Wheat Belly: The Outtakes

A fair amount of material was edited out of the original Wheat Belly manuscript for a variety of reasons and therefore never saw the light of day.

I thought it’d be fun to reprint some of the outtakes here, like seeing Russell Crowe botch up his lines and stumble over the camera cables.

Deep within the haze of my childhood memories, buried beneath recollections of nerdy high school days, a marriage gone sour, and a brother-in-law midlife crisis involving duct tape, three members of the local PTA, and a VW bus, are images of the mornings I sat with my two sisters at our kitchen table in suburban New Jersey, each of us slurping a bowl of Trix®, Lucky Charms®, or Fruit Loops® cereal, still recovering from a late night of Bewitched and Mission Impossible.

We were virtual connoisseurs of breakfast cereals, having tried them all, even mixing different brands to come up with unique combinations. Digging into bowls of crunchy sweetness, the first few scoops were undeniably the best before the loops, puffs, or stars got soggy, leaving you with a few floating stragglers. Tipping the milk into your mouth at the end was worth the wait, sweet and colored the same as the cereal, brown for Cocoa Puffs, pinkish-purple for Fruity Pebbles. Along with pretending to brush our teeth and comb our hair, breakfast cereal was part of the morning routine before school for us and millions of other American kids, an experience complete with “Free toy inside!”

Kelloggs®, General Mills, and Post could do incredible things with just wheat flour, cornstarch, sugar, and a little food coloring. Add some clever packaging, a loony cartoon character—“I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!”—and a free this-or-that offer, pour some milk on it, wiggle your nose like Elizabeth Montgomery and voilá: 20th century breakfast.

As I got older, there always seemed to be a breakfast cereal that suited my shifting tastes. After a few years I wanted the cooler Cap’n Crunch or Cheerios. At 18, I was ready to graduate to Raisin Bran, then to Shredded Wheat.

The Great American Processed Food experience didn’t end at breakfast, of course. For school lunch my Mom usually packed peanut butter or bologna sandwiches, the prelude to cellophane-wrapped Hoho’s, Devil Dogs, or Scooter Pies. Sometimes, she would throw in a few Oreos or Vienna Fingers, too. For supper, we loved the TV dinners that came packaged in their own foil plates, allowing us to consume our battered chicken, corn muffin, and apple Betty while watching Get Smart.

But how long can such a wheat flour-cornstarch-sugar nirvana last?

Quite a while, as it turns out. Certainly longer than a sugar-crazed ADHD outburst. It did become fashionable, however, in the 1970s to demonize the sugar content of these foods. (Some breakfast cereals aimed at kids were 40% sugar.) In response to distressed parents’ urgings, manufacturers reduced sugar content, transforming Sugar Pops and Sugar Frosted Flakes of the 1950s into Corn Pops and Frosted Flakes in the 1980s. Because of the alarming explosion of childhood obesity, the pressure to reduce sugar content of breakfast cereals continues even today, with Kelloggs® declaring its intention to reduce sugar content to single-digit (gram) quantities per serving. So American breakfast cereals of the 21st century are a mix of wheat flour, cornstarch, high-fructose corn syrup, and food coloring with less sugar.

Does that solve the problem?

Taking some of the sugar out of breakfast cereal is like taking some of the fizz out of Fizzies® or some of the marinara out of marinara sauce. A similar exercise occurred in the 1970s, when a call was sounded to take the tar out of cigarettes, yielding the “low-tar” variety. Lung cancer in people who smoke increased, despite 97% of all current smokers puffing on the low-tar variety. You might surmise that smoking, like botulinum toxin, is such a nasty thing that making it less bad does not make it good. Or that tar was not the main culprit in the first place.

So, I believe, will it go with breakfast cereals. There’s more to breakfast cereals than sugar and, like cigarettes, no matter what you rename it, how you spin the marketing, increase or decrease various ingredients, regardless of what you say during Congressional testimony . . . it’s still breakfast cereal.

But what would breakfast cereal be without wheat?

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. Amazing. When we were kids, my brother and sister and I had “Children’s Choice” for dinner when my parents went to their respective bridge and bowling nights. We picked cereal every time. Without fail. I just put up a post with my “before” picture in it, and a commenter asked for a list of what we’d eliminated, so I put that up too, as well as their replacements.

