Like one of the characters in her off-Broadway play, “Stuffed,” Lisa Lampanelli jokes that during her dieting days — all three decades of them — she lost and regained some 300 pounds: “that’s 17 Sarah Jessica Parkers!”
But as the comedian tells The Post, “My food issues aren’t the same as everyone else’s.” And so the one-note show she started writing seven years ago became a fugue for four women’s voices: a size zero who can’t gain weight no matter how much she eats; a bulimic who binges and purges; a big woman comfortable in her own skin; and Lisa, the yo-yo dieter, played by Lampanelli herself.
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“Stuffed,” which she calls a “Vagina Monologues” for the food-obsessed, uncovers the complicated feelings women have about their weight. For Lampanelli, it was all about finding the right diet — one that would take off the pounds she’d put on by eating her way through a crisis — and then feeling like a failure when she couldn’t keep the weight off. That struggle continued up until 2012, when she had gastric sleeve surgery. Though she’d long eschewed surgery as “the easy way out,” she found it had challenges of its own — and even led to her divorce.
“Food was love in my family,” says the 56-year-old, who grew up in a middle-class Italian family in Connecticut. “At college, alone for the first time ever, I self-medicated with food. No drugs, no booze … For any emotion that came up, food was the answer.”
Over lunch near the Westside Theatre, where “Stuffed” runs through Nov. 19, Lampanelli says that, all joking aside, she’s lost track of the pounds she’d lost and regained since she was 18 years old. She says her weight ranged between 112 and 248 pounds (her dress sizes from 2 to 24) as she tried one regime after another: Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem … and a 500-calorie diet she says made her hair fall out and gave her boils.
“‘Two shakes a day and a sensible meal,’” she says, of one. “If I knew what a sensible meal was, I wouldn’t be this fat!”
‘I self-medicated with food. No drugs, no booze … For any emotion that came up, food was the answer.’
The 5-foot-8 ¹/₂ comic was her heaviest in 2012, when stress-eating her way through “Celebrity Apprentice” had her weighing nearly 250 pounds. She’d recently turned 50, and a doctor asked her, “How many people do you know who are this overweight and still alive when they’re 70?” She couldn’t think of any, but she did know she wanted to live — and that her dieting days were over: “You’ve got to be able to look yourself in the eye and say, ‘No more, I’m done.’”
And so, five and a half years ago, she had gastric-sleeve surgery — the same procedure, Page Six reported, that Mariah Carey had this month. Lampanelli calls the laparoscopic procedure “the gold standard” for weight-loss surgery, saying there’s no downtime, and that she was walking the day after. (Gastric-sleeve surgery isn’t without risks. Complications can include infection, bleeding, digestion issues and sagging skin from rapid weight loss.)
Since the surgery, Lampanelli says, she’s shed 107 pounds, her long blond locks and a husband — and has never been happier.
“They basically remove 85 percent of your stomach,” she says matter-of-factly, between strategically small nibbles of mac-and-cheese, a dish she once devoured. “You get to start over with the smaller stomach you were meant to have. You feel full immediately … Emotional eating is out of the question, because if you eat too much, you feel sick.”
After two weeks on clear liquids, she turned back to the comfort foods she loved — pasta and sweets — albeit in tiny portions. But after two years of that, she says, “I realized I was low in energy and depleted … It was time to be an adult, eating the food that gives me the energy to live the fullest life I can.”
These days, breakfast is a kale smoothie made palatable with chocolate-flavored protein powder and a dash of cocoa. She’ll have pressed juice during the day, and “a tiny bowl” of quinoa and a lean protein such as shrimp or chicken for lunch. Dinner is often a chicken wrap, unless she’s dining out “someplace fancy” — in which case, she orders food her mother likes, “since she’s getting the leftovers,” which are substantial since she can’t physically finish most restaurant portions on her own. Then again, Lampanelli says, “I’m so cheap, I’ll put it in the fridge and eat it over two or three days.” After being “good” 80 percent of the day, she says, she treats herself to a handful of popcorn with real butter, or six Hershey’s Kisses.
Her evolved way of eating isn’t easy, nor is it cheap. Then again, Lampanelli says, she paid a lot to make her heavy self look good.
“When you’re overweight, you use hair or nails or expensive purses to hide behind,” she says. Now a size 6, she ditched her pricey hair extensions for a short-cropped ’do she dyes electric blue.
‘They basically remove 85 percent of your stomach. You get to start over with the smaller stomach you were meant to have.’
She relishes rocking cheap clothes. “I find it horrible that plus-size clothing costs more than regular,” she says. “Now I can go to Forever 21 and buy a freakin’ $10 shirt and I’m OK!”
As for her ex-husband: Jimmy Cannizzaro had gastric-sleeve surgery several months after Lampanelli did (“He said he was waiting to see if I’d die on the table!”) and lost 95 pounds. Once they stopped eating their feelings, she says, they realized they had little in common. So friendly was their 2014 divorce that she attended his next wedding.
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She, herself, has no plans to re-affiliate.
“I’m so good single,” says Lampanelli, who shares her Upper East Side apartment and Connecticut home with Parker, the dog she named after the star of “Sex in the City.”
“I’m not really ready for a relationship … I figure I’ll work on me and see what happens!”
If anything, she hopes “Stuffed” will help others accept themselves for who they are, and know that they’re not alone: “Don’t feel shame about your eating and dieting, because there’s a lot of other people struggling, too.”