Cereal Killer

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!

Spoon inscribed with "Cereal killer" on a wooden table next to some spilled Cheerios
Less of ME? You’re killin’ ME!

Recently I purchased a box of Cheeriosâ„¢. 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 Cheeriosâ„¢ 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?

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.

Front and back of Multi-Grain Peanut Butter Cheerios box. The back features a silhouette of a thin woman wearing a halter dress made of Cheerios, captioned "More grains less you"
Multi-Grain Peanut Butter Cheerios

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 Cheeriosâ„¢. 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 Moms‘ 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.

Cheerios box with a butcher knife sticking out of it, milk spilling out around the knife wound, and cereal spilling out of the top of the box
It was self-defense!

Til next time!

Dr. Deah

By Dr. Deah Schwartz

Dr. Deah Schwartz, clinician, educator, and author specializes in Expressive Arts Therapies, Eating Disorders and Body Image. Deah is the Co Author of the NAAFA award winning Off-Broadway Play, Leftovers, and its companion DVD/Workbook Set. An outspoken “New Yawker,” 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 worse, family members! To find out more about Dr. Deah’s work or to book a session visit her website at

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