I have discovered a miracle. Well, OK, maybe not a Moses parting the sea miracle, but a miracle exercise program that transformed me from an always-hungry slightly chubby woman into a thin person who can actually eat.
My quest for a smaller me began when I saw a clip of one of my TV segments. Looking at the middle-aged mommyish-looking woman sitting next to the dazzling blond anchor, there was no denying the obvious: I was witty, I was funny and I was fat.
Maybe not fat, fat. But I looked more like the anchor's mother than I did her peer.
Surely I don't look like that in real life. Those merciless cameras must add 20 pounds, not just 10. But wait, here's a video of me giving a speech. What's that blob sticking out over the top of my waistband?
And here's a photo of me by the pool with my kids. Is that floppy flesh spilling out the side of my swimsuit actually my breasts?
My lower legs and arms still looked decent, but the middle part of my body was looking more like the Pillsbury Doughboy every day.
I know it shouldn't matter how I look. And I know that to someone who is truly obese, I probably had a dream body. But to me, seeing my blubbery stomach and turkey drumstick arms was a bit of a shock.
I almost cried when my daughter said, "You look fine, you look like all the other mothers." I had become invisible.
My first instinct was to hit the couch with a bag of chips. But I was nine months away from a national book tour. So, rather than face another round of interviews looking frumpy and dumpy, I reluctantly decided to give diet and exercise one more whirl.
Thus began the "Can This Middle-Aged Author Be Saved?" quest.
I lifted weights, I swam laps and, instead of walking with a friend, I ran. Well, OK, I walked really fast and moved my arms back and forth.
I also swore off junk food, subsisting on broiled fish or chicken on top of salads.
After all that hard work, the weight fell off at the astonishingly rapid rate of one or two measly pounds a month.
Even worse than the grindingly slow progress toward thinness was the three-pound rebound effect anytime I took more than two days off my punishing regimen. Of course, the constant crankiness was a bit of a challenge for a humor writer. But if living off caffeine and Dentyne was what it took to look decent on TV, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
Yet just as I was ready to sentence myself to a life of deprivation, I discovered T-Tapp, a body-transforming exercise program from fitness guru Teresa Tapp (T-Tapp.com).
Tapp's videos and her book, "Fit and Fabulous in 15 Minutes" (Random House, $26.95) promise you can lose two dress sizes in four weeks. It sounds too good to be true, but I tried it and it actually works.
I did the full T-Tapp routine every day for 14 days and then every other day for the next two weeks, and I shed 3 inches of unsightly ab flab in 30 days.
With the help of T-Tapp instructor Rene McLaughlin (www.your-health-coach.com), I also added a vitamin regimen that provided more sustenance than my previous energy source -Diet Coke and skim lattes.
I look and feel better than I have since I was 30. And now that I've lost the weight, I only work out three times a week, and I CAN EAT!
I'm all about accepting who you are, and I never dreamed I would become an evangelist for an exercise program. But I want every low-energy, thick-waisted woman in America to feel the way I feel.
I'm living proof that no matter how far gone you are, the real you is inside just waiting to come out.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a speaker, syndicated humor columnist and author of "Forget Perfect" and her new book, "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear."