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Keeping type 2 diabetes at bay with help from Canal Barge Company and Virta

June 2, 2020
June 17, 2020

By John, on Virta for 4 months

I’m something of a rarity these days–I’ve been in the same industry, with the same company, for over 38 years now. I work for Canal Barge Company, which has been such a tight-knit family for me that I’ve never even considered leaving. We operate a set of transportation barges in the Houston, New Orleans, and Chicago areas. I used to be a shore tankerman, working on the docks to load and unload tank barges, but now I work out of our Channahon Terminal in Illinois.

Virta helped John lose 63 pounds in 4 months
John before Virta (left) and after losing 63 pounds in 4 months (right)

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 4 years ago, even though my doctor had been warning me about my blood sugar levels and diet for some time before then. For a while, I was able to control my diabetes reasonably well with metformin and Jardiance, and I tried watching what I ate as much as possible. Eventually, however, I fell off the wagon, started eating whatever I wanted, and found that I couldn’t stop. My weight went up to 256 pounds, and my A1c crept up at a steady pace; at its worst, my fasting blood glucose was 205 mg/dL, and my A1c was 7.8%. 

Right around the time my doctor started increasing my medication dosage, I received a flyer from Canal Barge Company announcing a new treatment that could reverse type 2 diabetes and even address obesity. They have always taken great care of their employees, so I am not surprised that they decided to not only partner with Virta Health, but also cover the entire cost of the treatment. All I had to do was sign up. I looked at some of the materials that Virta sent out and thought to myself, “This should be pretty easy.”

And for the most part, it was. Adapting to this new way of eating and living is an adjustment, for sure, but I found it surprisingly easy and straightforward. Virta has videos and guides on how to get started, and chatting with my Virta health coach, Anna, gave me additional support. She was very clear that I should not make any changes to my diet until I was prepared and my Virta provider signed off on it, which made me feel like Virta had a plan specifically for me. 

Before I changed my diet, I did wonder if I could indeed cut out some of the foods that I enjoy eating, like pasta or rice. What surprised me after starting was that I never felt deprived. Anna helped me find substitutes for all of those things, such as zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice, and my wife and I have even taken to using almond flour for some baking. My wife was initially concerned that she would have to change the way she had been cooking for years in order to adjust, but on the whole, very little has changed.

It helps, too, that because of the fats I get to eat as part of the Virta treatment, I stay full for longer periods of time. I can often go from breakfast to dinner without even thinking about food very much. When I do get hungry, there are so many things that I can still eat, and the greatest thing is that I am discovering foods that I never even tried before. For example, eggplant has become a new favorite, but before starting Virta, I wouldn’t have even thought to try it.

All the while, my health continues to improve. I’ve lost 63 pounds and now weigh 193 pounds. Before I started working from home due to COVID-19, I ran into a coworker who hadn’t seen me in a while, and he said, “John, where’s the rest of you?”

I've also gotten off the Jardiance, and even without medication, my blood sugar levels have never been better! My fasting blood sugar, which used to test around 200 mg/dL, has dropped to be consistently under 100 mg/dL. I also have so much more energy nowadays, letting me stay busier and move around a lot more. I ride my stationary bike for an hour these days, even after taking the dogs out for a walk. 

A few of my coworkers have also started Virta recently, and we talk about our results and share tips on how to work through these challenging times. I have not personally experienced any difficulties with staying on Virta during this pandemic, as I can still go to the store and find what I need. I want all of my coworkers at Canal Barge Company to know that Virta works; you only have to take up the offer. There is effort involved, but I quickly found that it’s not as difficult as it may seem. Having access to Virta as a health benefit is basically Canal Barge Company putting thousands of dollars on the table and saying, “It could all be yours if you want it.” 

I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want that.



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