Q: How are you?
A: I'm finer than frog's hair. Do you know how fine that is? It's so fine you can't even see it.
You've said you're cutting portion sizes in half now. That takes a lot of willpower. What techniques are you using?
I'm arranging my plate a little differently. The night before last we had fresh stewed squash, ham, fresh peas, and string beans with new potatoes. In the past, I would have put lots of potatoes on my plate, and I would have buttered them and put sour cream on them. My favorite thing in the world is potatoes cooked in a pot with fresh green beans. And I would have had a lot of ham and just a little bit of squash. We've taken bread out of our meals during the week. And when we do eat a piece, it's like a multigrain. I'm just trying to rearrange my meals- low on the starches and carbs and a bigger pile of things that are almost free for you to eat. You are achieving the goal that you set out to achieve- that was not to feel hungry.
So you don't feel hungry, having reduced your calories that much?
But like I said, we are entering our vegetable season down here, and oh my gosh, during the summer, it's not unusual at all to just have vegetable dinners. Our tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh green beans, our squash, is just coming in so delicious and so beautiful. So in the summertime, it's very easy down south to fill up on things that are so good for you and not loaded with carbs and calories.
It becomes more of a challenge, when our growing season is over. Of course, we can still get them. They are just not in their prime. A local farmer sent me his first digging from his crop of Vidalia onions, and I'm telling you, you could just eat a Vidalia sandwich with mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. So last night I had a salad and I loaded it with that wonderful Vidalia onion and tossed me a little of my ham in. That was my dinner and I was very satisfied and very full. And for dessert, I made us sugar free peach ice cream. And I keep my ice cream freezer in the freezer because I can make a churn of ice cream in 25 minutes. I just use lowfat milk, 3 eggs, 1.5 cups of a sugar substitute and then my fruit.
I've got an employee recuperating at my house from surgery. She's very picky and our daughter and her son came and spent the night with us last night. Between the four of us we eat the whole churn. I said, "Eat up, because there's almost no calories."
What about snacks?
I'm snacking different. Watermelon season is coming in down here. That's one of the free fruits that I can eat as much as I want of. There is nothing better than a Georgia watermelon- nothing in the whole world. I've got a recipe for watermelon salad in one of my cookbooks, which is so, so delicious. And it's a great substitute for a lettuce salad, where you're wanting to put creamy fattening dressings on it. This one is a much lighter salad and it's a wonderful substitute during the summer.
That does sound good.
It's delicious, honey. Feta cheese. Oh my gosh, it's so good.
We've been interested to see that Anthony Bourdain, who was kind of nasty in his initial response to your diabetes announcement, has now been softening his comments. What's going on?
Oh, really? My team told me of his statement that I was the most evil dangerous woman in America. I thought, "Oh my gosh, what hospital he did just get out of?" And I did hear he was going to break his legs to sell crutches, which I thought was awful, because people out there with diabetes haven't chosen this. It's not their fault. So many things play into whether or not you get diabetes. I thought that was very, very cruel. But I really don't know nor do I care. I don't know the man. I've never shared a meal with him. You could enlighten me on what he said. In what way has he softened?
He's saying he feels sorry for you.
Don't cry for me, honey. Don't cry for me. God has blessed me unbelievably.
If he came to dinner at your house, what would you serve him?
Well, it would depend on the day of the week, and what was going on in my life at that moment. If my children were all coming it would certainly be a different meal. If he was just stopping in on Michael and me, it would probably be a salad with rotisserie chicken on top. Everybody has a right to their own opinion. And I can't change his opinion, nor would I try. I wish him the best. I just do. I don't wish anything bad on anybody. I know he's had his demons, and I hope they're under control.
What do you think of the Saturday Night Live spoof of you?
