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 speaking with Randy Jackson yesterday, we couldn’t say that we were too surprised to hear a big American Idol announcement this morning. As the only returning judge on the panel (Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler stepped down after the last season), Jackson was tight-lipped about the show. Today we learned that Jackson himself was instrumental in helping Mariah Carey sign on as a judge for the 12th season. Here’s what he had to say about it on Twitter this morning:
— Randy Jackson (@YO_RANDYJACKSON) July 23, 2012
Since the show casting was, and is, still in negotiation (who will fill Tyler’s seat?), Jackson wanted to talk to us about another topic close to his heart: diabetes. Nine years ago, the music producer was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and it’s dramatically changed the way he lives. “When I was first diagnosed, I viewed it as a curse. But it forced me to take control of my health,” he says. Read on for details about Jackson’s journey in his own words.
- I thought I had a cold or the flu. I wasn’t feeling well and was perspiring all the time. We gave it the weekend to see if it would go away, but it didn’t. So my doctor ran a few tests and came back to tell me that I had type 2 diabetes. My Dad had it, but I thought this was a disease that happened to someone else—not me.
- My doctor told me that, as a diabetic, I was two to four times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke. That was a shock, plus, I really had to learn what blood sugar was. I had no idea what it meant when they told me that my blood sugar was at almost 500! [Editor's note: A healthy blood glucose level is below 100, and anything over 125 signals diabetes.]
Pop quiz: Do you know where your pancreas is? Or what it does? Registered nurse Candice Rosen, author of The Pancreatic Oath, is on a mission to educate people about the often-overlooked gland located between the stomach and spine. The gland secretes digestive juices and releases hormones to help the body regulate the glucose it takes from food for energy. Because of its vital function, a healthy pancreas is the key to overall wellness, Rosen believes. “If people took the pancreas seriously and ate to protect it, there would be no need for World Diabetes Day,” she says. “Type 2 Diabetes is not a disease, it’s a consequence.” Protecting your pancreas, by eating in a way that doesn’t make it work overtime, may prevent diabetes and other life-threatening health conditions and can even help you reach and maintain your optimal weight, she explains.
Here are a few simple “self-health” steps Rosen recommends to start caring for your pancreas today:
- Eliminate sugar and artificial sweeteners. For example, swap sugary fruit juices and sodas for water or unsweetened iced tea. Treat dessert as a celebration and indulge only once a week, instead of after most meals, and share with a friend.
- Decrease alcohol intake. When you do have a cocktail, follow it with a glass of water or unsweetened ice tea before you have another.
- Eat whole foods instead of processed foods.
- Be sure to get plenty of leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard and spinach.
- Decrease or eliminate fast food.
- Know your body. Weight loss is not “one size fits all”—everyone’s body reacts differently to the foods they eat, Rosen says. She recommends eating meals that keep your blood glucose levels between 70 and 100, as measured on a glucometer.