Paula Deen made a name for herself, and made herself a small fortune, by dishing up indulgent treats like a doughnut-topped bacon burger and deep-fried anything on her Food Network TV show, in her magazine and even aboard cruise ships with her fans.
When in January she announced she had type 2 diabetes, she was hit hard by critics who denounced her for hiding her diagnosis from the public for three years and only coming forward after signing a deal with diabetes drug-maker Novo Nordisk.
Now the Southern chef is firing back herself, on the scale, announcing to People magazine that she has lost 30 pounds in six months, and she’s not stopping.
“It took me a couple of years to get to this point,” Deen tells the magazine in this week’s cover story out Friday. “If you make a few small changes, they can add up to big results.”
So how did the 65-year-old chef lose the equivalent of 120 sticks of her beloved, and well-used, butter?
For one thing, instead of hitting the deep fryer, she started hitting the weights.
“For the first time since she was a high school cheerleader, Paula has started working out,” People magazine’s Lesley Messer told ABC News. “She says it’s really helping her feel better.”
Deen herself visited the ABC food show “The Chew” to show off her new figure and reveal her diet secrets. “It’s really about moderation,” she said on the show. “I’ve said it for so long but I really started to practice that.
“I double my salad, double my green beans and the carbs are like this,” she said, pointing to a small portion size. “I wasn’t about to change my life but I have made simple changes in my life.”
After she went public with her diabetes in January, Deen launched a new campaign, “Diabetes in a New Light,” a partnership with Novo Nordisk. Deen reportedly takes the company’s drug Victoza to help her maintain proper blood-sugar levels.
Deen, who says she has gone from a size 18 to a size 10, told People the key to her weight-loss success has been dropping white foods like potatoes from her diet, so long Southern mashed potatoes, and swapping out others, like using mustard instead of ketchup.
Now, instead of skipping breakfast altogether, Deen says she’ll enjoy a fruit smoothie. For dinner, instead of fried chicken or worse, baked chicken or fish and Greek salad instead of chips are on the table at the Deen household.
The woman famous for making Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies now enjoys sugar-free ice cream for dessert instead. “I do think differently now” about food,” Deen said. “I’m more aware.”
While it remains to be seen what kind of inspiration Deen is providing to her fans who loyally tuned in to see what kind of over-the-top indulgences she had cooked up, her weight loss is forcing her own family to keep up.
Her husband, Michael Groover, is reportedly drinking four shakes per day to lose 100 pounds and her oldest son, Jamie, 44, has dropped 40 pounds himself.