Oh my gosh, it just made me just die laughing. I love Saturday Night Live. We have been big fans of that show since 1976, I think, and wouldn't miss one for anything. The girl who has played me a couple times- Kristin Wiig, who did Bridesmaids- I think she is brilliant. She is the most talented female that's been on Saturday Night Live since Gilda Radner. Like I said, it made me laugh, because it was so tongue in cheek. I never miss an opportunity to laugh, even if it's at myself. I need to send her a thank you note.
Would you like to be on Saturday Night Live yourself?
I want to be on Saturday Night Live so bad I can hardly stand it. I think it would be a hoot.
In March, Oprah's Show on OWN broadcast an hour-long show with you. But the show didn't focus on diabetes. Why not?
Oprah came to my house last year and spent the night and we filmed the show, but contractually I could not speak of it until we made the announcement. And so as we got closer and closer to the announcement, I sent word that I needed to speak with Oprah, so she called me on New Year's Eve, and I said "Oprah, I wanted to explain to you about this announcement that I'm fixing to make and why I could not discuss it with you. I didn't want anyone to think you were uninformed, so now I can tell you." She thanked me. She said "I appreciate that Paula." I said "Oprah, there a good chance we make this announcement and no one cares or we won't get any feedback." And she laughed and said "Oh, yes you will, Paula."
That's for sure. Now the American Diabetes Association has recruited you to be a part of an expo in Chicago this month to raise awareness about diabetes. What will your role be?
As I understand it, I'll be doing a cooking demo based on Diabetes in a New Light. That would be great, because that's how we're trying to spread the word. I want to encourage people to go to their doctor, learn their numbers, and get checked for diabetes.
The ADA is a very respected organization. Do you see that as a validation of what you've done?
Absolutely. They've given us their blessing, if I have my information correct. And they just don't throw that around, blessing something.
Type 2 diabetes used to be a disease that affected senior citizens. Now teenagers are getting diagnosed with it because of growing obesity. How do you feel about that, and what can we as a society do about it?
I think fast food has really played a part. We live so fast and furious. They've done studies showing no single food will cause you to become diabetic, but the amount does, along with stress, genetics, lifestyle. But being overweight is a problem. Hamburgers and french fries pile it on.
Does it make you sad that kids are getting diagnosed so young, because it's going to affect their lives?
Yes. If it goes untreated, it will definitely lead to more serious problems. Like I said, we live in a fast-paced world. Sometimes it's easier to run to that drive-in window. Once in a while is OK. But what we're trying to do with Diabetes in a New Light is come up with delicious meals that are really friendly for a diabetic or anybody trying to lose weight. These are quick recipes that you can prepare in your kitchen with just a little thought and time. That clock is one of our devils in this society, because we live in a world of two-income families, where everybody is working and it's hard to make time for things that are important.
Like family meals.
Like sitting down together at the dinner table. I feel sorry for those families with young children, trying to hold down two jobs. It's not easy.
On the topic of younger people getting diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, what's your opinion of the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign?
I think it's a real positive move. I loved when she was encouraging the gardening. I adore my garden here at the house, and my grandson Jack loves it too. He collects eggs from my chickens. He pulls kumquats off the trees. He pulled oranges off the trees yesterday, and he made me the most wonderful orange mud pie. I think it's a great way to get children involved in eating fresh food. If you don't have a yard, you can grow things in pots. Children are interested in watching things grow. If they can help cook their meal, they're much more inclined to eat it, because they're proud of what they've done.
The New England Journal of Medicine just published two studies on the effectiveness of gastric bypass surgery- not just for managing diabetes, but in some cases actually reversing it. Would you consider it?
No, I have never considered that. I think you have to be 100 pounds overweight before they would even consider it. I do know people who have had it done, and it was successful. But that's something that never entered my mind, because I've always been the typical 30 pounds overweight. I've never even spent one second thinking about it. If I was 100 to 150 pounds overweight, I would probably really seriously think about it. I was looking at Star Jones on TV this morning, and she finally admitted that she had surgery. It's great to see her maintaining. She looks beautiful. But I've also known people who have had it and went right back to their old evil ways, and the weight came right back on.
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