Big radio voice chiseling down big belt

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by Meg Farris / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on January 25, 2011 at 5:37 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- A well-known, local, radio personality and actor tells his listeners often about his battle with his weight. But now he has motivation and a plan of attack to change.

"I appreciate it man. Thanks. So we'll find out more," said talk show host "Spud" McConnell into the mic on his radio show.

You've heard his big voice on WWL radio, with that big, local accent, but now John "Spud" McConnell says it's time to change the big man behind it all.

"My whole life, like everybody else. I'm big boned. I have been since I was a kid. I graduated high school. I was about 245 pounds," said McConnell.

McConnell said it's been easy to change his weight for a role in one of his 40 films or many stage plays he's been in. But his weight would go right back up after the motivation of getting in character was over.

Now he wants to change for good.

"I've put on and lost and put on and lost my whole life. I've put on a bunch of weight over the course of a year to play Ignatius (J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces) and that was when I was in my mid-30s, and I've never really been able to successfully get all of it off of me," he said.

Two things are motivating him now. The first, a visit to the doctor when something was wrong.

"You know I thought I was having a stroke. I literally spent two nights at the Ochsners [sic] thinking I had a stroke. Know what I had, was triglycerides that were almost 4000 and they are supposed to be 160. Then I had blood sugar that was in the 300s and its supposed to be 90. And he's the one who sent me to the diabetes doctor and she took one look at it and went,'Oh yeah, you got diabetes,'" \McConnell said.

The second, wanting to be there for his family.

"I came home and I looked at my kids and went, 'Ahhh, you know, I've had a good life but I'm not done with it yet, and I don't want them to grow up facing some of the stuff I've had to deal with,'" he added.

Last June Spud hit 365 pounds and was approached by a company to try the supplement TH-121. Now 50 pounds lighter, he said what he's noticed is his cravings have gone down.

"Don Dubuc (WWL Outdoors Host) comes here on Fridays and he shows up with like 15 dozen donuts. I'd go in there grazing like a Guernsey heifer. I walk by those donuts now, I can walk by them and not, you know, I don't have the cravings," McConnell said.

So what's in TH-121 and what do our experts have to say about the science behind it? One ingredient may be able to help people with type 2 diabetes.

"That particular product has alpha lipoic acid in it which has strong evidence to say it may lower blood sugar. It may improve blood sugar in patients. So, and again, it's strong data," explained Dr. Kim Edward LeBlanc, head of the Department of Family Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center.

But while they say it may help blood sugar levels and has excellent antioxidants in it to protect the cells from damage, they say it is loaded with caffeine, which while it can boost metabolism and induce weight loss, caffeine acts like a drug in the body that you can become dependent upon.

"There's nothing in those particular products specifically that's going to affect cravings. But caffeine does kill one's appetite and some people drink coffee during the day to decrease their appetite. So in the caffeine like affects of these other substances in there, it may in fact decrease their cravings," said LeBlanc.

"It's the caffeine properties of it that are thought to be beneficial because they improve metabolism is a simple way to put it. But they lower body fat and have a thermogenic effect, meaning they burn more. It may help you burn more fat," said Dr. Melinda Sothern, professor of Research and Clinical Exercise Physiologist at LSU Health Sciences Center's School of Public Health.

"This is another caffeine pill and so in terms of weight loss, we know that caffeine induces weight loss. It also has green tea. Green tea is associated with a small amount of weight loss but when you're taking caffeine pills it is like taking an upper. This is not really a healthy way to lose weight. Caffeine use is also associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease or heartburn, GERD that can later on develop into esophagus problems. It is associated with fibrocystic breast disease and it changes how the adrenal gland functions," said Dr. Henri Roca, a specialist in Family and Integrative Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center.

Some doctors say TH-121 in the short term won't hurt and may help you get over a plateau, or jump start a new lifestyle plan, but they think it is the lifestyle change, the exercise and just losing weight in itself, especially the dangerous vat (visceral abdominal fat) around the waist that is really having the biggest effect on Spud.

"That's what saves people's lives. You lose the visceral fat, you drop your waist measurement under 40, spud's a man under 40 inches, under 35 inches for a woman, dramatic things happen," said East Jefferson General Hospital fitness expert Mackie Shilstone.

"Also exercise can be beneficial for cravings. If you choose to exercise over something to eat, it's a behavioral phenomena that you soon forget to eat," said Sothern.

"In all likelihood, it's really the healthy behavior of eating differently and walking that's helping to keep cravings down, because remember, one of the things that really drives cravings is a diet that's rich in carbohydrates, especially simple carbs," said Roca.

And science has proven that when your muscles are more fit, diabetics are better able to use insulin.

"Once you delay the onset of being insulin dependent, you add years to your life because the prognosis is, once you start taking insulin, you got about 20 years and then you are going to start having foot problems, eye problems," said Sothern.

Even though Spud says he is not giving up his love of lots of dark-roast coffee, doctors say the TH-121 may be motivating him to begin to clean up his diet and move more. He says baby steps will keep him from losing interest.

"I'm not going to eat cardboard just so I don't die," announced McConnell. "I gots to have my food, otherwise I'll go live in Iowa someplace. The doctor's saying 'Oh, you know, you need to be like, uh you know, at your height you should be 180.' I'm going 'Yeah, I'm not going to play the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. I'll be the cowardly lion.' I ain't getting down that skinny, because I won't even know who I am."

Doctors say type 1 diabetics should not use this supplement and type 2 diabetics should get clearance from their doctors before they use it.

(For information about TH-121 call 800-794-1499.)

 

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