By Deb D., a Virta patient
My mother was a self-sufficient and self-reliant person who produced food for the family by having a huge garden every year. As I look back on our diet, we ate home grown vegetables; however, our diet was full of starchy and sugar-enhanced foods, like pickle relishes, pickled beets and jams. Meat, potatoes and gravy, with either corn or green beans, was the basic meal plate. My mother was also a baker, which meant homemade breads, pies, cakes, and cookies. My siblings and I learned these home-making skills, such as working the garden and canning, and I carried on my mother’s traditions when I began my own family.
I struggled with my weight as a child and adolescent, but I didn’t really start gaining weight until after after my pregnancies. I continued to garden and put food up like my mother had taught me. I also was a baker, and my husband and kids liked the foods I prepared. As the years went by my weight continued to increase. I would try several diets and lose some weight, then plateau, get frustrated, and then give up. Every time, I would gain back the weight I lost, and then some more. Then, in 2009, I tried a diet plan called Healthpointe 2.0, which was basically a high protein diet where you ate less than 100 grams of carbs per day and made sure that you ate a protein snack every 2 hours. I lost the 65 extra pounds that I was carrying at that time. I looked good and felt great.
However, over time, the increased stress of my work as a nurse and my husband’s liver failure caused me to slip back into my old eating habits. I became very dependent on fast foods, gained back my weight again, and then much more. I was over what I had previously decided was my “forbidden weight” of 200 pounds. I was eating to help me deal with the emotional and mental stress, which included the possibility of losing my husband and trying to maintain my work life so that I had insurance coverage for the medical services he required.
Finally, in October 2014, my husband had a liver transplant. Then came the recovery process, which was quite intense. He developed a couple of post-operative wound infections. He also had a hip replacement, treatments for pancreatic cysts, and then a hernia surgery from the liver transplant scar. I am so relieved that I can finally say he is healthy and living a normal life.
After my husband’s recovery, I was finally able to shift the focus off him and more on myself. And the neglect had wrought serious damage on my health. I was overweight with hypertension and prediabetes. My joints hurt all the time, and I was probably suffering from sleep apnea. I was miserable and not happy. It was time for things to be about me!
The first thing I did was to get control of my weight. I tried several of my past strategies to lose weight, even Healthpointe 2.0, and nothing was working. Now, I know that it was not working because high protein diets are not good for people living with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
While I was attempting to gain control of my weight, I also decided I needed to find a new job. One where I could advance, be stimulated to think differently, and have less stress and responsibility. In January 2016, I came to Purdue University as a Continuing Lecturer in the nursing department. It has been a good place for me to grow and develop my professional skills and abilities. I just recently was promoted to Clinical Assistant Professor and completed my certification as a Certified Nurse Educator.
Prior to Purdue’s endorsement of Virta Health, I had heard about Virta’s study in Lafayette, at the Indiana University Health clinics. I called and got the necessary testing completed. I remember going to see Dr. Hallberg for the first time and her asking me how long I had been living with type 2 diabetes. I always thought I was prediabetic; however, as of that moment I was considered diabetic. My response was “not for long.” I also remember the nurse saying that I could be at a healthy weight by August and have my diabetes reversed by then also. I thought she was nuts! I thought it would take a lot more time and work than a few months.
That nurse was spot on! By August, I was doing great! My hemoglobin a1C went from 6.5% to 5.6% from January to May. I lost 20 pounds my first month, and, by August, had lost 60 pounds. I have been with Virta for over 2 years now, and it will be my way of life forever. I take no medications, have no joint pain, no sleep apnea, and feel great. I can walk all over campus at Purdue and walk up the stairs without being short of breath. I have so much more energy now! I started working on a doctorate of nursing practice degree. I would have never considered doing that before Virta.
While I may not follow all of my mother’s traditions anymore, I believe she would be proud of the resilient woman I am today. Through her garden, I learned as a child that the practice of tending to plants and pulling out weeds is just as enjoyable as the bounty. I have made many course changes in my life journey, and, with Virta, I will continue to reflect on what I need to do for my health. I am my mother’s daughter. I will not give up, I’ll keep myself open to new possibilities.
I am so grateful to Virta Health and all the people responsible for bringing this program into fruition. It has not only changed, but saved, my life. I am continuing to be a productive person in the world. I am not chained to an illness with many problems and medications to manage or the costs associated with the health care resources needed to manage those problems or medications. I have been empowered to take control of my health. I am responsible, and I am in the driver’s seat of my health now. Today, the future looks bright.