In Categories: Patient Voice

By Shannon M, Navy Veteran on Virta for 6 months

Serving our armed forces has been a part of my life for over 30 years. While I started my career as a Navy Hospital Corpsman before holding other roles such as an over-the-road truck driver and adult educator, I am now the Director of Emergency Management, Environmental Health and Safety for the Veterans Health Administration Medical Center in San Francisco. I feel lucky to have served our armed forces for so long, and even luckier to have found Virta through my very own VA.

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2009 with an A1c of 8.6%. My doctor prescribed metformin, which gradually increased in dosage. Eventually, I had to start Levemir insulin injections, which also increased to multiple injections per day. 

The insulin in particular caused fatigue and weight gain. My lifestyle went from being relatively active to mostly sedentary. As an avid cyclist, I used to love going out on long bike rides and feeling the rush of air against my face. Diabetes robbed me of that, and I stopped doing what I love. 10 years later, expensive prescriptions had piled up, and I was plagued with fatigue and a constant mental haze, so riding my bike was the last thing I felt like doing. I was also 43 pounds heavier. My existing diabetes treatments just weren’t working, and I knew that there had to be a better way to live.

As luck would have it, I came across an online article on ketogenic diets as I was reading the news one night, and the bottom of the article mentioned Virta Health. Having never heard of them, I clicked through to their site out of curiosity. Immediately, what grabbed my attention was a banner at the top of the page announcing a free pilot for Veterans through the VA. Virta sounded exactly like what I needed: type 2 diabetes reversal with no medications and no fasting. I signed up and was enrolled within a few days, and that was how my transformation began.

Before I even started making dietary changes, Virta provided a structured educational program full of helpful, easy-to-understand videos, guides, and articles. They taught me why eating less carbs and more fat was necessary, how the fat would help bring down my blood sugar while supplying my body with the energy it needed. All of this information was served up in small, easy-to-digest snippets so I never felt overwhelmed.

When I started dietary changes, I was carefully monitored by my Virta provider and health coach so that my medications could be decreased safely as my blood sugar went down.  Still, changing my diet was emotionally challenging, and I went through a sort of grieving process, already missing some of the food that I knew I would have to give up. Thankfully, from the very beginning, I had Bobbi, my Virta health coach, who provided the support and expert food substitutions I needed in order to find a new way of eating that I could stick to and enjoy.

With time, these changes got easier, and the rewards, greater. If you’re a science and numbers kind of person like me, once you understand why you have to change and see the quantitative results, it makes sticking to it that much easier. Probably the most important benefit is that I’ve been able to stop taking all diabetes-related medication, including Levemir insulin, empagliflozin, alogliptin, and even metformin. My A1c is now sitting pretty at 5.2%, all of which means that I have successfully reversed my diabetes after about 5 months on Virta. 

As important as the diabetes reversal has been, I’ve also experienced countless other benefits from doing Virta, all of which has greatly improved my quality of life. Though Virta does not require exercise in order for patients to be successful, I find that I want to now because of all the extra energy I have. So I hopped back on my bike. My health coach supported me so that I could safely start doing two or three long bike rides a week.

When I cook for my family at home, I can easily make meals that work for everyone–we can all eat the same protein and veggies, and they can have carbs on the side if they want. When we go to restaurants, I’ve learned how to make small adjustments so my meal is Virta-friendly. Basically, Virta works with all aspects of my life, and neither I nor my family ever have to worry about not having the right kinds of food available, no matter where we are.

As a Veteran and proud employee of the VA, it brings me so much joy that my employer and health benefits provider decided to partner with Virta to help us Veterans reverse type 2 diabetes. Had it not been for the VA and Virta’s partnership, I may never have been able to return to a hobby that brings me such joy. I can now go out on long bike rides and not worry about sugar crashes or needing to bring snacks with me in order to make it home. Without Virta, I would not be living the way I am, free of the burdens of type 2 diabetes.

More Veterans need to be aware of Virta, as the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Veteran community is significantly higher than the general population. While the VA has tried all sorts of diabetes programs, nothing has really managed to turn the tide by truly reversing the disease. But Virta is different, so I am certainly doing my part to spread the word. I just can’t keep quiet about the improvements I’ve seen, even just in 6 months on Virta. And given how much support Virta offers as I maintain this lifestyle, other Veterans need to see how easily this can work for them too. There is no better way to tackle the problem of type 2 diabetes in our Veterans than Virta.

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    So proud of you honey! Lots of hard work

    Reply

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      Shannondor Marquez December 18, 2019 at 7:18 pm

      Tha I you sweetheart, your support helped immensely!

      Reply

  2. Avatar

    Congratulations to a fellow Veteran for reversing your diabetes too🇺🇸

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    I am so excited to hear about this especially in conjunction with Virta and the VA. I am on the board of a Virginia non-profit organization http://www.t1de.org. Part of our mission is to provide education to both health care providers and patients about the safety and effectiveness of a low carbohydrate diet to manage diabetes. Our yearly source of funding comes from a Memorial Day 10K and 2 Mile walk. I have been eager to partner in some way with the VA so that we can use some of the funds we raise from this event to support veterans to better manage diabetes. Since there are few health care providers in our area who are willing to entertain the idea (and even less who have any skill), I have thought that Virta is a viable option. If you have any contacts through the VA or Virta that would be interested in partnering with us in providing a program in our area, please contact me. We have funding that could specifically be used to support such a venture. Thanks and congrats on your hard work!

    Reply

    1. Avatar
      Shannondor Marquez December 18, 2019 at 7:21 pm

      Carole,

      Send me an email at shannondormarquez@gmail.com, I would be happy to connect you with the team at virta!👍🏾

      Reply

  4. Avatar

    Terrific story, and I am completely in support of Virta Health and the ketogenic way of eating. However, please note that in this post is a major Photoshop Fail. At least, I HOPE that’s what it is! Look carefully at the “before” photo on the left, please.

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Thanks Susan (for the support and the mention on the photo). Believe it or not, that is part of the original photo. We can pass your note to our design team, though, to see what we can do!

      Reply

    2. Avatar
      Shannondor Marquez December 20, 2019 at 3:36 pm

      The photo was only cropped to not show my under age children at the time it was taken. Not sure what the fuss is about. The hand is of my young daughter with her arm around her dad. No photoshop was used to my knowledge.

      Reply

  5. Avatar
    Donna Copeland Hill December 18, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    How can a Vietnam Veteran in the Chicago, IL area enroll in the Virta program through the VA? Is it in our area?

    Reply

    1. Virta Health

      Hi Donna. Virta committed to providing free access to the Virta Treatment for a pilot group of 400 Veterans. As of October 23rd 2019, we exceeded the 400 enrollments and therefore are not enrolling additional Veterans at this time. If you’d still like to apply for Virta, we can save your information for now, but you will not be able to move forward with enrollment yet. We appreciate your interest and will let you know of any upcoming opportunities to enroll as soon as we know.

      Reply

  6. Avatar
    Pradeep Awasthi January 14, 2020 at 8:50 pm

    The virta group is upbringing newer findings of counteracting type 2 diabetes in a multifacetad way which is much promising in terms of cessation from medication with better quality of life.

    Reply

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