When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 13 years ago, all I could think about was the irony. Of all things, food could ultimately be what kills me instead of some of the other struggles I’d had in my life. For a long time, I enjoyed drinking my Crown Royals a little too much. Even though I have stopped drinking and have been a part of the recovery community for over 30 years, I always thought that alcohol would be the end of me. Come to find out, it seemed like food would be the culprit?
After I stopped drinking and smoking, I gained a bit of weight, in some part due to eating things I should have avoided. For example, when coworkers would bring in donuts, I would walk by and grab one, which would open the floodgates and I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from having more. Even if the donut wasn’t very good, I would grab another just to try and satisfy the craving. Eating this way was unhealthy for me, and at the time of my type 2 diabetes diagnosis, my A1c was over 11%. I was eventually prescribed a daily injectable insulin called Basaglar and another weekly injection of Trulicity.
Prior to coming to Virta, I managed my diabetes through medication, and I also tried losing weight through programs like Weight Watchers. By cutting my calories, I’d lose weight while on these sorts of programs. But I found that after losing some weight, I wouldn’t feel as motivated to continue counting calories and going hungry, which would cause me to gain that weight back. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but the insulin I was taking every day to lower my blood sugar also worked against my body by making it store more fat.
When I received an email from my employer, CNH Industrial, announcing they were covering a treatment that reverses type 2 diabetes altogether, I thought to myself, “Reversal? Well, that’s a bold claim!” Because I hadn’t previously thought reversal was even possible, and CNH Industrial was fully covering the entire cost of Virta, I was curious and decided to enroll.
Getting started took just 5 minutes to fill out an application, and soon I was talking to my enrollment advisor, Alan, about Virta. Everything about the treatment sounded great: medical supervision by a physician-led team, access to a Virta health coach, and resources like testing supplies and recipes. But I didn’t discover my favorite part until I got started. The key to my success on Virta was the upfront education. Through videos, articles, and chatting with Tyler, my Virta health coach, I learned so much about type 2 diabetes and my own metabolic health before I even changed anything about what I ate. I started to understand why my body reacts to certain foods in the ways that it does, and why foods rich in fat and protein are more energy-sustaining than carbs.
Giving up those donuts and other carb-heavy foods was a bit of a struggle at first; after all, I live in Wisconsin, the pastry capital of the world. However, even after just a week of following Virta’s guidance, I found my cravings starting to go away. I was also surprised to find how quickly my blood sugar stabilized along with my energy levels. During this first week, my blood sugar would hover in the low 100s mg/dL at night, yet I wouldn’t feel the heebie-jeebies like I used to.
Since then, my fasting blood sugars have continued to drop from my initial average of around 175 mg/dL to around 125 mg/dL. I’ve also lost 40 pounds, and while that does feel good, the reason Virta has been so successful for me, and why I am motivated to continue, is not because of the weight loss. I am doing this to have better health without relying on medication. I was on 30 units of Basaglar injections daily before I started on Virta. Over the course of a couple of months on the treatment, my Virta doctor gradually reduced my dosage safely. Now, I am only taking 3 units daily–a 90% decrease!
All of these results have been possible because of my food choices, but I previously didn’t know how to do it, nor did I have the doctor and coach support needed to make it happen. On Virta, I can eat the things that I always loved in the first place. Plate me up a pile of steak, green beans, and mushrooms, and I’m all set. Throw on some blue cheese crumbles and I practically forget all about carbs!
I’ve also noticed that Virta fits really well with my recovery from overusing alcohol. Two key principles that have fueled my recovery success are accountability and planning. When I first started my recovery journey, I had a sponsor who kept me accountable and guided me on how to live each day in a way that I choose. My Virta “sponsor” is my health coach Tyler who explains things in clear, practical ways and checks in with me to make sure I am supported as I stay the course.
Another key to my recovery success has been the ability to plan for the future by setting goals. Virta is also all about goals and making concrete plans in order to meet those goals. I am looking toward a brighter future and I know the steps it takes to get there. I don’t lose sight of my desire to reverse type 2 diabetes and get off insulin. Where I once might have thought that the idea of reversal was crazy, or even impossible, I see exactly how I can do it now.
And others have taken notice as well. CNH Industrial is classified as an essential business during the pandemic, so I still see my coworkers regularly, which means they can also see me and my progress. When they comment how much healthier I seem, I tell them about my type 2 diabetes and my journey with Virta. I tell them that I trust in the treatment, that I listen to my Virta health coach, and that this is how Virta will stay with me for the long haul.
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