I was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure in 1994, and have been overweight all of my life.
For quite a while denial was my constant companion: We’re all going to die someday, right? Might as well die with ice cream in one hand and chocolate cake in the other.
I also thought that diabetes was just a way for the medical community to make money off of me and make me miserable. This wasn’t going to be me! I used to suffer from depression, but not over something like this. I was going to live life to the fullest and enjoy it.
I think the most frustrating thing about having diabetes was the hopelessness. It's a life sentence without the possibility of parole—even for good behavior! I feel that’s the most frustrating thing that a lot of diabetics feel. Why change? There’s no cure, not any real help, just meds to keep you alive and mobile enough to survive until body parts start shutting down and being removed before life is done.
I never experienced anger about my diagnosis, but it did rock my world. My first doctor wanted me on a 1200 calorie a day diet. That did not go well. I tried different lifestyle changes. I joined a gym; it didn’t work. I had to belong to one that was open 24 hours because of my long work hours. I changed eating habits; it didn’t work. I tried several diets. None were anything I felt I could live with long term. I probably sabotaged myself because I knew they all wouldn't work.
I started taking Metformin and quickly increased my dosage to 2000 mg per day, but that wasn’t enough. I resisted using insulin as long as I could because I knew if I started, I’d be married to the needles for the rest of my life. I love being married, but not to bottles of insulin! In the end, I did have to start on insulin, but I couldn’t take the 70/30 mix. So I had to add another prescription.
I realized I wasn’t getting the help that I needed. I felt that everything that I tried would be temporary. I could do extreme exercise for a few months. I could crash diet for a few months. But I wouldn’t be able to continue living that way. The meds worked in that they kept me close to the edge of where I should be with my diabetes. But I put on so much weight, and it left me with no possibility of change.
Then my new primary care physician intervened. I remember her telling me, “Nate, I know a doctor that is involved with a plan that can help you get off insulin and I feel you’re a great candidate for it.” I took a few months to get on board, but I eventually joined Virta in September 2017.
Since joining Virta, my A1c has gone down from 8.3 with insulin to 6.9 without it. Before I started, I was using 195 units of insulin in the morning and 95 units at night to get there. I was on insulin for 15+ years; now I use none at all. Before Virta, I was on 40 mg of blood pressure meds; now I’m down to zero! As for losing weight, that has been a bit costly: Since I’ve lost around 70 lbs, I’ve had to change clothing sizes a few times.
When I first stopped my medicines, I was scared, but I trusted my coach and personal doctor’s guidance. First, I cut back the insulin and then my blood pressure meds by half. Then, I got the news not to take insulin injections or the blood pressure meds at all. As I loaded my needle the morning after getting the news, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to do that anymore. After so long using insulin as a crutch to control my glucose, now I just looked at the bottles and needles sitting there. They reminded me that I’m conquering diabetes. I have hope!
The biggest impact of the program for me has been me controlling food and not food controlling me. As a society, we focus so much on food and how it makes us feel. Now I can go out, stay in, but make right choices. The second biggest impact is that my feet thank me every time I put a foot down. I’m 70 lbs lighter, and that’s 70 lbs less pounding. It's also easier for me to do everyday tasks like tying my shoes or getting in and out of vehicles. When I go hiking and hunting with my son, it's just so much less of a struggle without the 70 lb pack!
I think the keys to the treatment are the easy-to-use app, knowing that my doctor is keeping an eye on my daily readings, and the patient coaching. My coach is amazing! It's a real confidence builder when you are responsible to someone who is supportive and has your best interests at heart.
I’m feeling wonderful. In fact, my wife and I were at a function and several people I’ve known for 30 years walked past me, and I said “hi” to them. They respectfully said “hi” back. Then they talked to my wife and told her she looked great, but they were hoping to see me too. She said, “he’s right here!” I must say, that’s the icing on the cake (that I did without).