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The X Files
Xavier Hermosillo is the President of, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 23 years ago. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He has co-founded two publicly-traded companies where he served as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. He has also served as a Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds degrees in Administration of Justice and Business and Communications. He can be reached at

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 it.

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 nightmare.

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 the culprit.

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 waist.

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 . 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 System (ARMS).

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.