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COVID-19 didn’t stop Rick and Hector from reversing type 2 diabetes, thanks to help from Blue Shield of California and Virta

April 21, 2020
February 28, 2022

Two patients in California recently started their Virta journeys to reverse their type 2 diabetes, right as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country. Rick and Hector have both already seen some great results, and they are sharing their personal experiences of joining Virta during these extraordinary times.

When bariatric surgery didn’t work, Rick turned to Virta to reverse his type 2 diabetes.

Rick lives in Southern California and works in the aerospace transportation industry. Because his role is considered an essential service, he continues to work during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order across California (and much of the US). He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 10 years ago. While he’s tried just about everything to manage his diabetes, including bariatric surgery, nothing has really worked. In these times of unprecedented global fear and uncertainty, Rick still decided to take control of his diabetes by joining Virta and reversing it.

By Rick, on Virta for 3 weeks

For 10 years, I was physically unable to eat more than a palmful of food at a time due to the lap-band I had placed around my stomach. I lost about 15 pounds, plateaued, and then did not see any improvements in my health after that. It certainly did not fix my type 2 diabetes, which was my original goal in the first place. It also took the joy out of eating. Nothing was fun to eat, and I ended up either starving myself or feeling so deprived that I would overeat or have something I shouldn’t. This would cause a whole set of other problems.

I had the lap-band removed in August of 2019 and began searching for a more permanent and sustainable solution for my diabetes. I discovered Virta through Blue Shield of California, whose Wellvolution program provides fully-covered access to a variety of personalized health and wellness benefits. Not only did Virta’s type 2 diabetes reversal treatment sound like the kind of solution I was looking for, but it was also fully covered, so I didn’t have to pay a thing.

As I was going through the enrollment process, the coronavirus hit California, and I started reading about businesses shutting down and groceries becoming harder to get. I asked my Virta enrollment advisor if this is still a good time to start something like this, and he said that there has never been a better time for telemedicine and receiving ongoing diabetes care online. I didn’t know it at the time, but he could not have been more right: now, everyone is seeing doctors through their computers and smartphones, and it works beautifully.

I can’t even compare my experience with the lap-band to my experience on Virta. With Virta, I can eat just about anything I want, a luxury I didn’t even know I missed before. Most importantly, there were many vegetables I could not have with the lap-band, and they have all happily returned to my diet. And Virta-friendly foods are the food that every grocery store has plenty of. I may not be able to get toilet paper, but I can certainly find vegetables that fit with my Virta plan. And lots of cream cheese. Virta had me at cream cheese.

The biggest takeaway for me is that through Virta, I know I have people looking out for me. My Virta doctor is monitoring my progress, and my Virta health coach is just a message away to answer all of my questions. I feel so supported throughout the whole process, especially in the beginning when I was wondering what I should eat. Virta tells you exactly what to eat with recipes and meal plans for beginners. 

There is no right or wrong time to start Virta. There’s just now, and if this 60-year old can start in the middle of a pandemic, anyone should be able to start at any time. The treatment is straightforward, and the team at Virta makes the new lifestyle simple and easy to adopt. I know that when this pandemic blows over, I will be healthier than when it started.

Hector couldn't control his blood sugar with low calorie diets, so he joined Virta to reverse his diabetes instead.

Hector, a licensed optician in the Los Angeles area, started the Virta treatment on March 23, 2020, right as the coronavirus pandemic hit its stride in California and placed his job on hold. He was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 14 years ago, and had previously tried very low calorie diets through an in-person clinic to manage his diabetes, but found no real success. When he learned that Virta was covered by his insurance provider, also Blue Shield of California, he jumped at the opportunity to finally reverse his diabetes.

By Hector, on Virta for 4 weeks

The first day I started Virta was right around the time when non-essential businesses began shutting down. Though it may sound crazy to start eating differently during a time when trips to the grocery store could take over an hour, I can say that it is still easier than going on a low calorie diet. I had tried those starvation diets over the last few years since my type 2 diabetes diagnosis, but they’re terrible. I felt like I was always set up to fail; who can enjoy life and make good food choices while feeling hungry all of the time?

With Virta, however, I don’t have to starve myself to have healthy blood sugar levels. I don’t have to be miserable; I just have to keep my carb intake under my personal tolerance level, and use fat for energy instead. Believe it or not, I didn’t even have to change my habits that much to get started on Virta. I had to go to the grocery store anyway to buy food for me and my family, and I simply had to make smarter choices. During the first day or two of coronavirus panic-buying, when I read about bare shelves at the store, I was a little worried. But I actually found that all the food I could eat was still available: meat, vegetables, butter, oils, and other sources of fat that I needed to replace carbs.

Because in the end, Virta does not restrict me. Sure, I no longer have pasta, but all I have to do is go onto my Virta app and look for substitutions, or just text my health coach. Virta has taught me how to plan for my meals, and even just after being on the treatment for three weeks, I’ve already established a new, healthier routine. Cutting back on the carbs and upping the fat has already improved my fasting blood sugar, down from 300 mg/dL before Virta to now just 150 mg/dL. Also, I have more energy and the neuropathy I used to feel in my body has disappeared, all of which makes it easier to be active and exercise.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about type 2 diabetes, and for a long time, I thought that I needed medication in order to control my numbers. I thought that I could eat whatever I wanted because the metformin I was on would fix everything. Virta has shown me that I am in control of my numbers, not my medication, and I look forward to the day when I can be free of all diabetes prescriptions.

I am so pleased that Virta exists, and even more excited that my insurance covers the cost. Not only do I have access to Virta through Blue Shield of California, but I also had my first telemedicine experience through this treatment. My first appointment with my Virta doctor was through video, and I loved it from the first moment. I am so fortunate to be able to see my doctor online and not have to go to a clinic or hospital. My Virta health coach is online as well, just a chat message away. 

Turns out a pandemic was not a bad time for me to start changing my lifestyle. It very may well have been the best possible time.

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