  2. Dr. Davis,
    Well put. The food manufacturers are pulling out all the stops on keeping up the “nirvana”. The latest TV commercial that gets my goat is the one about the kids complaining that their health fitness mom is forcing them to adopt her “healthy” lifestyle, until she serves up whole wheat waffles! plus of course syrup!

  3. Marsha

    And then there’s the argument made by health lecturer Sylvester Graham in the 1800’s that the use of graham (whole wheat flour) would suppress “lust.” http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/394/is-it-true-graham-crackers-were-invented-to-cure-the-dread-fever-of-lust However, a point that this article misses is that it is all junk, not just white flour. I do find it interesting though, that vegetarianism with lots of grain was considered an anti-sex diet.

    • Pattye

      I read in Gary Taubes book that high insulin over time shuts down almost all other hormones, stunting them, because insulin is so powerful. The two most shut down, sex hormones and growth hormones, resulting in weakened bones, hair loss, loss of libido, etc. What the hell have these government agencies done to all of us?!

      • Hi, Pattye–

        I find that one of the most disturbing aspects of the entire conversation: How is it that the “official” agencies got it SO wrong?

  4. PJ

    I grew up in a multi-generational household. Very old-fashioned European ideas of what was healthy to eat. I used to be soooo embarrassed when it was my turn to disclose what I had for breakfast. (Yeah, the nuns loved to ridicule the kids who ate anything out of the norm.) I learned to say “cereal, juice, toast and milk” or “eggs, sausage, toast, juice and milk”. In reality, I might have had scrambled eggs and chicken brains (oh, ugh! I hated that!), sauerkraut and sausage from the night before, roast pork and eggs with a slice of rye bread with lard and salt, or anything left over from dinner. Mom and Grandma spent so much time making bread, sausages and canning fruits and vegetables. My favorite activity was going to the woods mushroom hunting. Saturday mornings were a treat because we got to have a bowl of Cheerios . . . AFTER we ate our eggs. (Grandma was a huge believer in lard and eggs and believed that drinking a lot milk was not good for your teeth and bones.)

    I used to actually envy those kids that got to eat “the good stuff” every day! This was the ’50’s in Chicago and my family was so behind the times! Those kids got to have Wonder Bread while I ate homemade bread; they got to have Cocoa Puffs while I ate kidney or heart; they ate tv dinners and I had to eat borscht with sausage and egg. After school, they got to have cookies and milk. Me? I had to eat homemade dill pickles . . . not even store-bought . . . or apples. Boy, were they lucky! Their parents were so modern and “with it”.

    When I think of all those mean things my folks and grandparents made me do, I just smile.

  5. Evelyn

    Interesting outtake! I grew up in So Cal, and Mom was not huge on bread or baked goods like here in the midwest where I now reside. In fact, we never had all of the fun cereals, bread on the supper table, nor cakes unless it was someone’s birthday. Cookies for box lunches were around on occasion, and the holidays were blessed with very few treats. I guess that’s why none of us kids ever had a weight problem growing up.

  6. terrence

    Wow – it is as if I wrote your post about MY childhood, Doctor Davis! Breakfast was ALWAYS cereal of one kind or another, and often the ones you mention.

    Also, when I was growing up, sliced white bread was part of every meal – toast in the morning (with the cereal) and with lunch and dinner; and at least FOUR slices each time. We walked home for lunch; which was usually, you guessed it – SANDWICHES.

    My snacks were also sandwiches – two or three times a day. I used to put just Heinz’s mustard between two slices of white bread. I ate a LOT of my “Mustard Sandwiches”. I LOVED them!

    I have never been really obese; but since hitting 40 years old several years ago, I have always had a spare tire and “love handles”, and weighed about 10 to 15 (sometimes 20) pounds more than I should.

    I have been wheat free for just over two weeks and have lost about five pounds – my jeans are quite loose, and I really need a belt. Three weeks ago, I had a “muffin top” that flopped over my belt (two very big hand fulls). Now, I can barely see the old muffin top. I have lost a good two inches from my waist.

    I should also add that I have been TRYING to go Paleo for between two and three years – it has been really TOUGH! I had Low Carb Flu like crazy, and HAD to get back to wheat – over and over again.

