As a Native American from the Navajo tribe, type 2 diabetes has a long history of running throughout my community and family. My brother lost half of his foot due to complications from diabetes. I knew I was on the path to full-blown diabetes when I got diagnosed with prediabetes in 2017. I wasn’t that surprised, as my weight had been slowly worsening over the years.
Even as a kid, I struggled with my weight. I was very careful with my diet and stayed active with wrestling and powerlifting. However, after a series of accidents that injured both of my knees in my mid-20s, I could not stay as active as I would have liked. From there, my weight began creeping up. I went from 189 pounds, when I competed as a powerlifter, to 280 pounds, after I injured my knees. Like many of us, my weight continued to creep up each year, until I leveled off around 300 pounds in 2017, which was not healthy on my 5’6” frame. From then on, my weight bounced between 300 and 345 pounds, as I tried repeatedly to lose weight, only to gain it all back.
My health was headed in the wrong direction, and I wanted to make a change. As a single parent living alone in Missouri, the last thing I want is to get to a point where my kids would have to take care of me. So I joined a gym to exercise more, and I tried to change my diet and lower the amount of carbs I was eating. However, I didn’t know what types of food to replace all of those carbs with, so I felt pretty tired and couldn’t stick with it. I didn’t have the energy to go about my daily activities.
Around the beginning of 2020, my employer, Doe Run, sent a few emails about a new diabetes reversal treatment they were offering to employees for free. Virta could help people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes make real changes to their lives like losing weight, lowering A1c, and getting off diabetes medication.
At the time, I had plenty of weight to lose, and I was on Glumetza, a modified-release form of metformin, that I would gladly stop if I could. Initially, I ignored the first few emails I received because I just couldn’t get myself motivated. But the repeated reminders eventually made it click: Virta could help me with the changes I knew I needed, but didn’t know how to make work. I decided to sign up in April of 2020.
After just 3 weeks on Virta, I was able to stop taking Glumetza, and my fasting blood sugars decreased from an average of around 140 mg/dL to under 100 mg/dL. But it’s the weight loss that has changed my quality of life. Starting at around 310 pounds, I lost 25 pounds in the first month alone. Since then, I have continued to lose weight and am now at 236 pounds, lighter than I have been in years. I never thought that I could lose 76 pounds in 4 months in such a safe, sustainable way.
I owe a lot of that to my Virta health coach, Kelli. Kelli educates me on the science behind how different foods affect my body, and she inspires me to power through any obstacles I’ve encountered. Though the weight loss has greatly improved my life, I find that I do Virta now because it makes me feel healthier in general. This feeling of good health helps me continue to make better choices for myself so I can live the life I want.
People who are at a healthy weight may never understand the day-to-day difficulties larger people go through. For example, as the Maintenance Department Supervisor for Doe Run, I need to wear booties when I step into a plant facility, and then take them off when I leave. When I weighed upwards to 300 pounds, I had to find somewhere to sit down in order to even reach my feet. Now, with 75 pounds less to carry, I can easily change out my shoes while standing. And because I have to do this multiple times a day, I feel like this is a huge victory.
The weight loss has almost made me unrecognizable. When I went to the gym the other day, a new receptionist was working at the front desk, and when she scanned my membership card, the computer pulled up a photo from when I was 70 pounds heavier. She had to call a supervisor to make sure that I wasn’t borrowing someone else’s card. When the manager confirmed my identity, the receptionist turned her monitor around, and I had to laugh because she was right–that photo did not look like me at all!
I owe it all to Doe Run for covering a benefit like Virta. To think of Virta as a diet, or to consider a diet as a means to lose weight in the first place, is setting yourself up to fail. Diets feel so temporary, like something to do when you want to fit into smaller-sized pants. Virta is truly a lifestyle, meaning something that I will be doing for the rest of my life, because it’s what works best for my body. At my heaviest, I was wearing the largest-sized coveralls that Doe Run issued, a size 62, and even those felt tight. Now, I wear 48s, and I am confident that I’ll continue to go down in size over time.
In fact, before Virta, I used to keep my larger clothes because I didn’t feel confident enough to get rid of them, thinking I may gain all of my weight back eventually. This time, I finally took all my extra larges and donated them. I know with Virta’s help, I am never going to need them again!
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