George Varrato, real estate agent specializing in military home loans and sales, has helped service members for years with real estate needs. Four months ago, he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Varrato said diabetes runs in his family. His mother and sister both had it, so he believed he could develop it as well.
“I’m 60 years old,” he said. “I didn’t think much about having it until I went to my doctor for a routine blood screening. She diagnosed me as a Type 2 diabetic.”
He said it was the worst day of his life. He’d survived a near-fatal motorcycle accident, but living with a disease that could slowly kill him was much worse.
“My blood sugar levels were almost three times the normal amount,” Varrato said. “I also had high blood pressure from the syrup my heart was pumping through my veins.”
Varrato was overwhelmed with the amount of information given to him by the doctors and from his Internet research. He knew something had to change, but didn’t know what.
“I’m a very busy man,” he said. “Before diabetes, my daily routine was waking up early in the morning for conference calls with associates on the East Coast and then dealing with bankers and other financial parties the rest of the day. Because of the schedule I kept, I wouldn’t eat breakfast, and sometimes I wouldn’t get lunch until almost 2 p.m.”
When Varrato ate lunch, he would grab fast food. Then for dinner, which he had after his work day ended around 8 p.m., he would recline in his easy chair and eat a large pizza by himself.
“I sat all day at work behind a computer screen,” he said. “I sat in the car in the drive-thru for lunch and then I sat behind my TV eating a pizza for dinner. I’ve been doing this same routine for many years and should have known better.”
Once diagnosed with diabetes, Varrato sought help from Aaron Anderson, 56th Aerospace Medicine Squadron dietitian.
“When George came to see me, we sat down and looked at how he was currently eating,” Anderson said. “We saw he liked going to Taco Bell for lunch so instead of getting his regular meal, we found getting three chicken tacos from the Fresco menu was a better meal option for him.”
They continued to go over Varrato’s lifestyle and made simple changes like switching his Pizza Hut pizza for wings and making sure he ate a healthy breakfast and exercised 30 minutes a day.
“When I first went to Mr. Anderson, I thought he would put me on a really strict diet,” Varrato said. “He didn’t. He worked around what I was currently eating and what I liked to eat. We just found healthier options.”
Until now, Varrato was embarrassed by his diagnoses.
“For 60 years, I’ve been eating whatever was easiest,” Varrato said. “To find out I was doing everything wrong was humbling. But at least I didn’t break my body. Once I started on my healthier eating style, my body quickly took over normal functions, and my blood sugar levels have dropped to normal ranges.”
Varrato was able to stabilize his blood sugars using diet and exercise alone. He is still a Type 2 diabetic but manages it without the use of drugs.
Varrato’s wife decided join him in his lifestyle change using the knowledge gained from Anderson.
“The changes suggested by Mr. Anderson were small and easy,” he said. “Out of everything he told me, the one thing I keep remembering is ‘diabetes is not the problem. Uncontrolled diabetes is the problem.’ He taught me how to control mine, and now I’m at normal levels without medication.”