    I am sure I am one of those people with an addiction to wheat. I tried and tried over these last few years to drop grains, but was not successful until these last few weeks – I no longer crave wheat; I can walk around the bakery department in supermarkets and NOT feel COMPELLED to buy something, anything.

    I do not know how to thank you – your blogs have been very important to me; I will buy the book in a week or two. Anyways, thank you, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

    • Hi, Terence–

      Yes, wheat lies at the core of so many old habits. Lose the wheat . . . kick the habit!

      I, too, remember the “pull” of walking past the bakery. Now I can walk past with just a faint hint of nausea.

  7. Susan

    My mom would never admit this, but I can remember coming home from school wanting a snack and she actually gave me a piece of white bread smeared with raw hamburger with ketchup on it. Hey, I was hungry and I ate it. With six children to feed who were always hungry, I imagine she did the best she could with the information she had at the time. As you can guess, her nutritional education was a bit lacking. We also had quite a few snacks made with just white bread smeared with mayonnaise and nothing added. As small children we did not overeat, but we ate just about everything that was put on our plate at night. We were thin youngsters, but we all (with exception of one “skinny” brother, who never could gain) gained extra weight as we entered out teens.


  8. Janknitz

    I just spent a week with my sister-in-law and her family. It’s the year 2011, but nothing has changed for the better in nutritional terms.

    SIL’s kids are fed sugary cereals, waffles and pancakes swimming in syrup, and overly sweetened pastries for breakfast, washed down with chocolate 2% milk or soy milk (my neice explained that “real milk” gives her a tummy ache), sometimes a bit of fruit with breakfast and sugary, low fat yogurt. Lunches are white bread sandwiches with a smear of peanutbutter laden with hydrogenated fat and jelly or some nutella, a juice box, a granola bar, and fruit roll ups. Sometimes actual “baby” carrots are thrown in. After school snacks are more fruit juice, granola bars, popcorn, chips, and more fruit roll ups. The first protein these kids see in the entire day is often at dinner, often in the form of hot dogs, pepperoni and cheese on pizza, or chicken “nuggets” and pasta in many forms–even when the adults eat healthier fare (special meals because the kids are “picky”). The kids don’t eat much of their dinners because the TV is blaring, they are permitted to bring toys and books to the table, and they don’t often sit still long enough to eat without nagging anyway. They do manage to pay attention to dessert–cookies, brownies, cupcakes, or ice cream. And they are given packaged hot chocolate to “wind down” before bed. The house is overflowing with breads, bagels, rolls, muffins, and croissants jammed in every kitchen storage space. My 10 year old–whose diet is far from perfect but nothing like this– is appalled at what her cousins eat.

    The scariest part is that my SIL is a pediatrician, and if this is what she feels is acceptable for her own children I have no idea what she counsels her patients’ parents about nutrition. My niece and nephew are quite thin, but is it any wonder that they both have behavior issues and are in counseling? My 6 year old neice goes into roaring temper tantrums around mealtimes that look like blood sugar drops to me, but instead of nutritional management she is attending “anger management” classes.


  9. Honora

    Just bought the book. Can’t wait to crack it open!!!
    I just ‘love’ wheat more than any person should. I am completely addicted to it and always ‘hungry’. I always say that I eat good food but too much of it. Such a bad me!! Hopefully, I can kick out the wheat and the guilt!! I have been wheat free for two days (after finding this site) and I am already feeling less hungry. Now, I can read the book and get the real story.


    • Yes, Honora: Break the addiction!

      It will set you free to eat by genuine taste and physiologic need, not the false appetite-triggering of a false grain.

      • Honora

        I am still in the withdrawal phase. I had to take the dust jacket off of the book while I am reading it, the bagels are making me crazy.

  10. Evelyn

    Loving the book and wishing everyone would read it and change the way they eat. I am a pharmacy tech, so I spend my days filling prescriptions for many people who could heal themselves with the proper diet and lifestyle. My fiance tells me I can’t fix the world but I’d sure like to try. Thanks for the great read Dr. Davis; and for vindicating my vegetables for breakfast routine.

    • Pattye

      Evelyn, wonder if you could prop up a copy of the book at your counter; I think even subliminally people will remember the title. I think we all can find small ways to spread the word, and yes it all starts with just one person. Don’t ever negate your power to affect the world, I truly believe that.

    • Hi, Evelyn–

      Veggies for breakfast is a great habit!

