A new season of The Amazing Race begins February 17th on CBS, and we're more than ready for a healthy dose of adrenaline-soaked TV. Watching teams work together to conquer obstacles, solve clues and race against others to be the first across the finish line for $1 million is our kind of reality TV (but we love a good episode of The Bachelor, too). While still dreaming of competing on the show ourselves, we connected with Nat Strand, one half of the winning team during season 17. Not only was she the winner, but she and best friend, Kat, were the first all-female team to win - and Strand, now 33, was the first diabetic victor. Can you say rock star?
What made you want to try out for The Amazing Race?
I was with Kat at a friend's wedding, and for some reason that night we started watching episodes on her computer and just fell in love with the show. It was travel, adventure, competition and culture. I had just finished my medical training and this was a breath of fresh air to celebrate that. And I knew it would be a fantastic platform to show that having Type 1 diabetes doesn't have to limit you. One minute you're scaling a castle wall, the next you're bungee jumping off a crane. I just knew that if I could get on the show, I would have such a wonderful platform to inspire people who are dealing with chronic disease.
How did your diabetes diagnosis affect how you approached a situation?
It just requires a lot of forethought and planning. One challenge, for example, was floating on a shield. People kept falling into the water, and I had a non-waterproof insulin pump. So I had to plan how I would take it off, how to store it, etc. And I always had to plan and make sure I had fast-acting carbs on hand, like sports beans, because exercise affects your body a lot.
But you're only allowed one backpack for the whole show. What did you make sure was always in yours?
When I was first packing, I put in everything that was diabetes related, and I couldn't fit anything else - not even a single sock! So I obviously had to reconsider things. In the end, I made sure that, along with my diabetes management products, I had a lot of shot blocks and sports beans for electrolyte replacement, and a letter in every language explaining that I was a diabetic so I could get through customs. My teammate also had a full supply of diabetes stuff in her backpack, in case I ever lost mine.
After being declared the winner of season 17, how has life changed?
I have a better platform with a better outcome than I ever could have dreamed of. I'm on the OmniPod now, a tubing-free, wireless insulin pump, which is so much more helpful. I've spent a lot of time speaking at events and hospitals as a motivational speaker. It's fun to connect with people, especially younger ones, who are newly diagnosed and have questions about limitations. It makes them feel a little less scared about managing sleepovers or going off to college.
What advice do you have for those with diabetes struggling with their own weight or fitness routines?
The key is start with something fun. I think a lot of people go from being sedentary to saying they're going to run a marathon, and then they don't succeed because it's overwhelming. Activity is activity, whether it's for 15 minutes or an hour. And incorporating some sort of moderate activity every day is going to improve your mood, response to insulin and more.
How does it feel to be the first all-female team to win?
It's amazing. It took 17 seasons to get an all-female team to win, which I think is just crazy. I was so focused on the diabetes aspect that I put the all-female persona on the back burner and was like, "Why wouldn't women win?" But I think it's a huge honor. Going somewhere no one has gone before is incredible.
Would you compete again?
In a heartbeat. I keep praying they'll do a winner's edition! It was so much fun and one of the greatest experiences of my entire life. So if anyone has any ideas, I'm game!
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