As one of 9, I come from a big family, and diabetes doesn’t run in it. So I was a little surprised when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes when pregnant with my daughter. Nonetheless, I chalked it up to drinking too much juice—it was a hot August pregnancy, after all. I was temporarily given insulin shots in my belly while pregnant but told that my numbers should come back down after my daughter was born. I didn’t realize it at the time, but about 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
After 3 years of maintaining elevated numbers beyond the initial gestational diabetes diagnosis, I started having kidney issues as well. That’s when my doctor officially diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes. From there I worked with a nutritionist and endocrinologist to try to get things under control, and it started with oral medications like metformin.
I remained on oral medication only for around seven years, but when those stopped working, I was then put on three different kinds of injectables as well. Eventually, I was even put back on insulin. Yet my weight and my numbers continued to rise. My doctors told me to “lose weight, eat less, and exercise more,” but no matter what diet I tried or how many miles I walked, my body always seemed to get used to it and bounce right back to being heavy. And my A1c continued to stay in the high 7s and low-to-mid 8s. I felt discouraged—like I must be doing something wrong. But what really hurt to my core was not being able to play with my grandbabies. I had always envisioned myself being the fun Nana, but now that I had a chance, I just didn’t have the energy.
When I got the email about a pilot program the State of Tennessee was doing with Virta, I felt surprisingly hopeful because it sounded like nothing I had ever heard of before. Instead of relying on more and more medications to manage diabetes, Virta uses food to naturally reduce blood sugar and A1c. Everything I read about it sounded like it could work for me, so I applied and crossed my fingers.
I was elated when I learned I had been accepted into the Virta treatment and met my Virta health coach, Jenna, who is incredible. She patiently helped me understand what “ketosis” means and showed me how my body’s reaction to certain foods was a form of carbohydrate intolerance. In all the years I worked with my endocrinologist, I don’t think he ever mentioned “intolerance” as a possible contributor to my type 2 diabetes once.
The individual attention I have gotten from Virta still amazes me. Jenna does more than provide helpful information and tips to improve my treatment. She also tells me it is okay when I beat myself up for accidentally putting sugar in my coffee. She listens to me without judgment when I encounter personal issues, and she helps me get back on track when I slip. And if my numbers aren’t quite where I want them to be during a check-in, she never tells me I’m not trying hard enough or to “eat less and exercise more.” She tells me that I am doing great—and for the first time in a long time, I believe it. I am doing great!
Prior to starting on the Virta treatment a little over a year ago, my weight had ballooned to almost 200lbs and my A1c was 8.5. On top of that, I had horrible inflammation and I was tired all of the time. It was depressing.
Today, I have lost over 45 lbs, I am getting my A1c under control, and I feel incredible.
My inflammation is gone, I have more energy, and I am able to do things I never thought I would be able to—like play with my 2 grandkids on the floor and on the trampoline. Nana is back!
I am so grateful the State of Tennessee offered this pilot program and that I was able to take advantage of it. I honestly think that the announcement email was a blessing for me and my family. Even now as we all plan a trip to Florida together, I need to keep reminding myself that I no longer need to avoid hikes or long days. Because of Virta, I can do more and be there with my family. I feel like after over 20 years, I finally have my life back.
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