      I think the notion of breakfast cereals transformed what breakfast means to people–for the worst. Go back to “non-breakfast” foods for breakfast and we’ll be better off.

  11. Nancy

    I initially was introduced to your Wheat Belly diet through the periodical “Woman’s World”. I then bought the book. I have a question about conflicting information. On the diet plan in the periodical, one of the two breakfast choices reads “unlimited plain yogurt with berries and sliced almonds”. But in your book yogurt is one of the limited quantity items.

    • Hi, Nancy–

      The article, while I thought it was well-written, was not written by me. This is a young writer’s interpretation of what was said in Wheat Belly, not what I said.

      So I’d go by the book, not by the article.

  12. Marie

    At our house we had Rice Krispies, Cornflakes and Raisin Bran. Then, when I was old enough to demand the products I’d seen advertised on TV, I got Cap’n’Crunch, Frosted Flakes, and Count Chocola. As a teen, my favourite was Honey Nut Cheerios.

    Could it get any worse? Oh yes. When I was 18 and on my own for a summer, I didn’t know how to cook. Instead I had several bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios for dinner every night.

    Of course I got fat. Of course I developed metabolic problems and a massive wheat belly. Of course I wound up being really hungry every couple of hours.

    Now I have bacon and eggs for breakfast, and am slim and healthy at last. But it took the Wheat Belly book to set me straight.

  13. Reikime

    As I sit here , with a cup of tea watching Food Network (I love to cook and bake), it hit me- you need a show on one of the 2 national cooking channels! “Recipes to lose your wheat belly” I’d watch it! And looks like a lot of others would too, given the success of the book.
    Just a thought…

    • Thanks, Reikime!

      I’m hardly a gourmet or chef. However, I will be doing a cooking segment for the Wheat Belly recipes to be filmed next week for the 700 Club. I’ll post links when available.

      I’ve been telling people that I am neither a gourmet nor chef, but I just play one on TV!

  14. I was a cereal addict. Cereal was breakfast for me for probably 30+ years. As a kid and young adult, I loved Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes, Cheerios, Wheaties, Raisin Bran, Corn Pops, Smacks…I tried everything that came along. (Of course in my house we were never allowed to get the marshmallow or chocolate cereals…not healthy!)
    As and adult, I would eat cereal for a snack in the evening.
    A few months ago, it starting eroding until September when I stopped altogether!

    Now I don’t get hungry until lunchtime. I also don’t get sleepy in the morning after breakfast. Amazing how one category of food changes so much of the rest of your diet.

    • Iris

      Kashi will miss you a whole lot more than you’ll ever miss them! Loved the post on your web site. Way to go!

  15. Ralph Watson

    I am one of the few slim (but wirey) people in my office and my co-workers (mostly overweight) are amazed that I seldom eat bread or other wheat products – as if it’s odd behavior. Between their various weight control programs, Weight Watchers, etc,etc, they all manage to lose 15, then gain 20, after they succumb to their old ways. I am not a fan of diets in general. But I do think that Robert Atkins and Joan Mathews-Larson had some valuable words to say. I am a recovering alcoholic, with over ten years of sobriety, and I attribute my abstinence in great part to what “I don’t eat”. I have been employed in the addiction field for nearly 7 years and it amazes me that so few of the “professionals” in the field fail to see the connection between diet and addictions in general. It has been proven in lab conditions that if you feed an animal (rats and others) a steady diet of simple carbohydrates like sugar or bread, then replace them with both water and alcohol, they will gravitate towards the alcohol. I am 62, and in most ways can outperform most 35 year old’s. NOW thanks to this blog, I’m going to buy your book and completely eliminate the wheat from my life. And how can I introduce it to my co-workers, especially my boss, without hurting their feelings…….. hmmmmm?

  16. hello!,I like your writing so so much! percentage we keep up a correspondence extra about your article on AOL? I need a specialist on this area to solve my problem. May be that is you! Taking a look forward to see you.

  17. Rosemary

    Some friends here in Europe have asked whether the book has been or will be translated in German and/or any other language?

    • Dr. Davis

      Hi, Rosemary–

      Yes, indeed!

      In fact, we have been in discussions these last several days. I believe it is due out in Germany later in 2012.

      I’m also told that “Wheat Belly” in German is a fairly edgy title.