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Personal Stories

A Chat with T1D Influencer Sami Parker on Insulin Resistance and Resilience

Samantha Parker, who goes by Sami, sits across from me outside a coffee shop. Growing up in Southern California and attending Pepperdine University in Malibu, Parker has all the classic swagger of a native Californian. Despite this being our first time meeting, she gives me a big hug before sitting down. 

A Chat with T1D Influencer Sami Parker on Insulin Resistance and Resilience

I was first introduced to Parker through her Instagram account, Type1Sami, where she chronicles her life with type 1 diabetes and insulin resistance. Freshly diagnosed, my hospital nurse showed me her Instagram and encouraged me to follow her journey. Now, four years later, we meet for the first time al fresca. 

Parker was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age twelve, just a few months shy of her thirteenth birthday. 

“I think it was a perfect age because I knew life before, but it was also a really good age to where you’re not in high school yet — you’re still malleable,” Parker said. 

It's Not About Being Perfect

Parker grew up as a dancer, sometimes dancing for seven hours a day. Dance seems to act as a thread through her story, something she’s done since before her diagnosis, through it, and after it. And, being a dancer, Parker had always been active and driven, even from a young age. So, when she was diagnosed, diabetes became just another thing she could push herself to excel at. “I feel like it's more of a mentality of like, resilience,” Parker said. “I would never want a disease to beat me. I want to beat the disease.”

While this drive pushes Parker towards tackling her diabetes, she maintains that it's about conquering the condition in her own way, not about being perfect. “My blood sugars aren't perfect, but I am a perfectionist in terms of, like, I want to be the most productive I can be and achieve what I can,” Parker said. “I like challenging myself, so I think that's like a big motivator.” 

Type1Sami and Just My Type

Parker started the Type1Sami Instagram account in 2019 but saw an influx in growth in 2022 after her work with the podcast Just My Type.  The podcast ended, but Parker’s Instagram continued to grow as she did. But fame and fortune were never goals for Parker — just making a place where fellow T1Ds can find someone else who knows what they’re going through.  “If someone says ‘Oh, you have a large audience or following’… I don't view it like that,” Parker said. “It’s just a page with people who are all type 1 in the community.” 

With her page now having over sixteen thousand followers, Parker reflects on her own experience as an early diabetic and aims to create the kind of space she was looking for at that time.  “You’re just trying to share information,” Parker said. “Because if I had had this when I was twelve, it would have saved my life.” 

It's a Balancing Act

Parker’s perspective on living with type 1 relies on compassion and balance, something that can be hard for people living with a condition that so heavily affects many aspects of our health. “I always say, I'd rather be balanced and have an A1c of seven than be a perfectionist and have an A1c of 5.8, truthfully,” Parker said. “Mentally, I think that's way more of a mind-eff than if your A1c is 6.9 and you’re living life enjoyably.”

I ask Parker what motivates her in all these different ventures and living through diabetes, and she hesitates to answer. It’s a hard question; sometimes, we do things without really thinking about where our inspirations come from. Eventually, she replies, playing with the small silver cross hanging around her neck, and talks about her relationship with herself and her personal faith.

“I do think like, I feel blessed that I got [type 1 diabetes], which sounds weird because I think the mentality is that people feel like they are attacked, but they got it, like, ‘Why me?’” Parker said. “And I feel like it's a reversal of, well, ‘Why not me?’ Like, I can tackle it. He clearly gave it to me because He knew I could handle it. So, I very much use that as momentum.” 

On Insulin Resistance

One of the main draws of Parker’s account is her vulnerability, showing both her highs and lows as they come. At the age of fifteen, Parker discovered she was insulin-resistant on top of having type 1 diabetes. Insulin resistance happens when the cells in the body struggle with allowing insulin to lower the glucose. 

Additionally, Parker was diagnosed with adrenal PCOS, a condition that increases her testosterone and cortisol, which leads to higher blood sugar levels and more insulin resistance. “Adrenal glands over-secrete cortisol, which inevitably increases your testosterone, which increases blood sugar,” Parker said. “High testosterone is basically insulin resistance.”

Cortisol, the hormone released during moments of stress, raises blood sugar by activating the body’s fight or flight response. Since the body believes itself to be in danger, it releases stored glucose to give the body energy, leading to high blood sugar in individuals with diabetes. 

Parker's battle with insulin resistance and adrenal PCOS resulted in years of ups and downs when it came to her blood sugar. However, Parker was still determined to display her truth of living with type 1 diabetes and show her struggles with maintaining a steady blood sugar regularly.  “In terms of sharing highs and lows and people thinking I’m a bad diabetic, the one thing is like, I've just never cared what other people thought, ever, to be completely honest,” Parker said with a chuckle. “I just don't care because I’ve dealt with so many different things.”

GLP-1s and Type 1 Diabetes

Due to her struggles with insulin resistance, Parker recently started taking a semaglutide medication, known better by its brand name Ozempic, a drug developed for type 2 diabetics that has made its way into the public eye as a weight loss drug used by celebrities. But, through posting about her experience with the drug on her page, Parker wants to alter this connotation and inspire people to advocate for the drugs they need regardless of public perspective. 

“I hope that taking Ozempic will help increase my time in range, help with combating weight gain, and also just give me that satiated feeling after I eat and not always feeling hungry as a type one diabetic,” Parker said on Instagram. “I wanted to document the process so that other type 1s don't feel alone.” 

Parker’s experience taking Ozempic is one of many conversations she covers in her podcast, “Type 1 Tea,” which she shares with T1D author Ginger Vieira. “It's called type one tea, and we do it now once a week,” Parker said. “We just put out an episode that's just 30 minutes of us talking about a topic that basically is controversial… just different things that a lot of people are always curious about.” 

Honey Health App

In addition to her successful Instagram page and podcast with Vieira, Parker has partnered with Honey Health, a diabetes care app, to develop a fitness page called “Sweat by Sami,” where she shares workouts for those living with diabetes. “I just want to provide those living with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, prediabetes —a platform where you can find a daily dose of exercise for you,” Parker said in a video. 

Also on the Honey Health app is Sami and fellow T1D Bellé Krueger’s podcast-style show, “The Daily BS,” where the two discuss diabetes-related topics such as their experiences with different continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) or insulin pumps, self-advocacy and dating with type 1 diabetes. 

Be Resilient

Having lived through the many ups and downs of diabetes, Parker has now started pursuing a bachelor's degree in nursing—on top of her bachelor's and master's in Exercise Physiology—so she can better support the diabetes community. 

“Everyone’s funny,” Parker says with a smile. “They’re like, ‘Why are you going from a master's-back?’ I’m like, ‘Because I didn't know what I wanted to do!’ I thought I did, and then I was working in the diabetes community and was just like, ‘How can I most work with diabetics?’” Parker offered a mantra for newly diagnosed T1Ds, urging them to give themselves grace and compassion and face adversity head-on. “Be selfish, be confident and be resilient.” 

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