Dr. Deah's Tasty Morsels

Cereal Killer

Posted on October 06, 2012 by Dr. Deah

This is the first of two pieces I am writing in honor of the NOW Foundation's 15th annual Love Your Body Day taking place on Oct. 17th. If you are interested in participating in a NOW fundraiser in honor of Love Your Body Day visit About Curves and find out how you can help! Recently I purchased a box of Cheerios™. This was not typical for me. Historically I have never been a big Cheerios fan. But this was no ordinary box of Cheerios. This was New Multi Grain Peanut Butter Cheerios™ and because historically I HAVE been a big peanut butter fan, I was curious how much peanut butter taste would make its way into the cereal bowl experience. Even though my expectations were low, given past promises of S’mores, Oreo, and chocolate chip cookie cereals never quite living up to the claim that I would be eating a healthy breakfast in the guise of a guilty pleasure, I was up for the adventure with spoon in hand; albeit ready to be disappointed. So it was no surprise that as I sampled my first taste I was hit with the reality that I was eating a spoonful of mediocre cereal and not a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter. What I was not prepared for was what came next. As I sat there eating my O's and reading the back of the box (Okay, not exactly mindful eating but who DOESN'T read the box when they eat cereal?) the following words jumped out at me.
“More grains less you!”
I put my spoon down and shifted into my mindful reading mode and continued to examine the box more thoroughly.
“People who choose more whole grains tend to weigh less than those who don’t.” “Whole grain as a part of a sensible diet can help you manage your weight.”
And just in case I missed it, there on the front of the box I was reminded,
“More grains less you!”
I felt my blood begin to boil as the wheels in my mind churned to comprehend what this box of cereal was saying to me.  After decades of therapy and working on self-acceptance and developing a healthy body image I was being told that the world would be better off if there was less of me. After years of learning how to, without apology, "own my space" and use my voice sans worry of coming off too strong, too opinionated or too large of a woman, this cereal box was telling me that my life would be better if there was less of me. But what if I don’t want to be less me? What if I am fine with the me that I am?

New Multi-Grain Peanut Butter Cheerios

My-grain was rapidly transforming into a mi-graine as my train of thought increased speed. I told myself that perhaps I was being too sensitive, too picky, and too literal but think of it. Cheerios is telling women (and it is focused on women; the quotes and illustration on the box are all from a woman’s perspective) that there is too much of us and we would be better off if there were less of us.  The main reason for eating this cereal is to diminish our size. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that words are very important to me. Conversely, I know that not everyone scrutinizes the English language the way I do. Hence I am curious if anyone else experienced a cognitive dissonance from eating this cereal for nutrition, flavor, and to satisfy hunger while concurrently being fed the message that consuming this food will result in less of you to nourish? And what about people who feel they have nothing to lose or who are trying to increase their weight? Do they walk away from the chance to eat this presumably scrumptious promise of a bowl of peanut butter oats because they can’t afford to be any less than what they already are? The sociological undertones are also troubling. When a segment of the population, in this case overweight people, are being told that they are not okay unless there is less of them, well, you don’t have to stretch that metaphor much to understand just how offensive this message is. Surprisingly, I am not the first person to complain about Multi-Grain Peanut Butter Cheerios™. It turns out that there was a parental outrage on behalf of children with peanut allergies in January, 2012 when the cereal was first introduced. Written about in the Washington Post and SF Gate, parents voiced their concern about cross contamination between the peanut version and the non-peanut Cheerios. One of their complaints was that the box looked too similar to regular Cheerios resulting in mistakenly purchasing the peanut O’s and asked that changes be made. It caused me to wonder what if parents of children with Eating Disorders took a page from the National organization, Allergy Mom’s, book and lodged complaints with General Mills about the packaging? Here’s my thinking: Part of establishing a healthy relationship with food is fostering the ability to eat foods based on internal cues and focus on satiety, hunger and appetite as triggers for eating. We already know that restrictive dieting and body dissatisfaction are contributing factors to eating disorders and that focusing on a health based style of living in lieu of a weight based approach is an efficacious way to recover from body hate and disordered eating. Here is a product that has based its entire insulting ad campaign and packaging on promoting restrictive dieting, negative body image, and adds the additional component that you can “cheat” and eat one of the most renown forbidden foods, peanut butter, and still lose weight. For me the choice is simple. I wrote a letter to General Mills and I'm informing a few people with my blog post. But what worries me is the insidious way this product promotes body hate and reinforces the belief that the best me is less me. I just don't and won't buy it. Til next time! Dr. Deah I was just nominated for a 2012 WEGO Health Activist Award with @wegohealth! The Health Activist Awards recognize leaders in the online health community who make a difference in the lives of patients (and loved ones) everywhere. If you would like to nominate me or someone else go to: http://info.wegohealth.com/health-activist-awards-2012  

