Growing up in my Caribbean household, we lived by an unspoken rule: food is the language of love. At meals, your plate should be piled high with lovingly-prepared food, and that plate should be empty when you leave the table.
I didn’t have a problem with eating this way until later in my life. In 2012, I moved from New York to Chicago for a new job. It was a stressful time, and I missed having my friends and family around me for support. Over the course of 2 years, loneliness sank in, and I found myself stress-eating as a source of comfort.
In June of 2014, I saw how damaging my stress-eating truly was. I first started having somewhat annoying symptoms: blurred vision for no reason, weight gain, and the need to go to the bathroom multiple times throughout the night. However, it all came to a head when I got out of bed one morning and couldn’t feel my legs at all.
My partner at the time called the ambulance, and I ended up staying in the hospital for a whole week, first in the emergency room, then the ICU. The doctor there told me my A1c was somewhere above 15%, which was full-blown type 2 diabetes. Though he mentioned that the right nutrition could reverse it, he did not say what “right nutrition” meant. The food at the hospital didn’t help. For example, my meals would regularly come with orange juice, which would spike my blood sugars into the 300s (mg/dL).
After that week in the hospital, I was discharged with a prescription for daily pills and insulin injections 3 times a day. I decided that I could not go on feeling so alone in Chicago and found a job back in New York with JLL. Shortly after starting, I received an email from JLL’s benefits team telling employees that they fully cover Virta Health’s type 2 diabetes reversal treatment. I went to Virta’s website, watched the video explaining how it worked, and read countless success stories from other patients. I signed up that day, determined to tell my own success story.
I was in tears when speaking to my Virta enrollment advisor because I felt like I had found the answers I'd been looking for. She explained exactly how Virta worked to reverse my diabetes, and it made so much sense. I would be working with a doctor and health coach to eliminate my medications, lower my A1c, and most importantly, feel healthier. I felt like I had finally found a solution, and for the first time in a long while, I had hope.
First, my Virta health coach, Bobbie, and I developed a plan to change my diet according to my personal carbohydrate tolerance. Since I have type 2 diabetes, my body does not process carbs in the same way that others do. Where others will see their blood sugar return to normal after eating carbs, mine stays high long after. So Bobbie helped me find low-carb substitutes in my everyday meals, like using shredded zucchini for pasta, or chopped up cauliflower for rice, as well as delicious sources of fat to provide the energy I need and help keep me feeling full.
As soon as I started to reduce my carbs and burn fat for energy instead, my blood sugars started stabilizing, going down from 300 mg/dL to around 110. Dr. Dumont from Virta monitored my progress and lowered my medication slowly to match the improvements my body was making, eventually eliminating my Basaglar insulin injections altogether, all within 3 months of starting the treatment.
And now, with lower fasting blood glucose levels and less medication, I simply feel healthier. I sleep better through the night, and my vision has improved. My weight has gone from 202 pounds when I first started to 187 and dropping. I also have more energy, which has led me to find a new and more sustainable source of stress relief: exercise. I can go to the gym twice a day and leave with more energy than ever before. Though I am 36, I really feel like I am back in my 20s!
Throughout the Virta treatment, I have also had fun. I am a chef, so I love taking recipes I find through the Virta resource center and personalizing them. Because Bobbie and the Virta team have taught me the skills I needed to live this way, my options for food are truly endless. My new way of eating has even caught on with my family, who fully supports all the decisions I am making with the help of Virta. When I visit my dad, he still has my plate piled high during meals, as is tradition, but now, it’s with Virta-friendly food options.
I tell everyone I can about my journey with Virta, and sometimes, they open up to me about their own conditions and struggles with type 2 diabetes. I tell them that they shouldn’t wonder if Virta is going to work, but instead look forward to how quickly it will work. I’ve already gotten one coworker to start with Virta, and I’m not about to stop there. Thank you, JLL, for making this benefit so accessible to all employees! It is such a blessing to feel in total control of my health without the need for medication. I would not have been able to start my diabetes reversal journey without my Virta team.