while there were a few people who criticized her following the reveal, most fans were supportive.

"God has given me a blessing," Deen told Roker. "Because my mother and daddy died very young, and I feel so proud that I've lived long enough to be a part of the Baby Boomers and have to deal with something like this!"

Bobby Deen acknowledged that it was difficult to see his mother deal with the backlash, but said his mother's healthier lifestyle following the diagnosis has been positive.

Bobby Deen took a different approach on his Cooking Channel series "Not My Mama's Meals," where he creates lower calorie versions of his mother's recipes. At Friday's South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Paula Deen said that she had made healthier changes in her life.

"I am who I am. But what I will be doing is offering up lighter versions of my recipes," the 65-year-old chef told The Associated Press. "But you know, I'm Southern by roots. I was taught to cook by my grandmother and nothing I can do would change that."

In January, Deen admitted on "The Today Show" that she had been diagnosed with the disease three years ago during a routine physical.

"I came home, I told my children, I told my husband, I said, 'I'm gonna keep this close to my chest for the time being' because I had to figure out things in my own head," she said.

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, according to the Associated Press. In Type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or does not use it efficiently, allowing excess sugar, or glucose, to accumulate in the blood.

Rumors of her diabetes diagnosis were first reported back in May 2011 by the National Enquirer and on January 13, The Daily ran a report that she had signed on to endorse the diabetes drug Novartis.

However, Deen confirmed during her appearance that she is now a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk, which supplies her diabetes medication. The company also recently launched a "Diabetes in a New Light" website featuring videos and recipes by the Food Network star.

On the site, Deen told viewers she's made small changes in her lifestyle since her diagnosis by going on more walks with her husband and she has quit drinking sweet tea.

"Yes, I am being compensated," Deen told the Associated Press of her endorsement deal with Novo Nordisk. "It's the way of the world. It's the American way. But I am taking a portion of that compensation and giving it back to the (American) Diabetes Association."

While some critics wondered whether the cookbook author waited for a paid endorsement to reveal her diagnosis, Deen said it was an improvement over the length of time it took for her to announce her battle with the anxiety disorder agoraphobia.

"It took me 20 years to come out and stand up and say, 'Hey, my name's Paula and I'm agoraphobic,'" she said. "I was so ashamed, so embarrassed. So to do it in two-and-a-half years, I thought it was pretty good."

Deen made headlines in August after exchanging words with Anthony Bourdain, who called her "the worst, most dangerous person in America."

"The worst, most dangerous person to America is clearly Paula Deen," Bourdain, 55, told TV Guide at the time. "She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and she's proud of the fact that her food is (expletive) bad for you. If I were on at seven at night and loved by millions of people at every age, I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it's OK to eat food that is killing us. Plus, her food sucks."

Deen responded on "Fox and Friends," saying she was shocked, considering she's never met Bourdain and wondered why he used "such harsh words."

"I don't know if it was a publicity thing of if someone had just peed in his bowl of cereal that morning and he was mad," Deen said. "Anthony, dear, I'm so sorry you feel that way."

Bourdain told the food blog Eater on January 16 that since rumors of Deen's diagnosis popped up "people have been calling looking for quotes."

He said he takes "no pleasure" in the fact that Deen has diabetes but added, "When your signature dish is hamburger in between a doughnut, and you've been cheerfully selling this stuff knowing all along that you've got Type 2 Diabetes...It's in bad taste if nothing else."

Deen appeared on "Today" last year and said that the things she couldn't live without include butter and her deep-fryer. One of her most famous recipes is the Lady's Brunch Burger, which consists of bacon and egg on a hamburger served in a glazed doughnut.

When asked by Rocker in January if she would continue to eat her typical dishes, Deen said, "People see me on TV two or three times a day and they see me cooking all these wonderfully Southern, fattening dishes. That's only 30 days out of 365. And it's for entertainment. And people have to be responsible. Like I told Oprah a few years ago, honey, I'm your cook, not your doctor. You are going to have to be responsible for yourself."

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