The diabetic chef tells PEOPLE she's ditched sweet tea – but won't pass up all sweets

By Liza Hamm and Alison Schwartz
January 18, 2012 02:30 PM
Beck Starr/FilmMagic

Despite being diabetic, there are some things Paula Deen doesn’t plan on giving up, like the occasional dessert.

But as the celebrity chef reaches out to fans and foodies about her Type 2 Diabetes, she admits there is one indulgence she’s had to completely eliminate from her diet.

“I gave up sweet tea. It was not easy for a Southern girl,” Deen, who revealed Tuesday that she’s known she was a diabetic for three years, tells PEOPLE. “I would start drinking my sweet tea at lunch, and I would drink it up ’til I went to bed. It was staggering how much sugar I consumed in empty calories just from drinking my tea.”

Also on the chopping block: white products, which she’s swapping for wheat grains. “I don’t eat as much cake as I would like,” she adds.

Outside the kitchen, Deen says she exercises on a treadmill every day, and she prefers to work out solo.

“I have to learn on my own that I’m responsible for me, not a trainer,” she says. “It’s something I have to pull up from my bootstraps and do myself.”

Deen is collaborating with drug maker Novo Nordisk and just launched Diabetes in a New Light but says she also wants to reach out to her fans.

“I want to try to get across moderation,” she says. “My fans see me two to three times a day on TV, watching me cook my Southern food, and it’s hard for them to realize that’s only 30 days out of the year that I film those shows. So that leaves 335 to 336 days left that I’m not eating those foods.”

For more from Deen on her condition, pickup this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday