By: Lauren Anderson
When I first started working out at Solcana, I did a food challenge to reset the inflammation in my body. If you’ve been following this blog from the jump, you probably remember a pretty steep learning curve.
I learned so much about food, and nutrition, and even how to cook! I learned the great effect sugars had on my body. I don’t think it’s beyond the scope to say: IT WAS LIFE CHANGING.
When I started to re-introduce more fruits back into my system I remember craving grapefruit. Like crazy. My friend Jim offered me some when we were camping, and from then on I was hooked.
I remember thinking it was kind of strange, because I never really liked grapefruit before– but hey! It was a whole new world. And they never tasted so sweet and so life affirming.
It was all I wanted to eat. I distinctly remember asking my nutritionist at the time, “How much grapefruit is too much?” And laughing.
She basically said, “They do have sugar in them, and are high in acid, so as long as your stomach can handle it– I say it’s fine.”
We talked for awhile about the difference between binging on food and satiating a craving. She said it’s important to notice (like a detective—without judgement) why you’re eating. What I choose to eat is not good or bad– it just IS. And how is it serving me?
She asked me “Are you indulging to fulfill an emotional need or is it something your body is craving?” Both are valid reasons to eat, and knowing the WHY can help in giving your body/mind/spirit what it actually needs.
*** At this point I have stop and say, I’m trying to do some VERY ON PURPOSE phrasing here– but please be patient, because I’m a work in progress. I am really trying to not say any food is “Good or Bad”. Because I believe that food doesn’t have a morality. It just IS. Food can serve many needs, from being nutritionally dense, to celebratory, to comfort.
I am also being very careful when I talk about eating habits, without judgement. I believe there is no universal “Right and Wrong” way to eat either. I think the better question is again to ask “How is it serving me? Is it helping or hurting?” etc. Ahem, tangent over. I just felt it was important to note before I continue. ***
These are great questions. And I still ask myself that every time I get hooked on a food pattern.
Her thought was there are lots of foods to crave, and if I was jonesin’ for some ruby reds– then it was my body’s way of communicating a need to me. A ha! What a reframe! Now I can think about cravings as a way to communicate with my body. Which is like a emotional/nutritional Rosetta Stone.
If I answer her questions honestly, I have to say I love grapefruit for a lot of reasons. And I eat them to embody all of the above.
Firstly, after not eating refined sugar for months, they were/are delicious. Juicy and sweet and like eating sunshine. I find the smell of grapefruit to be invigorating- like an energetic summer afternoon. They still feel like a treat. Even this many months later.
Secondly, grapefruits are HUGE. So when I eat one, it feels like I am courting abundance. I’ve talked about it in this blog before, but I struggle with food scarcity. Like, I think there won’t be enough food to make me feel satisfied– that kind of thing. But that’s not the case with grapefruit. I can peel one and have plenty to share. It’s an amazing feeling. The smell, the weight, the color.
It all feels abundant.
Thirdly– if that’s a word– I think because I came to grapefruit after I had learned so much about nutrition and my body, they have come to represent something about food that I didn’t think was possible. Something that can have dynamic nutritional impact can also be a joy to eat! Grapefruits started to represent the best of all worlds to me. Abundant, nutritionally stacked, and fun.
Over the years, my intense obsession has waned a bit, but I still buy and enjoy 2-3 grapefruits a week. They remain a constant in my life that I look forward to. And I notice every time I have one, I look forward to it. I am still happy and excited to be doing so.
So, cut to a few weeks a go.
GUILT starts to pile up. My life has been crazy lately. Between rehearsals and intense therapy, I’ve been struggling with getting myself to the gym. I just can’t find the time or the energy lately.
I’m feeling raw, and a need for gentleness, because of the work I’m doing in therapy. But at the same time, my body is used to moving at least once a week. So I find myself at a strange crossroads.
And then rehearsals ramped up even more. I started working 12 hour days– and my eating habits are reflecting that. I haven’t properly grocery-shopped in weeks, and I’ve been eating out almost every meal for convenience.
