Redefining Happiness After 30 Years

An injury sidelined this former athlete and she let her health slide until a wake-up call changed everything.

Kristen Penny was used to training hard. She played multiple sports and went on to play softball at a collegiate level. But when a back injury halted her athletic career, her diet and exercise went off course, too. “I wanted to live the non-athlete life at 22 years old,” says Kristen. “Eat and drink what I want.”

That attitude affected Kristen’s lifestyle for three decades and not for the better of her health. Over the years, her weight tracked upward and while she lost significant weight right before the COVID-19 pandemic, she gained it all back; plus more.

In October 2021, a new concern popped up for Kristen. After reading Art Wiley’s success with Virta, a diabetes reversal program offered to GE Appliances employees at no cost, she wondered if she may be pre-diabetic. “I was craving sugar and carbs, and I wasn’t feeling great,” says Kristen, Commodity Sourcing Senior Manager – Fleet and Call Center. She reached out to Art, who is on her team at GE Appliances, and he encouraged her to get tested through Virta.

From there, Kristen’s life has changed. She signed up for Virta and her instincts were right – Kristen was pre-diabetic and the heaviest she’d ever been. At 48 years old, Kristin was scared. Her father died at 53 of a heart attack related to diabetes. She was determined to prevent that from happening to her.

Easy program to get started and quick results kept Kristen coming back

When employees work with Virta, everything flows through that vendor – making it super straightforward. A doctor at Virta orders and pays for your lab work. Your bloodwork can be completed at CareATC, an onsite primary care center available at Appliance Park and Roper, or anywhere in the community. Kristen went to LabCorp. After Virta reviews your lab work, they pair you with a health coach and send you a scale, glucometer, and a keto meter to track progress in an app.

“It is such a cool and easy program, and it’s free for employees,” says Kristen. When paying out of pocket, Virta costs participants $3,000 annually, but it’s 100% covered under the GEA health plan nothing as long as employees meet one of three criteria: diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, diagnosis of prediabetes, or a BMI >30.

In first month, Kristen lost 19 lbs. “It was a sounding signal …” says Kristen. “I’m sticking with this.”

It stuck; life is good

“I didn’t realize how ‘miserable’ I was and how unhappy,” says Kristen. “I just felt horrible.” She was taking several medications, having issues with her knees, and feeling more easily stressed than usual.

Because of her success with Virta, Kristen no longer needs several of her previous medications, her A1C, an indicator of you have a good chance of developing diabetes, dropped within the normal range, and the progression of joint issues has slowed because of all the weight loss – almost 80 lbs. “I find myself much more positive,” says Kristen. “When something goes sideways at work or anywhere, I don’t get as stressed as I used to.” Oh, and she adds she sleeps like a baby.

Kristen’s lifestyle changes have also inspired her brother-in-law to sign up for Virta. He’s not a GE Appliances employee and pays out of pocket for the benefit. He’s seen the difference in Kristen and wants that, too. He’s down 50 lbs. – although Kristen says it was never about losing the weight for her.

“My body feels better. My mind feels better. Most importantly, I’ve been able to gain some of the years of my life I was going to lose.”

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