I’ve been a Lutheran pastor for over 2 decades. 1998 was an eventful year for me: it was my final year in seminary, and I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
I went to see my doctor because I was feeling very sluggish and tired all the time, which I thought was because I had long hours of studying every day. To my surprise, my doctor admitted me to the hospital, where I discovered my blood glucose was over 500 mg/dL. I was immediately given insulin through an IV.
When I was discharged, the doctor gave me prescriptions for metformin, Tradjenta, and insulin I would need to inject at home. I weighed about 325 pounds at the time, and my doctor said I needed to lose a lot of that extra weight.
Over the years since, I’ve tried a number of different diets to lose weight, including Naturally Slim and a modified Weight Watchers type of program. On both of these, I was hungry all the time, which I found to be unsustainable. I’d start a diet for a month, see no meaningful results, and quit. My healthcare providers would tell me that it is difficult to lose weight while on insulin, which made me feel even more helpless. All the while, my fast-growing grandkids wanted me to play with them, but I couldn’t keep up.
I also tried using Livongo to manage my diabetes. It didn’t seem to do anything other than help me be aware of my blood glucose numbers through constant testing. However, I received no guidance on how to change my behaviors in order to improve those numbers.
In April of 2019, I received a note from Concordia Plan Services asking if I’d like to try Virta Health, a treatment to reverse type 2 diabetes. I thought of what reversal would mean, and everything I thought of had to do with my family. When my grandkids want to run around and play, reversal would mean keeping up with them. At 67, retirement is just around the corner, and reversal would mean taking trips with my wife. We just adopted a rescue dog, and reversal would mean taking her out on walks without running out of steam.
After thinking it through, I decided that I no longer wanted to manage type 2 diabetes; I wanted to reverse it. I signed up right away and dove in wholeheartedly. My wife, supportive as she is, even agreed to do it with me.
I’ve now been on Virta for 9 months, and the improvements I’ve seen have been tremendous. My fasting blood glucose has dropped 90 points, which has helped bring my A1c down from 7.1% to 5.1%. My sleep is more restful, and I no longer snore, which my wife may say is the best benefit so far! Under the care of my Virta provider, Dr. Austin Smith, I have stopped needing the insulin and Tradjenta, and my metformin dosage has been cut in half.
Most noticeably, I’ve lost 121 pounds, which has greatly contributed to my quality of life. I’ve had both knees replaced in the past, and they are much happier now with less weight to carry. As a pastor, I stand when delivering sermons, and I no longer have to lean on the pulpit to rest. And because my wife and I want travel to play a big role in our retirement, dropping 20 inches from my waist has made flying so much easier. Airplane seats seem to be shrinking by the day, but then again, so are we!
My wife said it best when she said that prior to Virta, I used to live to eat, going from meal to meal wondering what I would have next. Now, I eat to live. Virta has taught me so much about nutrition, how to make the food I eat work for my body, and what it means to lose weight in a sustainable, enjoyable way. I certainly never had to count calories, starve myself, or even go hungry in order to lose the weight I have!
I am so blessed that Concordia decided to pay for Virta. I knew that they wouldn’t recommend something to me without making sure it was a good treatment, and they were right. I feel like Virta is the best kept secret in diabetes care. I had never heard of it before Concordia began covering it, but now a lot more people in my community know because I am their biggest missionary.
I owe a great deal to my Virta health coach, Dr. Catherine Metzgar, who has made the Virta lifestyle a fantastic experience. She taught me the skills I need in order to hold myself accountable to the goals we set together, and she is a constant source of encouragement. We continue to work together today so that we can reach new goals. I like to think of us as a winning team, working together against type 2 diabetes.