Bethany Reynolds McKenzie is a D-mom on a mission. After years of struggling to help her son, River, achieve normal blood sugar levels, she finally found something that worked: a low carb diet. Bethany founded the nonprofit Let Me Be 83 to help advocate for an alternative diabetes management regimen, one that’s anchored in nutrition and the proper use of insulins, and allows people with diabetes to achieve healthy blood glucose levels. The foundation has produced a film called Madness: The Cost of Carbs, that explains the importance of food in treating diabetes, until there’s a cure.
“This topic can be divisive, and we know it,” the fundraising page for her upcoming documentary says. “Our intent is never to judge but to offer families another way that they can manage their disease or their child’s disease. It just may be the answer that they’ve been seeking.”
Bethany talked to RD Dikeman, whose son Dave has Type 1. Dave is a former JDRF Children’s Congress representative, and a thriving low carb athlete. RD is the founder of TypeOneGrit, a community of people using a low carb diet as a critical part of their diabetes treatment. She told him all about the documentary, and how she and her family manage a successful low carb lifestyle.
Hi Bethany! Thanks for allowing us the interview! Let’s cut right to the chase – we’ve seen the new unveil of your documentary Madness: The Cost of Carbs. It is an amazing, must watch!
Thank you! I am really proud of how the film turned out.
Ok. Let’s get started. What kind of reaction have you been seeing in the diabetes community to the trailer for Madness?
I’ve seen many favorable responses. The most overwhelming comment that I see is that people are thankful that this message has been expressed in a film. For visual learners, it’s undeniably convincing to see normal families with bright-eyed children who are thriving on a low carb diet.
The video looks incredible, professional, and reveals a lot of underlying passion – where is this passion of yours coming from?
My passion for this project is two-fold. First, I have a genuine love for children and I so desperately want for all children with type 1 diabetes to feel as healthy and robust as my son does. We were so elated to have found another way, and every fiber of my being wants for everyone to know that safe, normal blood sugars are possible. My passion is also fueled by frustration. I’m deeply frustrated by the current dietary guidelines for people with diabetes and the lack of consideration for a low carb diet by many healthcare professionals.
Your husband Matt, a physician, is involved in the film, too. Can you describe a little about your journey as parents as you went from high to low carb?
Yes, my husband is an orthopedic surgeon and he sees patients every day who have complications due to their diabetes. Our journey has been interesting, and while I regret that it took us so long to find our way, I always hope that our experience with both a high carb and a low carb diet gives us more credibility amongst people who are considering a change. When River was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, we faithfully followed the guidelines we were given. We counted carbs. We purchased a Dexcom. We bought a Diabetes Alert Dog. We literally tried everything we could to manage our son’s disease. Nowhere along our journey were we ever told that a low carb diet was even an option. It wasn’t until we hit rock bottom on our worst day of blood sugars when I finally reached out on social media and asked for help. About every fifth response to my question of how people were achieving healthy blood sugars was an answer that referenced a low carb diet and Dr. Bernstein’s methods. I ordered the book that day and changed our lifestyle cold turkey. Utter life-changing joy followed.
It’s always been such a puzzle as to how things are so backwards with regards to diet for people with Type 1. Why do you think Dr. Bernstein’s message was hushed up for so long? On the one hand, you can’t get on to the diabetes online community these days without seeing pictures of healthy food and flat cgms, on the other hand we see professional associations, and diabetes leaders totally ignoring this movement.
I think we are up against a lot of issues when it comes to unraveling the bad guidelines and the deeply instilled beliefs that people with diabetes can eat anything and just give insulin. First, I think that people, in general, want to eat whatever they want. We live in a culture of convenience and most readily available food is full of carbs and sugar. When a parent has learned that their world has just been turned upside down and their child has diabetes, they want to cling to any piece of normal they can. If they’re told not to change their diet, that is one piece of normal for them to retain. Next, I think we are up against a lack of education. Managing diabetes with a low carb diet also requires some special techniques. If endocrinologists and diabetes educators aren’t taught these techniques, they are more likely to frown upon a low carb diet with their patients. The rebuttals that kids need carbs to grow or for their brain development are often too alarming for most parents to overcome even though it is well established in the literature that these things are not true. Finally, I think that industry has a stronghold on making sure the guidelines don’t change.
A lot of readers might want to know some resources that you used to help in your son’s healthy transition. What were some key things you learned along the way and where is a good place to go to get started?
Can you tell us a little more about the schedule for the release of the documentary? Is it finished?
So far, a 22-minute short documentary is finished and ready to view. This piece is mostly about children and families and how they made the transition to a low carb lifestyle. There are several other topics we would like to film to add to the first piece so we are currently crowdfunding so that we can finish the project. In my wildest dreams, it would be available so that it can be viewed anywhere in the world.