By Kim S., a Virta patient for the past 3 years
I’ve been on for Virta three years. I live in Indiana with my husband and our dog, Giggles. I have four kids, three of which are married, three nieces, six grandkids, and two more due soon. I had gestational diabetes in 1987 during my very first pregnancy, and I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2004. Diabetes runs in my family—my mom, my dad, and my grandparents all have it, so I wasn’t really surprised.
They put me on metformin, and then it kept progressing, no matter what I did. Even though I followed the diet they put me on, I had to go on glipizide and then long-lasting insulin. The insulin dosage went up and up.
Then I saw an article in the newspaper about Virta and called immediately. I am so glad I made that call. Virta has changed my life. Just this morning, my fasting blood sugar was 101 mg/dL. Back when I was on three blood sugar medications and dieting, my fasting blood sugar averaged 268 mg/dL.
Diabetes is a silent killer—I couldn’t feel the sugar in my blood, but it was affecting so many parts of my life. My A1c was 8.8% when I started, and now it’s only 5.9%. The threshold for type 2 diabetes is 6.5%, so my A1c is no longer in the range for diabetes. When I started, I was 328 pounds. I couldn’t walk upstairs. I couldn’t do a lot of things, and my eyesight had continued getting worse. One year into Virta, I went to the eye doctor, and he told me my vision had improved. The headaches I used to get went away on Virta.
I was also living with plantar fasciitis, which caused a lot of pain in the bottoms of my feet. I had tried herbal medicines, lotions, physical therapy, exercises, and wearing a boot. In the first week of Virta, it was gone.
Why I’m sticking with Virta for life
I’m three years older than when I started, and yet I’m on 10 fewer medications. My stomach always used to hurt from the long-lasting insulin injections because you inject them directly into your stomach. To be able to get off all your meds and just treat your body with whole, healthy food is incredible. I had GERD, which is really bad acid reflux, and I was on 80 milligrams of GERD medicine a day. Now I have no reflux. To be able to go to sleep and not stay up coughing from reflux is golden. I am now off all my medications except my blood pressure medicine. I’m confident I’ll be able to dump that last blood pressure medicine if I continue on Virta.
I’ve had friends say, “How do you stay away from sugar and carbs?” I tell them, “Well, I have my feet, I have my kidneys and I have my eyes. Diabetes will rob you of your feet, your kidneys, your eyes.” I’d choose keeping my body intact and healthy over eating a sugary dessert any day of the week. It makes it a little easier to say, “No, hold the bread and hold the sugar. I’m okay.”
Most of my children are on board. I’ve been on diets my whole life, and they quickly realized that this was different, that my health and body were actually changing on Virta. I had one daughter actually tell my other daughter, “With our family history, this works.”
After a lifetime of dieting and surgery, Virta is the only thing that has worked
My mom took me to TOPS when I was eight. It stands for Taking Off Pounds Sensibly. I tried Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutri-System, everything. I did a diet when I was 16 where you only ate 500 calories a day and got shots once a day to throw you into ketosis. I dropped weight, but I put it right back on. I did a diet where you don’t eat anything except popcorn after 6pm. I’m not knocking any of these programs, but they just didn’t work for me.
I had a stomach surgery where they put a ring around my esophagus and stapled my stomach, so I had a small pouch for a stomach and only ate one ounce of food at a time. I lost 60 pounds. It was a huge thing for me to go through a major surgery, and then I had a serious complication from the weight-loss surgery. I had to get another major surgery to take the ring out because it had broke and it sent me into atrial fibrillation.
I never had a good relationship with food before now. I struggled with bulimia for a while and had to have teeth pulled. I’m not sure now how much of it was emotional or psychological and how much of it was that I just physically wasn’t satisfied because I wasn’t eating any fat to satiate me. I was a kid of the sixties and seventies, when they took the fat out of food and put more sugar in it. Everything was fat-free. Never in my life, until I started Virta, did my brain and stomach communicate so that I would actually feel full. By eating fat, I felt for the first time that I was full.
Support from my Virta provider and health coach
A unique thing about Virta for me is that I’m actually happy to see my doctor. I’ve lost weight, my blood sugar is down, and my triglycerides have come down. Before, I was always apprehensive that they would put me on more meds. I wasn’t used to having that kind of a good relationship with doctors. Usually, my doctors came in and said, “Yeah, your weight has gone up.” So to actually have a doctor be excited about seeing you and being willing to help you was amazing.
Having a health coach is so helpful. You build a relationship with them. I know I have my health coach and physician checking all my biomarkers every day, so I feel safe.
I’ve had people ask me, “Why do Virta? Why not do this on your own?” There’s just a lot of help on Virta. There’s a health coach checking my biomarkers and giving me feedback, my physician, the community I talk to through the app, and all the resources in the app. Having that extra support is very helpful. If we could all do it ourselves, we wouldn’t be in this position in the first place.
Saving money with Virta
I couldn’t get regular insurance when I lost mine because I had pre-existing conditions and diabetes and heart issues. I had to get high-risk insurance, and it cost our family a huge amount of money and caused a financial strain. Now that I’m not going to the doctor all the time and don’t have all the expensive prescriptions, we’re saving a ton of money. The long-acting insulin cost $300 a month alone out-of-pocket, and my other prescriptions totaled around $150.
Finally doing things I’ve always wanted to do
Now I go for hikes by myself in the woods. That’s something I never used to do. My dog loves it. I do too, amazingly enough.
We have gone on some cruises. And usually when we go, I try to do an excursion that will challenge me and take me out of my comfort zone a little bit. The old Kim would have just watched and taken pictures. We went to Jamaica, and I did the bobsled. We did ziplining, and I’m sure I disturbed all of Jamaica with my screams from tree to tree. But it was so fun! I’ve found a new side to me that I didn’t realize was buried under all the weight and the bad health.
I’ve gone from basically a very sedentary lifestyle, just sitting on the couch and reading, to being active. When we went to Disney World I walked 23,000 steps, and I didn’t have to use a motorized cart. I now fit on the ladder of our dock. I can get myself up on the ladder from the lake! That’s pretty amazing because I couldn’t lift all this up 100 pounds ago. I do a mile walk around our lake and a two mile walk down to our creek. I can bend and reach my toes to paint and clip my toenails. When Indiana’s weather gets back together I will be riding my bike some more. I can get down on the floor with my grandkids, and I can get up off the ground without help.
After 3 years on Virta, I can see that there are things that I was not doing before, that I didn’t allow myself to do because I didn’t want to feel embarrassed. I didn’t want to fall down. I didn’t want to be clumsy.
I feel like I have a future, and that’s so exciting. I can thank Virta for that, and I can thank my Virta provider and health coach for that. But mostly, I thank myself for that. I thank myself for taking the necessary steps to heal my body. Before Virta, I didn’t think diabetes was reversible. Virta has given me my life back.