How Did Penn Jillette Lose Weight?

Illusionist Penn Jillette embarked on a weight loss journey after discovering that he had a health problem.

American magician Penn Jillette is the one half of The CW’s “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.” The two are known for doing amazing tricks, leaving viewers speechless on how they managed to pull off such acts. But, the taller half of the duo shared a trick that doesn’t require magic – and it’s all about weight loss.

Penn weighed 330 pounds several years ago. However, he decided to make drastic changes in his diet and live healthy after being hospitalized in 2015. His doctor told him that a 90 percent blockage in his heart posed a serious threat to his health.

“My doctor said I needed to get my weight down, and if I brought it down 30 or 40 pounds, it would be a little easier to control. And then he said something in passing that completely blew my mind – he said, ‘If you got down to 230, you probably wouldn’t need any of the meds,'” he told PEOPLE Magazine.

He followed what the doctor told him. After a few months of trying a life-changing regimen, he was able to lose a significant amount of pounds. He detailed his weight loss journey in his book “Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear.”

Penn Jillette's Weight Loss Tricks

The main keys to Penn’s successful weight loss:

  • He lost significant amount of weight after the doctor told him he had to live a healthy lifestyle
  • He went on a potato diet
  • He only ate potato for whole two weeks
  • He cited it as a “very extreme diet,” which was a mono diet
  • Potatoes were the only food for his meal
  • He avoided eating processed foods, bread, and pasta
  • His usual meal was brown rice, steamed vegetables, and salads
  • For workout regimen, he recommends focusing on cardiovascular system and joints if you want to lose weight
  • He does elliptical and weights

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Penn Jillette goes on a specific diet in order to lose weight.

The magician embarked on a potato diet, wherein he only ate potatoes for the whole two weeks. In a 2016 interview with Good Morning America, he revealed the reason why he chose potato – because “it’s the funniest word.”

He also chronicled his weight loss journey for Grub Street. He wrote that he lost 100 pounds in early 2015, citing a “very extreme” diet. The illusionist revealed he went on a “mono diet” for two weeks. In a span of 14 days, the only food in his meal was potatoes.

“I did potatoes because they’re funny. Could have been corn, could have been beans, but I didn’t want a lot of fart jokes,” he shared.

Mono diet involves eating only one food item, and Penn said that it is “not very entertaining, or social.” Despite the restrictions, he successfully lost weight without the need to exercise. He reached his weight loss target of 225 pounds.

Although the menu was boring for him, the magician admitted that it helped him break the bad habits he once had. He told Good Morning America that he wasn’t good in moderation, so he was very happy when he avoided the things that contributed to his weight gain.

Is mono diet a healthy type of diet?

Experts said that while this extreme diet delivers a great result, it also poses serious health risks because of severe limitations. Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute, noted that “eliminating almost all other food groups in totality is not only dangerous, but can really backfire.”

She explained that the process slows down the body’s metabolism, leading to binge eating later on. She added that although foods like potatoes and vegetable stew are good for weight loss, but it is not advisable to eliminate other food groups in the long term.

Moreover, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health noted that it would be difficult to get the necessary nutrients by eating potatoes or vegetables only. For instance, the body may not get sufficient protein, which is essential for muscle, bone, skin, and hair.

The good thing was that Penn has now transitioned into a more traditional diet. His meal plan mostly consists of whole plants. In 2016, he told USA Today that although the potato diet worked for him, the process is “not the most sensible way to approach weight loss.”

“If you’re getting medical advice from a Las Vegas magician, you are making bad life choices,” the illusionist also advises those planning to follow the restrictive diet.

Penn Jillette shares how he maintained his weight loss.

In an interview LA Times in 2019, the magician shared some advice on how he could keep a healthy body and how he managed to lose 105 pounds in three months. His first advice is to make it hard and make easy your enemy.

He said not to believe articles that say “cut your portions down by 20%,” “skip dessert,” or “cut out sodas.” While these may seem logical, these things didn’t work for him. He wanted to lose weight a day, so he went for a radical change in diet.

“I limited my eating to just an hour a day, so I’m always fasting 23 hours,” he said.

Penn added that there’s no reward in doing things easy. He believes that doing things the hard way brings excellent result in the end. He also loses interest every time dieting is compared to simple things. He’s not a fan of moderation, as well. He always thought that the easy way wasn’t fun.

The magician was very proud of his weight loss because it was all “hard core.” In terms of his diet, he said that vegan doesn’t cover all of it. He avoided eating processed foods, bread, and pasta. He usually eats brown rice, steamed vegetables, and salads.

He also revealed that going on a new diet plan was difficult at first. It took him three years to stop craving cheeseburgers or chocolate shakes. Penn said that “all diet is a habit,” and changing one’s eating desires could take years.

Aside from diet, the illusionist also goes on exercising. His first workout advice was that it is easy to work on the cardiovascular system and joints if you lose weight first. This is specifically applicable for those who are 100 pounds or overweight.

Right now, the magician is doing what everyone does: elliptical and weights. Yet, he said that he exercises less than before, and it’s effective for him. In terms of 23-hour fasting, he said it wasn’t stressful for him at all.

“I love it. I’m so clear. Intermittent fasting — too few calories — was the norm for all of history until recently. Now, in this short blip of time, we have too many calories, and it overwhelms us, clogs our arteries, fogs our brains,” he shared.

It seems like everything he’s been through on his weight loss journey had a positive impact on his overall health, and everything went better for him. Penn said he started writing twice the speed and got more material at “Penn and Teller.”

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