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No-cost benefit helps principal kick diabetes to the curb

I have two grandchildren under three and I want to be around for them.


Dr. Susan Kessler had been looking over her shoulder for about a decade.


As prediabetes crept closer to the full-blown variety, Sue responded by the usual means: taking medication and following a diet recommended by her doctors. But the eating plans she was given weren’t ones she could stick to.


“All I could focus on was the foods I couldn’t eat,” she says. “It was an exercise in frustration.”


Despite her best efforts, the Hunters Lane High School principal developed Type 2 diabetes.

Now, thanks to Virta, a revolutionary program offered as an MNPS benefit, Sue is actively addressing her diabetes and working toward actually reversing its effects, instead of just treating it with medication.

Virta uses a personalized ketogenic diet to change how the body’s metabolism works and handles insulin. While the program aims to restrict carbohydrates to less than 5 percent of the day’s calories, it includes generous amounts of satisfying fats like butter and cheese. Or, as Sue says, “normal foods.”


Ketosis causes the body to use fat instead of carbohydrates as its main fuel source. The program, which is available at no cost to eligible MNPS employees,* helps participants lose weight and combat insulin resistance.


A personalized diet helps Sue stay on track, and Virta doesn’t require added exercise, which satisfies her dislike of workouts. The program includes easy-to-use technology, medical supervision and coaching.


Participants’ blood sugar and ketone levels are measured in the same test strip. And their medical providers can see their results in real time through the Virta app.


The app isn’t just for monitoring, however.


“It educates in small doses, so it’s not overwhelming,” Sue says. “They spend a lot of time educating you on what to eat. I’ve never done the high-fat component before.”


The program has helped her change her eating habits.


“What you don’t want to be is very hungry somewhere and have to eat a high-carb meal because you didn’t plan ahead,” she says. 


So, now, after long days as a principal, she doesn’t turn to the drive-thru for dinner. She buys snack-sized string-cheese packets at the convenience store and keeps keto-friendly nutrition bars on hand to keep things on an even keel.


It takes participants three to four days on the program to alter how their bodies burn fuel.


“Once you’re in ketosis, you don’t crave carbs anymore,” she says. “You want to stay there. I’m rarely hungry now.”


The app also includes plenty of recipes to help guide participants. Sue especially likes creating desserts with almond flour and cream cheese to help satisfy her cravings.


She started the program in February, and by midsummer, had lost 17 pounds – without hunger pangs. She has also reduced her diabetes and cholesterol medications, despite breakfasts of eggs, cheese, butter and sausage.


Now in her early 50s, Sue is turning around the genetics that resulted in the death of one of her parents due to diabetes. She shows no sign of faltering.


“I’m surprised I’ve stuck with it this long,” she says. “My bigger thing is I want to extend my life. I have two grandchildren under three and I want to be around for them.”

Exciting update from Dr. Sue: "As of today (August 30, 2023), I am no longer even pre-diabetic!"

Virta participants with type 2 diabetes often strive to get their A1c level** below the type 2 diabetes threshold of 6.5. Not only did Dr. Sue achieve that goal, but she also got below the prediabetes threshold of 5.7. That's awesome!

* Virta is available to employees and adult dependents (age 18+) enrolled in the Certificated Employee Health Plan who live with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. The program is covered at 100% — no copays or out-of-pocket costs.

** A person's A1c level is their average blood sugar level over a three-month period.


Susan Kessler

Hunters Lane High School principal

Click below to schedule your free consultation or learn more about Virta.

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