I still remember it vividly. The day my MD explained to me about the oranges.
"Stephanie," he said. "I'm just curious if you're still eating oranges. Be honest, but I'd like to know."
The truth is I have two beautifully full orange trees in my backyard. I tell you there is nothing like the taste of a fresh-picked, organic, all natural orange. I've eaten them first thing in the morning, as snacks, even with dinner. And yes, on occasion, they've made the best dessert. I simply walk outside, pick one or two (ok, ok, sometimes I pick a lot when I'm especially in the mood for them), peel it right there and then take a delicious juicy bite. Oh man, there's nothing like it! But why would the doctor be so concerned about this?
"Um," I stammered, trying to pinpoint the origin of his medical query, "Well, I--"
"I thought so," he interrupted.
"Look," he went on. "Oranges are...well, they're great for kids. Teenagers maybe. But you're 22 now. 22 years old. Do you really think that oranges are necessary at this age? Let me ask you, do you see all of your friends eating oranges past the age of 22?"
He seemed agitated. Maybe even genuinely concerned. Apparently something about eating oranges past the ripe old age of 22 wasn't sitting well with him. To be honest, I'd never thought about it. In fact, I've never heard of any medical professional advising anyone about food restrictions based on age alone.
I racked my brain--oranges, oranges, oranges...what was it about the oranges? I knew they were packed with vitamin c, high enough in fiber to reduce cholesterol, full of antioxidants found nowhere else in nature...hmm...Oh. Maybe he's worried about all the work it takes to eat oranges. I mean, I know it sounds crazy, but my hands do sometimes get sore from all the picking, peeling and eating. Yeah, maybe he's just concerned about my comfort.
And come to think of it, I don't see a lot of my friends eating oranges. I mean, they might do it at home in secret, but I can't recall the last time I watched an adult pull out a fresh orange from their bag and start peeling away right there in public. Maybe I've stumbled upon a social taboo. Maybe you're not supposed to eat oranges....or at least, not in public. Oh! I even remember one time I spilled a little juice from my orange once! Oh no, there was no way to hide my orange-eating that day. Wow. I wish someone had told me about this obvious sin.
The doctor interrupted my thoughts. "Stephanie, I'd like to give you this," he offered me a paper coupon. "It's 75% off a case of orange-flavored soda pop. I think you should try it. It comes in a bottle with a lid and a label so it won't look weird to your friends and family if you drink this. And," he seemed to get really excited about this last part, "this particular brand has been fortified with all kinds of vitamins and nutrients. It doesn't have antioxidants and certainly can't lower blood pressure or help fight cancer like normal oranges, but it is high in vitamin c, something that's really important for you to be consuming."
Wow, I thought. I'm so grateful that this medical professional, the man who spent YEARS in medical school (not health and wellness school, not dietary or nutrition school, but MEDICAL school) cared enough about me to show me the right way to get my nutrients. I mean, before this appointment, I would have been carelessly enjoying fresh, delicious oranges when it's now clear to me that orange soda is way more acceptable. Thanks, doc.
Are you laughing yet? Infuriated by the audacity of a medical professional to take away my right to fresh oranges and instead suggest I drink teeth-rotting, bone-decaying, sugar-filled soda?
This is the scenario I dreamed up this morning as I imagined what some doctors (ok, and friends and family!) would say to me about continuing to nurse my daughter at 16 months of age. I have yet to hear one solid piece of actual health benefit to weaning my daughter before we're ready. And yet, by the time our little ones are 6 months of age doctors are right there to encourage us to cut our babies off. Why? Well, who knows, they could be 22 years old and still nursing in public, right?
Anyway, hope I didn't offend anyone, but I do hope this encourages all of us to question all of our accepted norms in light of what is really best for us and our families.
I'm off to pick some oranges.