Again, I’m trying not to judge myself, but then that damn guilt creeps in. The habit of judging and berating myself is REAL. Even after a careful and systemic shift in my personal body love zeitgeist, that guilt that I’m eating “bad” and I’m “bad” for not working out more—creeps in.
So I try to rally. I try to rage against the guilt and get back in the groove. I wake up early. I pack up whatever nutritionally dense and sustaining food I have left in my house, and I bop a grapefruit into my lunch sack and I head to work. I’m looking forward to the smell that will fill the room when I peel it.
The day got away from me, and as I’m walking back to my car with my co-worker Denzel after a long long day, I still have some uneaten food left in my lunch bag. Including the grapefruit.
It’s cold, and it’s late. A man approaches us on the street. “Excuse me, do either of you have anything to spare? I’m just looking for something to eat.”
“I don’t have any cash,” I say, “But do you want anything in this bag?” We look through the bag together. He turns down my apple because he said he had a hole in his tooth. He shakes his head at the carrots and hummus, probably for the same reason.
He ends up choosing the remainder of a rice-crispy bar that I had nibbled on. I’m feeling a little distraught that I don’t have more to give, that he can actually eat.
But he thanks me, and I say, “Wait! Do you want the grapefruit too? Would you or can you eat that?” He shrugs okay, and I give it. The fruit is large in his hand and he kinda smiles at the weight of it.
I don’t know this man’s story. I don’t know where he’s going or where he came from. But for a brief moment, he looks similar to how I feel when I hold a grapefruit, and now I feel a connection to him.
And I can’t help thinking, that is the power of food. I am kidding myself if I think that food doesn’t hold part of my culture or humanity in it. The food itself doesn’t have morality, but we as people DO.
Truthfully, I’m probably projecting all that onto the stranger. But perhaps not. I think there is something anticipatory, and perhaps even bountiful, about holding a fruit that large. At least that’s how I always feel anyway.
I wish him a good night and he does the same to us. And we part ways.
* * *
I show up the next day at work, and find that my dear friend and co-worker Heather has surprised me with a huge bag of grapefruits on my side of the counter in the dressing room. She did not know about the previous night, only about my love of grapefruit. It was gobsmacked.
She says, “I brought these in for you!”
In that moment, I felt so happy. Treats! Abundance! Joy! The scent filled the room!
As I carried my bag of grapefruits to the car later that night, I couldn’t help think of the man I met on the same walk the night before. I hope he got a chance to enjoy that fruit. I hope smelling it, gave him some brief joy like it does for me. I hope sharing that fruit brightened his day the same way Heather sharing her fruit with me brightened mine.
And I couldn’t help thinking that this was another lesson in abundance. That by giving one grapefruit away, the universe saw fit to give me six more. That if I’m generous with my time and resources, the universe will give me even more time and resources.
Or not. I mean, this grapefruit coincidence is one of those stories that can mean a whole lot or very little depending on who you are and what you need, ya know?
But I choose the allegory. Because I always do. That’s just how I role.
I do think it’s interesting that as I move through my Fitness/ Body-love/ Food-friend journey that Grapefruit keeps showing up in new and surprising capacity. It makes me think that it’s important to my story.
Because I can easily be like, “Whatever, it’s just food.” or “It’s just a work out.” or “It’s just a body.”
Or even, “It’s just Grapefruit.”
But I know better by now than to reduce anything to “just”.
I know from experience that a workout can be a form a prayer, a lesson in forgiveness, proof to myself that I AM ENOUGH.
I know that my body can be a real friend, my biggest champion, and a tangible expression of love.
And food. Food. FOOD. Food can be a point of joy, a means of nourishment, and a connection between strangers on a cold dark night.
These mundane things I can take for granted, just like the unassuming grapefruit.
But I know from experience that these are the things that can make up the the oversized, sweet, juicy, aromatic, pinkish-orange stuff of life.
And I’m excited to peel it open and enjoy.