Fat and obesity are everywhere in the news today but trying
to get thin or stay thin can be much more dangerous than the
recent surgeries getting all the attention.
Reporters today are increasingly being asked to cover a subject
they know virtually nothing about, the national health epidemic
involving fat and obesity. Covering the rapidly growing health
crisis involving fat folks is not considered a plum assignment
in most news rooms, and most television reporters don't have
a personal clue or experience about being fat that is remotely
close to what the national news story is all about.
It is true that most of the stories we cover involve areas
of life we have never experienced, such as real military wars,
gang wars in the street, cancer and other devastating illnesses,
quintuplet and sextuplet births, etc.
However, the current frenzy over the dangers of fat seem to
be treated too superficially, focusing more on the nexus with
fast food and the quickie solutions of lap-band and stomach-stapling
surgeries, instead of the more common and prevalent dangers
of trying to become, or stay, thin.
When those of us in the media trivialize the coverage of such
an impacted health problem for young and old alike, regardless
of ethnicity or social status, and we just hit the highlights
coming from the spin miesters of the moment, we do a national
disservice to our audiences.
I am an expert in this field and I speak with decades of personal
and painful experience on the subject of fat and obesity.
And I have recently discovered that beyond the tag-along illnesses
of obesity - - hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, strokes,
etc. - - many Americans anxious to lose the love handles or
more, may be doing themselves more harm than they realize
in finding the solution to weight loss.
And the media should be on top of this and should be covering
We have heard a lot about the recent increase in cure-all
surgeries and the hundreds of pounds lost by the patients,
especially the celebrity patients like Al Roker, Carnie Wilson,
Star Jones, and others.
These surgeries are NOT the cure-all, because if you don't
change your lifestyles, your eating habits, or the root causes
of why you eat, the weight will eventually come back and bring
with it even more misery.
I was one of the first people in the U.S. to have a "gastric
bypass" surgery 24 years ago and I lost more than 300
pounds in about a year. But I didn't change my lifestyle or
deal with the issues that caused me to balloon up to 550 pounds,
and over time, I gained back about 100 pounds. That is one
reality facing today's surgery patients who think they have
found the ultimate fat cure.
But even worse, I have discovered, is that in this weight
conscious society, where there is intense pressure for all
of us to be thinner, more attractive, sexier, hotter, or whatever
the standard de jour may be, we are consuming ANYTHING that
remotely is touted as part of the weight loss formula.
As we transition in and out of Atkins and other high protein
diets, the South Beach-type of diet, low carb, high fiber,
low fat, no sugar, etc., we are severely damaging ourselves
and unfortunately, our children, who are fatter than ever
and face a lifetime of misery, pain, and health problems.
In order to keep sugar consumption down as much as possible,
and especially for diabetics, we have seen the popularity
of diet sodas, diet drinks, and diet foods today surpass the
"regular" foods as part of our national eating plans.
And now it is becoming apparent that fat people have been
led down a very dangerous path to weight loss.
As a large consumer of diet or sugar free drinks, I always
thought I was doing my best and the right thing to help get
my weight down and make the fat loss permanent. From Diet
Coke and Diet Pepsi, to Diet 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, you name it,
I drank it. I also kept a check on the fat content and tried
to combine no sugar with little or no fat. A perfect combo
for success, I thought.
Then about three years ago, I began to suffer from a variety
of unusual maladies. A bad case of vertigo, with the world
around me spinning like an out-of-control rocket, arthritic-like
pain that no painkiller could overcome, headaches unlike any
I had ever experienced, loss of sleep, a reoccurring state
of the blahs, where getting my day started was a slow-motion
It got worse and all the kings' doctors and all the kings'
specialists couldn't figure out the problem, let alone the
solution. Then one day a friend sent me a letter he had received
from his doctor. It made an astonishing and alarming claim,
that a particular and popular sweetener in diet foods was
It was scary reading, but it seemed to make sense. It directed
me to a website and as I read through it for two hours, I
was being told a story I have never heard reported in the
media. It is one of the most fascinating and scary stories
I have ever read and when I was done shaking, and after another
four hours of additional internet research, I went to my refrigerator
and acting as someone possessed, I threw away EVERY single
food item containing this sweetener.
It was not easy for me to do this. I live on a budget just
like everyone else and to just toss hundreds of dollars into
the trash was very difficult. But the anger at my ignorance
about what I was eating was turning into hope that my laundry
list of health issues would some day go away.
They did. Over the last several months, the dizzy episodes
have vanished, the headaches are gone, I sleep much better,
and I am sharper and more energetic than ever in the morning
and all day long. I realize I may sound like a food evangelist
who has been "saved" from my nasty food habits and
is now proselytizing to the fat folks in search of a smaller
Perhaps, but I think it is imperative that as news professionals,
we explore ALL the issues involving the obesity crisis in
our nation and accurately inform our audiences of as many
dangers, as well as solutions, to the ending the crisis.
Before I direct you to the web site that brought this turn-around
in my life, I have to admit that my conversion away from bad
foods and drinks is resulting in a near-total, yet very easy,
change in my eating habits. I have discovered the real sweet
taste of fruits I previously avoided for fear the "natural
sugar" in these gems would worsen my diabetes.
I have found that there is a very limited, but rapidly growing,
alternative to my diet soda needs. I have learned that while
there are no perfect solutions in life, there are lesser of
evils we have to accept as part of our lives, if a meaningful
change is necessary and important to our future existence.
I urge you to do the research I have done and see if you can
report what you have found to a national audience that is
starving, no pun intended, for a safe and healthy way of losing
weight. Please do more than just parrot the latest news release
from the Journal of the American Medical Association, or parlay
a news conference from a so-called expert into a lead story
because it involves yet another discussion on fat and obesity.
And see if you get as freaked out as I did when I was directed
to www.aspartame.com . I have nothing personal against one
product over another, but I hope you will agree that Americans
need to be told the truth and let them decide whether they
want to make a change in their lives or live with the health
consequences of making no change.
I also see a trend developing that may be worth reporting
in that many people are being diagnosed with "poisoning"
from the one particular sweetener and now they have a choice
of a new sweetener that is made from sugar, called sucralose.
There is only one major soda company using it, Diet Rite Cola,
but it is an alternative and it is a new start. The 7-UP folks
just introduced a mixed soda and fruit drink called 7-UP Plus
that is made with sucralose, a departure from the aspartame
ingredient in their other diet product line. Perhaps they
hear the drum beat of their consumers.
When you check out the web site, you will find a story of
intrigue, the role of current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
in the development and marketing of aspartame (also marketed
as Equal and NutraSweet), and a list of 92 symptoms from a
February, 1994 listing from the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services of adverse reactions reported to the FDA
(DHHS 1994). Aspartame accounted for more than 75% of all
adverse reactions reported to the FDA's Adverse Reaction Monitoring
Like any internet site, this one has some unbelievable claims.
Many, however, appear real and have multiple medical doctors
validating the data. You can also check out the sites involving
the new kid on the block, sucralose, marketed as Splenda in
foods and drinks. People need to know both sides of this story,
and when you have completed your research on this specific
topic, you will have a better understanding of why it is important
to dig a little deeper on the issue of fat and obesity.