Huffpost Healthy Living
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Cheryl Forberg, RD Headshot

Open Letter From a Chef/Dietitian to Paula Deen

Posted: Updated:

Dear Paula,

First off, let me say that me say that I am sorry to hear your announcement that you have been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (DM2). I want to make you an offer: Let me help you. Let me work with you and to control your diabetes through proper diet so you don't have to take any medications.

I've done this before, many times in fact, and I am confident I can help you. But most important, I don't want the millions of Americans suffering from diabetes to think the only way to control the disease is through a prescription.

I understand you've modified your diet (and are sharing your new recipes with others), and I applaud your efforts. But I'm here to tell you that you can do so much more with diet and lifestyle changes.

As the former nutritionist for NBC's "The Biggest Loser" and the co-author of the show's eating plan, I personally counseled and worked with every one of the 250-plus contestants for 12 seasons from 2004 to 2011. One in four of them began with the same type of diabetes you have: They all left without it (and without taking prescription medication). In fact, U.S. News and World Report recently ranked the diet I co-authored the No. 1 Diet for Controlling Diabetes.

Of course, there are cases of diabetes that need medication, but Paula, why don't we work together to show people that there are other ways to control it? You may not present yourself as a role model, but I am urging you to lead by example on this important issue.

Like you, I am also a chef. I attended the Culinary Academy in San Francisco before apprenticing in France. This was 20 or so years ago, so the foundation of my cooking was French classical -- lots of butter, cream and the like. This was before nutrition was a part of any culinary school curriculum.

I worked in restaurants in San Francisco for a year before I realized restaurant life wasn't for me and I chose another path -- working as a private chef for families who could afford to have their own chef. At the time, the interest of most of my private clients was healthy cooking -- low fat, low salt, low sugar, low cal or some combination thereof. Since there were few chefs at the time that knew much about nutrition (and few nutritionists at that time who knew about cooking) I taught myself how to adapt my recipes to suit the needs of my health-conscious clientele. My burgeoning culinary awareness coupled with the healthy approach led to high demand. To explore the bounds of how far I could go designing nutritious meals that also tasted great -- and to understand the physiology of why my clients were eating a certain way -- I returned to school at UC Berkeley to earn a degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics along with my Registered Dietitian credential.

Since then, my career's taken a few detours and I've followed an incredibly interesting path. Seven years ago I joined the medical expert team of what was then a pilot for a soon-to-be smash hit television series "The Biggest Loser," which I mentioned to you already.

I don't claim to know a lot about your cooking style. I haven't watched your show, though I've read much about it and I've seen your recipes. As long as we are talking about recipes, here's the perfect one for a diet that can lead to DM2: large portion sizes, eating foods high in fat and full of too many simple carbs, processed foods and baked goods; add meal skipping, drinking too many calories (such as sugary soft drinks and sweet tea), and little or no exercise and you have a recipe for disaster.

I know you've teamed up with a drug company to get your blood sugar under control in hopes of reversing your DM2. Because you are a public figure, I'd again implore you to use this opportunity to help educate the millions of Americans who have developed weight- and diet-related DM2. And to educate the millions more who are in danger.

Though medications are indeed the optimal route for some people with DM2, the fact is that old fashioned exercise and dietary changes are cheaper, better and more accessible for most people.

I'd love to help you and in turn help many others.

For more by Cheryl Forberg, RD, click here.

For more on diabetes, click here.

Cheryl Forberg, RD is a James Beard award-winning chef, former nutritionist for NBC's "The Biggest Loser" and NYT bestselling author. Her latest book is "Flavor First" (Rodale). She lives on a farm in Napa, California. For plenty of scrumptious recipes, check out her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

From Our Partners