“Cobra Kai” actress on diabetes and self-defense

Mary Mouser on living with type 1 diabetes
Wellness Wire
IN a nutshell
Over the next 37 years, the number of children with type 1 diabetes is expected to increase by 65%. That's a big jump!
As intimidating as that news may sound, know that this health condition doesn't have to limit you or your kids from achieving big things. Today's interview guest is living proof of that: Type 1 diabetes can't stop "Cobra Kai" star Mary Mouser.
Gather 'round, grasshoppers. Here's what's coming your way:
Q&A with Mary Mouser
a dummy (for grappling)
self-defense moves everyone should know
more health stories you need
Be well,
Morgan Mandriota
Newsletter Editor, Healthline
  Written by Morgan Mandriota
January 20, 2023 • 7 min read
Mary Mouser is best known for her role as Sam LaRusso on Netflix's "Cobra Kai." A lesser known fact about her is that she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at 13 years old.
At first, she feared it would hold her back from achieving her dream of acting, but she eventually proved herself wrong and learned that she could do everything she aspired to do while living with the condition.
Below, the actress opens up about what it's like to live with diabetes and manage her health alongside a career in the spotlight.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What was the diabetes diagnostic process like for you, especially as a young person?
A: I was diagnosed [with type 1 diabetes] about a month after my 13th birthday, which I vividly remember because at the time I really wanted to remember 13. I thought of cool things I could do, like getting my ears pierced for the first time. I'll never forget 13 now.
Before I was diagnosed, I had been showing a lot of symptoms. I felt like I had a cold off and on for 6 weeks straight. I had been peeing nonstop. I was thirsty all the time. I was irritable. I was having headaches … all the hallmark symptoms. [But] I didn't know a lot of people with type 1 diabetes, so we didn't really know what to look out for.
The doctor kept recommending tests, but I was terrified of needles. After five back-to-back visits, my mom mentioned that I was downing bottles of water. That's when the doctor decided to test my blood sugar, and it was sky high.
Q: Tell us about your experience managing diabetes, especially while working on camera.
A: When I was first diagnosed, I had a very big, very intense moment of, "Holy crap, I don't think I can do the thing I want to do for the rest of my life with diabetes." I identified and lived with that fear for a hot second. Luckily, I have a wonderful support team who told me that was absolutely preposterous and that we'd figure it out.
Over the years, I've learned a lot about my body and how to take care of it. I've also learned a lot about diabetes itself and how to learn from it and change with it to the best of my ability.
The Tandem pump has been a huge help. (I didn't originally have the Tandem pump –– I had a pump that felt a lot bulkier and harder to disguise, which is a lot of what I have to worry about on camera.) It's taken such a load off my mind –– it feels like my little invisible partner alongside me, helping me tackle what sometimes seems like a rather large beast. I just let the designers know so they can work around with costumes and stuff on set.
I've also integrated the continuous glucose monitor (CGM). That was the one I held off on because I was really nervous about the idea of a really big needle, or what felt like a needle, in me all the time. It freaked me out. I like to have a lot of information about things, then, once I do, it feels far less scary.
Greg Grunberg
Q: As someone who lives with T1D and stars in the karate-themed Netflix series "Cobra Kai," what has your relationship to exercise been like?
A: I kind of joke that I was allergic to exercise before my diagnosis. I was very anti-anything that involved working up a sweat.
Since then, I've learned how important it is for managing my diabetes. For me, physical activity and exercise make my life with diabetes so much less complicated. It's become something that makes me feel empowered, healthier, and more in control.
Q: Do you have any words of support or hope for fellow people living with diabetes?
A: I love speaking out and saying I was truly the most uncoordinated, unskillful stunt person you've ever met, but I'm at a point now where I can decently hold my own. I feel confident and powerful when it comes to doing karate on the show. In addition to that, I get to say that I'm doing it with type 1 diabetes, so you can, too.
If my experience could help one person know they can do absolutely anything and also be type 1 diabetic — that it can add grit and bravery and strength to all the things you do in life — that would mean the world to me.
Click here to read more about Mary Mouser's experience with T1D.
great finds
Editor faves with health perks
You know those great finds you just *have* to tell your friends about? That's how we feel about the products we recommend here. Every pick has been vetted by our editorial team, and we genuinely think it'll make your life better.
Jendila Grappling Dummy
Jendila Grappling Dummy
Back when I used to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu (fun fact: I'm a blue belt), I'd practice certain techniques on a dummy. When I didn't feel like working with someone else, it would serve as my training partner, which did a great job at letting me beat it up!
For anyone who wants to boost their self-defense repertoire, this grappling dummy is your new human-shaped BFF. Manipulate its limbs to drill MMA-style techniques, BJJ moves, or other self-defense skills. It also comes in different sizes, ranging from XS to XL.
This dummy comes unfilled (otherwise it'd weigh too much to ship). Easily stuff it with towels, old clothes, or blankets once it arrives, and you're ready to try the moves we talk about in our next story.
Shop now
How to protect yourself, from a certified self-defense instructor
Weird Science
How to protect yourself, from a certified self-defense instructor
Self-defense is an incredibly important skill that everybody should know. We hope you'll never need to use it, but it's better to be prepared in case you do. According to Ashley Korcal, CSCS, Krav Maga self-defense coach and Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, "The benefits can potentially save your life, increase your confidence, help you realize your self-worth, and improve your fitness."

Here are some self-defense moves for beginners to practice solo, with a buddy, or with that grappling dummy we just talked about:
hammer strike
groin kick
palm strike
elbow strike
*If you're a visual learner, click here to watch each move in action.

Korcal also recommends learning grappling and groundwork, especially what to do if you fall (e.g., how to get on top of an attacker, get your feet between you and them, etc.). Her general rule of thumb is to be as difficult as possible. "Even without technique, being as aggressive as possible can make a huge difference."

Above all, Korcal notes that self-defense is a mindset. "It's not just about a series of techniques you can learn then be 100% safe. It starts with realizing you're worth defending and then doing whatever you have to do to survive," she adds.

Nervous about getting into it? Try not to be. Korcal reminds us that self-defense is for everyone. "Whoever you are, you are capable!"
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Thanks for reading! TGIF, friends. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. We'll see you on Monday.
Did you enjoy this interview?
Until next time,
Take care of yourself, and we'll see
you again soon!
This edition was powered by
my neglected BJJ blue belt.
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