About Dr. Deah

Dr. Deah Schwartz, clinician, educator, and author specializes in Expressive Arts Therapies, Eating Disorders, and Body Image. Deah is the author of Dr. Deah's Calmanac: Your Interactive Monthly Guide for Cultivating a Positive Body Image and co-author of the NAAFA award winning Off-Broadway Play, Leftovers, and its companion DVD/Workbook Set. An outspoken “New Yawker,” Dr. Deah believes that it is everyone’s responsibility to point out and eliminate size discrimination even when it means battling the mainstream media, and even more challenging...family members! To find out more about Dr. Deah’s work or to book a session visit her website at www.drdeah.com

Categories: Body Acceptance, Body Image, Dr. Deah, Eating disorders, HAES®, Mindful Eating, Weight | Tags: , , , , | 21 comments

Comments (21)

  1. Pingback: Cereal Killer | drdeahstastymorsels

  2. It may be un-PC of me, but dammit, I want that Cheerio dress! Wonder if they make it in my size?
    More relevant to the point of your post – I hate references to fatness as “unmanaged” weight, or “out-of-control”. My weight is ALWAYS out of control and unmanaged, but only a fool would assume that means it’s always rising. Totally untrue.

  3. Yes. Saw that. And that is why I have not been eating cheerios lately. We opt for a store brand that looks and tastes similar to (regular) cheerios.

    It is extremely annoying when a corporation just assumes that a) thinner is better b) everyone wishes to be thin c) one’s main priority in buying a food is that it is supposedly healthier/diet/low something or other. And yet it is even more annoying when the idea of losing and becoming “less you” becomes almost mandatory, as evidenced by their ad message. As you stated, many of us do not wish to be “less.”

  4. I look forward to reading much more of what you have to say.
    The comment ‘less of you’ is reminiscent for me of a comment I received as a child when I asked for some pretty clothes “you don’t want to draw attention to yourself”.

    The subtle droplets, the negativities over time may not disappear with the click of our fingers. Lets hope that with the work of your organisation and others, teenagers and adults alike will learn to weather the negativity and ‘oughts’. best wishes

  5. They’ve had commercials on TV for Cheerios that state eating them leads to “less you”, and those commercials are for the regular Cheerios, not the ones with the different flavors, like Honey Nut, Peanut Butter, Apple Cinnamon, or the fruit ring one that looks like Fruit Loops.
    I just classed them right up there with the Special K commercials, and filed them away as another commercial to be ignored, as I do most commercials.

    • I agree Vesta, and oh if only more people had your ability to tune out these negative messages!! It is truly one of your many super powers!

  6. I have noticed that a lot of commercials talk about the ‘study’ that people who eat whole grains are slimmer. Really? How about the study that fat people dont eat as much grains because most are ‘usually dieting’ therefor not eating less of everything. I dont mean us but those who are not where we are and havent seen the light. What a crazy study. However, if ‘you say it enough it will become the truth’.

  7. What struck me most in this post was your comment, “After years of learning how to, without apology, ‘own my space’ and use my voice sans worry of coming off too strong, too opinionated or too large of a woman, this cereal box was telling me that my life would be better if there was less of me.” And that is what is most frightening.

    Women have extraordinary power, and as long as we are focusing that power on making sure that “there are less of us,” we will not have energy left over for fighting the things that matter – fighting for and “owning our space” and expressing strong opinions about social and economic and race/gender-based injustices. What perfect “food for thought” on NOW & “Love Your Body Day.” Now, off to make a donation!

    • If we took all the time and energy we spent on molding ourselves to comply with unattainable standards just think of what we could do!!

  8. I’m glad that along with sending the letter, you’ve decided not to buy the product any more. The decisions to put this stuff on the package is based purely on the need to sell more cereal. If the packaging makes them sell less cereal, they will change it. Thanks for all you do!

  9. So very sadly true and well said. All the more reason to stand by my fave, Peanut Butter Crunch. O Cap’n, my cap’n!

  10. Pingback: “But You Still Have To Go To The Gym” « In My Skinny Genes

  11. I have a problem with purchasing, eating and even caring about a product that General Mills offers. There are so many decent products with good ingredients, by smaller companies that care what their ingredients are and where their ingredients come from, that paying into GM seems a shame.

    • Melly I agree with you and it is unfortunate that companies like GM can offer their products at such lower prices! When people see a product screaming while grains at them that they can afford they assume they are making a healthier choice than going for the coco puffs. Of course if someone is buying peanut butter cereal like I was, healthy choice was not my primary motivation in that moment. 🙂

  12. Tripped across a reference to this entry from In My Skinny Genes. I’m aghast! Do none of y’all know about anti-nutrients and phytates in grain — and how damaging grains are to the human body? Not just to celiacs, but to humans generally? The whole idea of: “This box of Cheerios is okay, this one isn’t” is SO wrong! PLEASE keep researching and find abetter (healthier!) way to eat! ANY kind Cheerios is an unhealthy thing!

    • Elenor, I am glad you found my blog and that you agree with my disagreement about the Cheerios Fiasco! I am not a registered dietician or certified nutritionist so I cannot really comment on your statement about grains from a place of statistical evidence, but I do appreciate your writing and hope you find yourself reading my blog posts in the future!
      Warmly, Dr Deah

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