Getting off of insulin and saving money so I can retire happy and healthy

Published on 
April 10, 2019
April 26, 2024

By Nina, a Virta patient

I started on the Virta Treatment three years ago. My husband and I are both retired, and both of our children are very close and live nearby. I keep busy by volunteering with churches with the homeless shelters here in Lafayette and meeting with my quilting groups.

When I was pregnant with my son 33 years ago, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I managed to keep it at bay for a couple years, but then it started raising its ugly head. Even though I was dieting, every time I'd go to the doctor, my blood sugar and A1c would have gone up, and they'd say, "Well, we'll just have to put you on more insulin."

My A1c was all the way up to 9.0%, and I was struggling. It was so depressing to think that this was my life from now on. I knew so many people who were on insulin and not doing well. When I was 45, I had a heart attack. I knew it was all related to my diabetes because I knew that people with diabetes are prone to heart disease. Over the next several years I had a total of eight stents. It was the only heart attack I had, but I had some near misses. One stent after another. It felt like it was never going to end.

During the course of the 30+ years I had type 2 diabetes, I was often tired. I didn't have a lot of energy. Some of my tests came back with signs of chronic kidney failure. My triglycerides were out of sight. I eventually started to get neuropathy in my legs and feet, and that worried me. I had an aunt with diabetes, and she actually lost a leg from diabetes. I felt like I was deteriorating. I feared that I wouldn't have a long life because this was gonna take a toll on me.

By the time I started Virta, I had been on insulin for 20 years. I was taking shots morning, noon, and night.

I didn’t join Virta for the weight loss, although I knew I could lose some weight. I joined it to get off of some of my medications, especially the insulin. That was my main goal. After the first six months, I was off of half my insulin. In eight months, I was off all of my insulin. After a year, I had dropped 70 pounds. One day about a year and a half in, I realized I didn’t have that tingling in my legs and feet anymore. My neuropathy was gone. That was when I realized that I was on the way to healing my body.

The last time I saw my cardiologist, he said, "I look at your labs every time you come in, and I just cannot believe the change that's come over you." Before Virta, I was worried I wouldn’t be around to see my grandchildren and that I’d have a shortened lifespan because of my poor health and heart disease. I doubted I’d live as long as my dad, who was in his nineties when he died.

My triglycerides went down by two-thirds. My primary care physician was thrilled. They could not believe the lab numbers. My A1c is down to a 6.4%. I really do believe that I have gained 10 or 15 years on what I might have lived otherwise. After the first 2 years of Virta, I told my husband, "You know, I'm going to give you a run for your money. I'm going to live as long as you do." I truly believe that I've extended my lifespan by many, many years.

Saving money as I move into my Medicare years

Getting off of the insulin has been a huge cost savings, and I know it will be an even bigger savings as I move on into my Medicare age.

Heart disease and diabetes medication are extremely costly. We get fooled into thinking that insurance will help pay for it forever. As I looked ahead to my retirement, I realized that I would eventually lose the insurance that covers most of the medication cost. I worried about it, especially the cost of insulin. How was I going to afford that when I got old enough to retire?

The cost of insulin is outrageous. My cost was $150 a month—and that was just what I had to pay. The insurance company was paying $300–$400 per month. Looking ahead at that cost after retirement, I didn’t understand how people afford it. When you’re on Medicare, you purchase a prescription plan that will cover what you’re on. By reducing the number of medications and the insulin that I was on, I have made my future Medicare insurance a lot cheaper.

Why I think I can stick with this lifestyle long term

So many people have been shocked at the difference in my looks and have asked, "How did you do that? Can you write that down?" But I really can’t tell them how to do it because you get the whole package with Virta, and you need all of that support and education to be able to do it. If I were doing it on my own, just reading a book and trying to follow this and listening to some people on the internet, I would never have figured it all out. I think it's important to not just go off on your own and decide you're going to follow this lifestyle without seeking some professional help and medical supervision first.

Your health coach is very important for sustainability because they are a huge source of support. The health coach takes the worry off so that you can focus and not be so worried about what you're eating, or how you're eating, or thinking that you've done something wrong. It’s almost like it's my best friend, a friend that I could reach out and touch, but we're just on a chat. I never felt that same support on any other program. There are days and situations that are tougher than others, but this support system helps me continue looking ahead. I felt comfortable with my coach from the very beginning—she was always very open and accessible. I think Virta was so flexible on how I maintained and how I communicated that it made it easier and more sustainable for me. I know it's sustainable because I took it for three years. When I did Weight Watchers, or Atkins, or the Zone Diet,  I never stuck it out for more than a year, two years max. Now it's just my lifestyle. Sometime during that first two years I realized that this is the new me. Virta has been so supportive. They provide recipes and ideas, and keep encouraging me.

When I started Virta, my biggest concern was, how am I going to stick with the treatment and maintain what they’ve taught me? How can I do this for a lifetime? I’ve realized that if I’ve stayed with it for three years, I can stay with it forever. At this point, it's just my lifestyle.

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