GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND -- Since April 1, I've been to 23 cities, appeared on 27 television shows and 171 radio shows, and had interviews with about 20 newspapers.

I've learned to speak in "sound bites" to keep the directors happy and learned to powder my bald spot to keep the glare down. I wouldn't be surprised if the stock of powder companies has gone up in the last seven weeks.

More important, I've eaten and exercised right as I sprint from plane to microphone. Most of the time, that is. On my 46th birthday, I ate two baked lobsters. On Mother's Day, I ate rare roast beef and didn't trim the fat very close. I didn't trim the size of the chocolate cake slice, either.

If the truth be known, I probably fudged a little at least once a day. On planes I didn't pull the skin off the baked chicken, for instance, or cut the dessert in half as I had promised myself to do.

My exercise regime was a little short, too. I did 50 push-ups and a couple of hundred sit-ups every morning (at times working out at 4 a.m.), and I lifted weights in a gym at least twice each week. On weekends I walked a lot, too. But I didn't really get in my 20 minutes of steady cardiovascular work three days a week. And those 20-minute sessions are the key to a healthy heart.

I would like to tell you that my slip-ups didn't affect my health, but unfortunately they did. During those seven weeks, my cholesterol count went up from a reasonably normal 200 milligrams per deciliter to a slightly elevated 230. Statistically, that change increases my risk of heart disease by about 25 percent.

And do you know what is really unnerving about that? I feel just fine. That 30 point increase in cholesterol did not bring a corresponding decrease in my energy or feeling of general well-being. Don't ever think your body will alert you to health problems, because it probably won't.

Some of the men and women I met on tour know this. Many did not. All of them are enthusiastic in improving their health.

In the Washington area, I talked with dozens of people who have started their remakes and are seeing health and shape changes. One lady, 55, has taken up scuba diving and skiing. "All my life, I've wanted to do that," she said, "and never really thought I could." She has lost 30 pounds, too.

In Virginia, a man nearly ran over me in a shopping-center parking lot in his enthusiasm to tell me about his changes. He had lost 50 pounds, was walking five miles three days a week, had lowered his cholesterol, was "brimming with energy," slept better -- and he told me all this before jumping out of the car.

In Venice, Calif., I lifted weights with a handsome couple from Santa Monica. Bryant Cushing, 59, and his wife Carole, 49, have been lifting for six years. They are not jocks. Carole said she tried jogging but hated it and tried roller-skating but couldn't come to a stop. They started lifting as a lark and quickly found they liked it.

Carole doesn't look muscular; she looks tight. The same goes for Bryant. He, incidentally, has had a quintuple heart bypass operation. He is also a believer in stress tests. Bryant was feeling just fine, but a maximal stress treadmill test uncovered his heart disease -- and probably saved his life.

These two say a lot of their friends think they are crazy -- "They call us Mr. and Mrs. Schwarzenegger" -- but they don't care. "We have more energy than all of them," Carole said, pressing 60 pounds over her head.

In Seattle, I got to meet Tony Volchok and Marilyn Gregory. Marilyn and Tony were selected by the Seattle Times to be "remade" along with me, and I have been following their progress closely during the past seven months. They both are fast approaching hunkdom and health, but their remake continues.

I say "continues" because they, like me, haven't finished the job yet. For instance, in seven months, Marilyn has lost "only" 23 1/2 pounds; Tony lost 32 1/2 pounds.

Those of you who go on diet programs that promise weight loss like that may yawn at their progress. But their weight will stay off, and, probably more important, their health will keep improving.

Rapid weight loss, as you professional dieters know, never stays off and can jeopardize your health. New studies indicate that a continuing cycle of weight loss and gain can build up plaques in your arteries. Translate "plaque" into heart disease.

And what life-changing secret, you may ask, have Marilyn and Tony embraced to bring about these long-term, permanent changes in their shape and health?

It's called moderation.

These two have made modest changes in the way they eat and have moderately increased their level of activity. They do not take diet pills, or waste money on "belly busters," or fall for the latest quack diet.

But the person who really impressed me was Rick Dudley of Virginia: "I've taken up weight lifting and have dropped 30 pounds of fat and, boy, do I feel stronger," he said. As Rick talked to me, he was leaning on his crutches. He has multiple sclerosis.

I spent so much of my life thinking I couldn't do things, or wishing I had the time or energy to do things, or cursing the fact I didn't have the natural talent to do things. If you know those feelings and excuses, I hope Rick Dudley will remain on your mind as he does on mine.

Because my life is now so much more involved with health and being active, I plan to write about interesting people, events, and issues in the diet, health, and physical-fitness fields. I don't plan to be nice to the quacks and charlatans, either.

Each year, we throw away over $25 billion on worthless health and diet products. That's enough money to bring every subscriber to The Post to Grand Bahama for a year, and though the Grand Bahama Tourist Board might like that, I think the money can be put to better use.

That's why my committee of experts has some new members. With their help, you and and I -- nonjocks to a man and woman -- will continue our determined search for health, happiness and hunkdom.