I have always found a line from the classic 1976 western film, The Outlaw Josie Wales, motivating. “Endeavor to persevere.” To me, it means don’t give up. No matter how hard something is or how bleak it seems, you can always lean forward and find a way through it. I was reminded of these words around nine months ago when my wife introduced me to Virta, a no-cost benefit her employer, Freedom Mortgage, offered for type 2 diabetes.
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes five years ago. I am 5’11” and at my heaviest, I weighed 325 pounds. Both my parents had high blood pressure and geriatric diabetes, so I thought I knew what to expect when my doctor put me on metformin and a high blood pressure medication. I figured if I lost a little weight and took the medications, I would feel better. I didn’t expect things would keep getting worse.
For years I had suffered from sciatica, a lower back pain I attributed to my weight, but I always told myself I was too busy to do anything about it. Then I started getting intense pain in my hands and feet which made even the simplest tasks seem impossible. The pain, as it turned out, was a symptom of neuropathy—nerve damage that is a common and dangerous complication for people with type 2 diabetes. I could feel the quality of my life slipping away and I wasn’t able to do the things I loved. It especially hurt me to have to limit how much time spent volunteering at my local food bank or participating in the pineland organizations. Something needed to change. It was time for me to endeavor to persevere.
When I first started the Virta treatment, I didn’t know what to expect. My blood glucose was around 140 and my weight was just shy of 300 pounds. Jairo, my Virta health coach, was amazing at helping me understand my health. And the first thing he taught me was that it wasn’t my fault. The second thing he taught me was just how much “extra” I was getting in my diet. On average, I was eating over three times the amount of carbs of a normal diet without even thinking about it. Virta helped me change some of my habits for the better, without ever being critical or negative. I think that’s what made it so easy for me to keep going. Jairo asked me what my goals were and what kinds of foods I enjoyed, and he worked with me to find the right balance.
After only three months on Virta, I no longer needed the metformin or blood pressure medication. Fast-forward four more months, and I have been able to keep my blood glucose down in the healthy 90s mg/dL without medication. And while I have a few pounds to go, I’ve lost 85 pounds, bringing my weight down to 213 pounds, and I feel amazing! What’s more, I no longer have pain in my hands! My feet have high arches, so I still get a little pain in my feet from time to time, but I attribute that more to the fact that I am now walking between 10K-12K steps everyday. I couldn’t do that before!
I am so grateful to Freedom Mortgage for offering Virta. It truly is life changing. My mindset and my quality of life are so much better. I now face every day with more energy and feel like I can finally give back again—both at work and at home. To those like me who think they are too busy to take care of themselves or feel odd putting themselves first—I am giving back more now than I ever was when I was heavier. I think of it like an airplane. When the masks drop, you need to put yours on first before you can help others. Now that I am healthier, I can finally enjoy working with food banks, spending time outdoors, and volunteering with local pineland organizations again. Because Virta helped me take care of myself, I can now help make the world a better place for my three grandkids.
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