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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Diabetes & Me: What's In My Bag?

Back in November, after months of thinking about and struggling to find a way of dealing with diabetes-related problems, I shared a bit of what I'd learned in Diabetes and Me.  I was both surprised and grateful for the public and private responses I received to that post.  Given the demographics -- half of amateur golfers are over 50 and age is one of three major risk factors associated with the onset of Type II diabetes -- I shouldn't have been surprised.  Those responses helped me understand that I'm not alone on the golf course and that was a comforting awareness.

Then I recently had a conversation on Ricky Potts' Friday Foursome that has pushed me to revisit the very practical problem all of us who are living with diabetes confront and manage with greater and lesser degrees of success every time we tee off: How can I maintain a relatively stable blood glucose level and sustain my energy through 18 holes of golf?


As Connie Black observed during that Friday Foursome, the food that's available at a typical golf course isn't the ideal nourishment for diabetics who are struggling to maintain a relatively stable blood glucose level over a four or five hour round of golf.  A carb-loaded breakfast before we tee off is likely to put us to sleep while we're putting out the 2nd hole.  We don't have the luxury of gulping down a hot dog and a soda or beer at the turn, or getting through the last three holes in the round when we're hungry.

I don't know about other diabetics, but when my blood glucose gets on a wild roller coaster ride I don't function very well.  My emotions are exaggerated, I can't concentrate very well, and my energy level drops down to the wet noodle level.  None of these outcomes enhance my golf game.

I've found that my round goes better when I eat constantly.  If I wait to start eating until I feel hungry it's too late to start eating.  So let's get specific and practical.  What do I eat and when do I eat it to establish and sustain an energy level and emotional balance that will get me through my round?

About an hour before I tee off I have a bowel of oatmeal laced with raisins and chopped apple and sometimes a soy milk-banana-kale smoothie.  Sometimes I drink the smoothie on my way to the golf course, especially when I'm running a little late, and sometimes I'm still sipping the smoothie when I tee off.  I love my go cups!

By the third hole I've started nibbling and drinking, and I don't stop until I've putted out on the 18th hole.  That means I take an insulated bag (my golf purse) to every round.  It's as much a part of my equipment as my clubs, shoes, balls, and tees.

I have many food choices: there's generally a cup of yogurt and a spoon in my bag, a little baggie of carrot pieces and some raisins, some nuts, perhaps an apple or banana or some grapes, a tuna sandwich cut into quarters so I can shove one piece into my mouth and not have pieces of sandwich dribbling around in the cart and down the front of my shirt.  I discovered some very helpful information on diabetic diets that's readily available on line.

I drink water constantly and I know what you're thinking if you're also a diabetic golfer.  But we need water, and golf courses have bushes and trees in abundance.  Water lowers blood glucose and helps balance out those wild fluctuations that make me feel jittery and emotionally fragile.

I have learned the hard way to have two emergency foods with me: some glucose tabs, which are available over the counter at any pharmacy, and a little bag of M&Ms.  I've learned to stay tuned in to my body, and to act quickly when I feel my blood glucose drop.  Bad things have happened to me when I didn't, and I'm fortunate that the women I golf with regularly care enough to be aware of where I keep my glucose tabs.

I have learned that if I want to play golf I need to take responsibility for my blood glucose, and that my glucometer is my friend.  I'm not unwilling to tuck it in my bag and test during my round if I'm having a difficult day, as I do from time-to-time.

What have you other diabetic golfers figured out that would help all of us living with the disease play on and play well?