Top Chef Star Opens up About Life with Type 1 Diabetes

Top Chef Star Opens up About Life with Type 1 Diabetes


Celebrity chef Sam Talbot is a chef, author, philanthropist and television personality who also lives with type one diabetes since a young age. Sam has appeared in multiple seasons of Top Chef, leaving as a semi-finalist and a fan favorite. He is also the author of “The Sweet Life: Diabetes without Boundaries,” which is a memoir and cookbook for people with diabetes. He also started Beyond Type 1 along with Sarah Lucas, Nick Jonas and Juliet De Baubigny in 2015.

Hi Sam, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today!

At what age were you diagnosed and did having diabetes play a part in your love for food and cooking? 

My love for food started around the age of 8 when I would cook food with my grandma. When I was diagnosed with type one diabetes at age 12, I became aware of my body and became responsible for my health. I realized everything I put into my body affects me, so making my own food allowed me to be in control of my health.

It must have been so exciting to be on Top Chef! I can imagine it was difficult to stay on top of your diabetes during some of those stressful times. How did you handle it? 

As you know as a person living with type one diabetes, stress and your emotions in general affect your blood glucose. As you can imagine with cameras around all the time, lack of sleep, lack of knowing what’s next brings some crazy trials and tribulations. During the first season, my nickname became Snapples because I was always asking for it to bring my blood sugar up. Now I wear my Medtronic Guardian Connect system. If I had that while on Top Chef, it would have been a completely different experience. If I was able to look at my phone and see my blood sugars while filming, it would have been a game changer.

Looking forward to doing it all over again on December 1 Top Chef Ilan Hall #tbt #ThrowbackThursday

Posted by Chef Sam Talbot on Thursday, November 17, 2016

Being a chef must mean you are around food all the time. This must be tempting! How do you handle it?

I lived a blessed life, the food I am around is healthy and clean. I don’t use real sugar, I don’t use a lot of dairy, so if I want to indulge, it’s still healthier food that has been thought about ahead of time. I also am able to know exactly how many carbs to bolus for and thanks to my technology on the back of my arm and my cell phone, I am good to go. It’s not that hard for me because of the technology that is available.

I see you on Instagram and you are often on the go! How do you handle your diabetes while traveling? Do you have any special technology that managing your diabetes easier since you always so busy?

There are a few things that always go where I go. When I travel, I travel with extra everything. If I am going on a trip to let’s say Nicaragua, I’ll be away for a week, which doesn’t seem like a big deal but when you are in the jungle and a type one diabetic, what do you do? I’m always overprepared. If I need 2 new sensors, I bring 6. If I need 50 test strips, I should probably bring 400. You just never know. I also love fruit leathers, which are a great go to for low blood glucose. I also make sure to drink a ton of water. There’s a really cool method to my madness!

So I am someone who prefers multiple daily injections and won’t even consider a pump at this time. What would you say to someone like me to convince me to try a pump?

If you are into epic life changes, if you are into having so much more freedom, if you want to  take off 17 checkboxes on your daily to do list, then you should maybe think about it. I’m someone who pushes the boundaries with everything I do, I can’t sit still. Since I started using the Guardian Connect system, I have never felt more in charge and think so much less just having this little bottle cap size sensor on my arm or my abdomen. I look at my phone a lot because of my job. When I check my email or go on Instagram, I can easily check my blood glucose, too. Then, I have the Sugar.IQ.app, which pairs wonderfully with the Guardian Connect sensor, so I am uber duber connected. Take the plunge if you are into epic life changes! I can live a hell of a lot more and worry a whole lot less.

What are your thoughts on the insulin affordability issue? What do you think needs to happen to make things better here in the United States? 

I think that it’s a process. I think something has to change and it’s about being informed. And it’s a situation right now with the three big insulin makers and they are obviously aware of it and lawmakers are aware of it, so I think within due time, things will change. I sure hope so.

Are you working on any special projects in the upcoming year? We look forward to seeing great things from you–personally, professionally and for the diabetes community! 

For me, there is so much going on. I am working on a few projects that I am really passionate about. But to be honest, what it really boils down to, I am in a stage in my life where I feel the most secure and the most where I am leaving a really good mark in what matters to me. I am able to work with great companies, like Medtronic, and my foundation, Beyond Type 1 and keep spreading the levels of awareness, keep pushing the levels of education, until ultimately, we get to a place where we are at a cure. So from me, you can expect getting louder with education, more passionate, more programs, talking more and really just pushing the boundaries of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. That is where I really shine. The kitchen I can do with my arms behind my back but where my passion really lies is helping others. Just even what I am doing right now with this phone call by spreading awareness.

#fbf last Friday. When there is #unity there is always #victory Nick Jonas To a cure – Beyond Type 1 #4founders

Posted by Chef Sam Talbot on Friday, May 12, 2017

Well we are lucky to have people like you, Sam, to advocate for us. 

I am lucky to have someone like you! What a rockstar! You were diagnosed at 37, already been living your life, and all of a sudden became a type 1 diabetic and look what you turned that into. We were both dealt a hand, I was at a younger age and that lead me to Beyond Type 1 and working with Medtronic on their Live More Worry Less campaign. And your career led you here and now we’re talking and spreading awareness, it’s a really cool thing!

You know what Sam, you are right! There are silver linings. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today!

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Read more about insulin, Intensive management, interview, Medtronic.





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