Playing the Blood Glucose Card

It could be, based upon the title of this blog entry, that you know what it is I’m going to talk about. You’re probably right. Well, somewhat.


Last Sunday was a good day, a lazy day. So I decided I might as well get in an hour or so at the gym. After packing up my gym bag and before putting on my coat, I checked my blood glucose. It was lower than 100 mg/dl.

Now, I go by the rule that before a workout I want my blood glucose to be above 150 mg/dl if at all possible, and won’t worry about my glucose being high unless it moves over 220 mg/dl or so. So a blood glucose of around 90 is pretty much a gym no-go.

And yet, there I was, still twenty minutes or so before working out, and I could easily eat a banana, down some sports drink, or pop a straw into a juice box before heading out. (It’s also important, I think, to have your blood glucose over 100 mg/dl before driving.)

I ended up having a banana. Except, rather than just 15 grams of carbohydrates or so, I doubled it, and then added a sports drink once I got to the gym and changed for my workout. Oh, and I checked my blood glucose several times during the workout, and all was well; I had no problems with my blood glucose, no lows or anything like that.

However, here’s where the blood glucose card comes into this week’s entry. I’d say that most of the time, when my blood glucose reading doesn’t come up roses, I still have an initial take the easier, lazier road reaction immediately upon reading those blood glucose numbers. When I checked before going to the gym and my bg was low, the sloth in me said, “Great! You can’t work out. It’s dangerous. Go back and lay on the couch.”

I find I’m often fighting this desire to use a whacked blood glucose as an excuse to do something I may not necessarily want to do. Granted, I’m not talking here about dangerous lows or highs, because I wouldn’t put myself in danger. Yet when my numbers are trending outside of my ideal range, some part of me, the play hooky part, seizes upon an opportunity to bail on responsibilities or obligations. Whether at work, or getting out of a social gathering, or the gym, or housework. Yep. I think, “Here’s a chance to bail.”

I don’t, though. Honestly, I do not play the blood glucose card when there’s no reason to play it.

I wonder if there’s something in my personality that’s always going to want to see how to use my blood glucose numbers to get out of an upcoming situation? It’s only a split-second thought these days — “use your diabetes as an excuse” — but it’s there, it surfaces, and while I don’t have to fight it (not much), I am aware of it.

Perhaps it stems from my grade-school days when any symptom was worth a shot at going to the school nurse to see if I could get sent home?

Learn more about the health and medical experts who who provide you with the cutting-edge resources, tools, news, and more on Diabetes Self-Management.
About Our Experts >>

  • LKWall

    Ummmm… I don’t see it that way, Eric.
    In my case, with unpredictable BG’s (after many years of Type 1), I see the High or Low BG as a great, unwelcome intrusion. I fix dinner for 60-90 min., and when I’m finally done cooking, I have a minute to check the BG. 247? Oh, well. ” You go ahead. Guess I have to wait.”
    Yes, I would like “the Healthy One” to feel a little disappointed for me, but not as much as I’d like to be having dinner NOW…and hot ! Or the gym: we’re going to go together, but I’m surprised by a 60 BG. Somehow I’ve “failed” again–miscalculated SOMEthing.
    No, mostly I feel defeated & frustrated by the unpredictable BG’s, not thankful for a “BG card” excuse.

  • Eric L


    If I misrepresented myself in this blog, I apologize. In no way am I thankful for the highs or lows when I check my blood glucose. The “blood glucose card” to which I refer is not something I want to use, nor do I use it often. For me is it also an unwelcome intrusion.

    What I was trying to get at — and here’s where I probably didn’t make myself clear enough — is how my own psychological makeup makes me tell myself, for a split-second after I read poor blood glucose numbers, that I can/should use this as an excuse to get out of upcoming plans.

    It’s habit, this “find an excuse” mode, learned over my lifetime, and those neural pathways are so ingrained that excuse-opt-out still flashes through my mind to use illness as a reason “not to” when given the chance.

    But hear this: I do not use it. Unless it’s a dangerous low or high; unless it’s legitimate. That’s not to say, however, I don’t recognize that part of me wants to do that, for that brief moment in time.

    It’s similar, I’d think, to that voice when the morning alarm clock goes off that says, “I should just stay in bed.” But then a person turns off the alarm, gets out of bed, and goes along his or her way.


  • David Spero RN

    Hi Eric,

    Just a thought: If the gym is something you’re looking for an excuse to get out of, would it be possible to find another kind of exercise you felt more positively about?


  • jim snell

    Eric has important point. When one watches BS either with CGM and or constant whacking of the fingers, one gets to see trends on BS and watch startup and fall off of glucose from gut glucose over meals.

    Insulin loose in body always pressures the BS such that when it heads down after gut runs out can be brisk.

    With my large body like large steam engine, I need head of steam/sugar like Eric recommends 150 to 180 to go out and do anything. Anything less and exercise, walking etc will flatten BS and trigger emergency add that shoots sugar up to 278/311 and then I really have to walk 1.5 to 2 miles to offload.

    I am faced with playing fifo buffer with my glucose tablets and booting BS up whenever heading down under active insulin boosts present.

    I’m not there all the way there, but am getting better coping with body surpise riots. You simply cannot gauge run/digestion time on a food load so I am always coping with this.

    I did not see Eric’s comments as negative, only that one needs to have coping stratagies and alternatives in mind when the nonsense shows up as it usually does and at worst times.

  • elaine froneberger

    I appreciate Eric’s honesty. Rather than take the ‘high road’ or the ‘holier than thou’ position, I can completely understand the rationale of seeing the bg card, recognizing it for what it is, and deciding to not play that card, after all. Who doesn’t, even occasionally, have that moment of, ‘It would be so much nicer to… than go to the gym.’ I think it’s better in the long run to recognize our weaknesses and outwit them than to jump all over someone who admits to having them. Or – worse yet – to have those weaknesses ourselves and not allow recognition of them.

  • Melanie Hummer

    I get what Eric is saying and don’t see him saying the highs and lows are good things. Any of us with Diabetes knows it is a balancing act (type 2 myself for 5+ yrs), and highs and lows can stop us in our tracks. Not only that but the potential of going from a low to too high and then having that rebound feeling. I always check mine before I exercise and if I have to wait for my blood sugar to come up before I can exercise, sometimes the exercise gets pushed to the side and not done because then other things come up in the meantime. I don’t use the BS card often (only when I really don’t feel good and just need to crash), but I know my husband keeps a close eye on me and he has been know to pull the BS card on me to make sure I am doing what I should (or making sure I don’t do something I shouldn’t).

  • Dave Ex

    I have been fighting with diabetes for a couple of years now. I take no meds for it. I walk as often as the weather allows me.

    I check my glucose pre-breakfast and I check at bedtime. In January, my high pre-breakfast number was 152 and the lowest was 106 and my highest bedtime number was 225 and the lowest was 105. The 105 was okay and upon waking in the morning it was 128. I gave up alcohol over two years ago and I try to watch my diet. My weight two years ago was around 210 and now is 194. It is tough to walk in the winter time so I am extra careful with my diet.
    I almost went on ACTOS about six months ago but received a warning from the manufacturer regarding the ill effects of the use and decided not to take it. My blood glucose readings have stayed about the same for the past two years. My average bedtime bg
    in December was 152. I am approaching 70 and my health is between average to above average.