From when I was a youngster until I was well into my forties, I loved Life cereal. It was the right balance of sweet and bland – just like my winning personality (on a good day). Then, three years ago this month The Big Negative happened. My employer, Get Rich Never, slashed my wages by 20%. That pay cut, which spreads wider every year like the proliferation of middle age flab, was a wake-up call to me to eat healthier.
Ever since my salary entered freefall I do my best to steer clear of processed food and that includes my beloved Life cereal. Life contains two yellow food dyes # 5 and #6 and the additive, BHT — butylated hydroxytoluene.
According to Wikipedia, BHT is “a lipophilic (fat-soluble) organic compound that is primarily used as an antioxidant food additive (E number E321) as well as an antioxidant additive in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, jet fuels, rubber, petroleum products, electrical transformer oil and [my personal favorite] embalming fluid.”
Wow, talk about an appetite suppressant!
I make a conscious effort to only eat cereals that are organic and produced without preservatives.
That same Wikipedia article about BHT cautions, “Some foods labeled as “no preservatives” or “no preservatives added” actually contain BHT that was present in the ingredients used to make the product but which does not require disclosure on the label.”
I had reasoned that eating better is one way to avoid having to see a doctor. Ironically, eight months into the horror of The Big Negative when I had assumed the diet of a self-denying ascetic that whips herself raw with a cat-o’-nine-tails and then cannonballs into an acid bath, I was diagnosed with such debilitating gastrointestinal disease, an illness I initially confused with tree pollen and grass allergies, it’s remarkable that I’m still alive. Through medication I was able to quit taking in 2010, and a diet that has now removed almost every food with a hint of flavor from my menu, I have fully regained my health. I’ll drink to that — even though I’ve been advised not to (as if that will ever happen).
Following my recent vacation where I allowed myself many lethal indulgences including bacon, brandy-filled chocolate, and a bottomless pit of fat and carbs, I returned home with such a prominent abdominal bulge I suspected that I was either transforming into a kangaroo or had swallowed my young. In my case, that would be Thurber, the family dog, since my niece, Sweet Pea, is my height.
What has any of this blathering got to do with Life cereal? Since I’ve been feeling so full of figure, I have resumed my regular diet of steamed leaves sans stems seasoned with air, but one night after work, I popped into my market, Fairway, where I noticed they had Life cereal on sale. Even though holiday season is once again history, I was overcome with temptation and I threw caution to the wind. With a sweaty mitt I nabbed a box of the favorite cereal of my youth, declaring (inside my head):
Me: To hell with the horrors of food dyes and BHT! I’m destined to croak of something! I’ll return to eating organic fortified mulch and wood shavings the rest of the year!
With a bounce in my step and a satisfied smile on my face that brings to mind the aftermath of carnal pleasure with a rare breed of romantic partner, a special someone not blind, brain damaged and added bonus, willing, I avidly anticipated the next morning’s breakfast when I would dive my spoon deeply into a heaping pile of Life. I did just that and chowed down that bowl of sweet and bland fake colored oat squares with gusto.
An hour later, I was in the bathroom suffering what can best be described as a near-death experience that continued off and on throughout the entirety of the day. I concluded that this might have been a side effect in a body that was a born-again BHT and food dye virgin. Although I had some trepidation eating another bowl of Life the next day, I seem to have reestablished a rapport with toxic food chemicals, but once I polish off this box of Life, I’m going to resume my daily morning duet with Trader Joe’s Organic High Fiber O’s. That cereal tastes much more like tree bark, but I doubt that it will expedite my visit to the crematorium.