Veterans interested in learning more about our partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can visit our Veterans for Virta page for additional information.
By Shannon M, Navy Veteran on Virta for 6 months
Serving our armed forces has been a part of my life for over 30 years. While I started my career as a Navy Hospital Corpsman before holding other roles such as an over-the-road truck driver and adult educator, I am now the Director of Emergency Management, Environmental Health and Safety for the Veterans Health Administration Medical Center in San Francisco. I feel lucky to have served our armed forces for so long, and even luckier to have found Virta through my very own VA.
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2009 with an A1c of 8.6%. My doctor prescribed metformin, which gradually increased in dosage. Eventually, I had to start Levemir insulin injections, which also increased to multiple injections per day.
The insulin in particular caused fatigue and weight gain. My lifestyle went from being relatively active to mostly sedentary. As an avid cyclist, I used to love going out on long bike rides and feeling the rush of air against my face. Diabetes robbed me of that, and I stopped doing what I love. 10 years later, expensive prescriptions had piled up, and I was plagued with fatigue and a constant mental haze, so riding my bike was the last thing I felt like doing. I was also 43 pounds heavier. My existing diabetes treatments just weren’t working, and I knew that there had to be a better way to live.
As luck would have it, I came across an online article on ketogenic diets as I was reading the news one night, and the bottom of the article mentioned Virta Health. Having never heard of them, I clicked through to their site out of curiosity. Immediately, what grabbed my attention was a banner at the top of the page announcing a free pilot for Veterans through the VA. Virta sounded exactly like what I needed: type 2 diabetes reversal with no medications and no fasting. I signed up and was enrolled within a few days, and that was how my transformation began.
Before I even started making dietary changes, Virta provided a structured educational program full of helpful, easy-to-understand videos, guides, and articles. They taught me why eating less carbs and more fat was necessary, how the fat would help bring down my blood sugar while supplying my body with the energy it needed. All of this information was served up in small, easy-to-digest snippets so I never felt overwhelmed.
When I started dietary changes, I was carefully monitored by my Virta provider and health coach so that my medications could be decreased safely as my blood sugar went down. Still, changing my diet was emotionally challenging, and I went through a sort of grieving process, already missing some of the food that I knew I would have to give up. Thankfully, from the very beginning, I had Bobbi, my Virta health coach, who provided the support and expert food substitutions I needed in order to find a new way of eating that I could stick to and enjoy.
With time, these changes got easier, and the rewards, greater. If you’re a science and numbers kind of person like me, once you understand why you have to change and see the quantitative results, it makes sticking to it that much easier. Probably the most important benefit is that I’ve been able to stop taking all diabetes-related medication, including Levemir insulin, empagliflozin, alogliptin, and even metformin. My A1c is now sitting pretty at 5.2%, all of which means that I have successfully reversed my diabetes after about 5 months on Virta.
As important as the diabetes reversal has been, I’ve also experienced countless other benefits from doing Virta, all of which has greatly improved my quality of life. Though Virta does not require exercise in order for patients to be successful, I find that I want to now because of all the extra energy I have. So I hopped back on my bike. My health coach supported me so that I could safely start doing two or three long bike rides a week.
When I cook for my family at home, I can easily make meals that work for everyone–we can all eat the same protein and veggies, and they can have carbs on the side if they want. When we go to restaurants, I’ve learned how to make small adjustments so my meal is Virta-friendly. Basically, Virta works with all aspects of my life, and neither I nor my family ever have to worry about not having the right kinds of food available, no matter where we are.
As a Veteran and proud employee of the VA, it brings me so much joy that my employer and health benefits provider decided to partner with Virta to help us Veterans reverse type 2 diabetes. Had it not been for the VA and Virta’s partnership, I may never have been able to return to a hobby that brings me such joy. I can now go out on long bike rides and not worry about sugar crashes or needing to bring snacks with me in order to make it home. Without Virta, I would not be living the way I am, free of the burdens of type 2 diabetes.
More Veterans need to be aware of Virta, as the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Veteran community is significantly higher than the general population. While the VA has tried all sorts of diabetes programs, nothing has really managed to turn the tide by truly reversing the disease. But Virta is different, so I am certainly doing my part to spread the word. I just can’t keep quiet about the improvements I’ve seen, even just in 6 months on Virta. And given how much support Virta offers as I maintain this lifestyle, other Veterans need to see how easily this can work for them too. There is no better way to tackle the problem of type 2 diabetes in our Veterans than Virta.
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