Nearly a year ago, Paula Deen announced that she was living with type 2 diabetes. Since then she has shed a total of 36 pounds – and she’s keeping off the weight.
"It's about moderation,” the 65-year-old Southern chef says in the February issue of Woman’s Day. “I just needed to learn to eat a normal portion size and not overindulge.”
In addition to regularly walking on a treadmill, she has overhauled her diet, with an emphasis on portion control. The foodie still eats many of her favorite things – including her famous peanut butter pie – but she does so on a much smaller scale. "It's amazing how little changes will give you big results," she tells the magazine.
While the the 5-foot-6 foodie’s typical dinner used to include chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans with bacon, and biscuits that were “so good – I'm not gonna lie," she tells Woman’s Day, her plate looks much different these days. "Now we do a 3-oz portion of steak, which my husband, Michael, weighs on a scale, and I'll sear it in a skillet or put it on the grill. We'll sauté the green beans but without bacon. And maybe a tomato salad with onions. No bread!"
Deen hasn’t completely changed though. "In my refrigerator, there's no light mayonnaise," Deen says. "I'd rather eat less of the real thing and have it taste really good than have diet stuff that tastes awful." To offset things like real mayo, she eats plenty of greens – and enjoys every bite. "I'm on a Brussels sprout kick! They're selling them in those microwave steam bags, so I steam them, then put them in a frying pan with a little butter and olive oil until some of the outer leaves start getting a little brown. They're out of this world."
This new lifestyle is a drastic change for Deen, who built her food empire by sharing high-calorie recipes with her fans on her cooking shows and in her books and magazine. One of her most famous creations, The Lady’s Brunch Burger, was a hamburger topped with bacon and a fried egg on two doughnuts – and let’s not forget the Twinkie Pie or Deep-Fried Stuffing on a Stick. But she had to rethink her way of cooking in January 2012 when she announced she had quietly been suffering from diabetes for three years. And her announcement – which was timed with an endorsement deal for a diabetes drug – caused a wide-spread backlash about her motivation for speaking out in the first place.
"Honey, I was in denial – for a couple of years," she tells Woman’s Day about why it took so long for her go public with her diagnosis and change her ways. But she’s not looking back. “I want to be here for my grandchildren. I think about them every day. My daddy was dead at 40. My mother was dead at 44. And look – I'm 65 and I'm still here! Go, 65! Waking up every morning is very exciting for me, to see what the day is going to bring."
For more of Deen’s interview, pick up the February issue of Woman’s Day, on newsstands January 8.