Penn Jillette is a magician and a juggler, a flamboyant and funny performer. He’s also only two-thirds as big as he was in November 2014, when, approaching his 60th birthday, he weighed 330 pounds.
His new book is called “Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Magically Disappear and Other Big Fat Tales,” and that pretty much lays it out. How did he do it? Well, he started by eating nothing but potatoes for two weeks. Boiled, raw, baked . . . didn’t matter, he just had to eat nothing but potatoes, including the skin. After two weeks of that, he was allowed to eat an ear of corn – no butter, no salt -and it takes a full page for him to express just how that corn boggled his “potato famine” palate.
He continues for several months, under the improbable guidance of CrayRay – his nickname for Ray Cronise, a NASA scientist turned unconventional diet coach. One of CrayRay’s rules: “No exercise until [you reach] your target weight.” And not much exercise after that: Today, still maintaining his target weight, Penn says he does 29 minutes of exercise a week. He goes vegan. He uses breath spray as a snack.
It’s a loopy, wacky book, often vulgar and ridiculously profane. (The first 16 lines of one chapter include eight uses of the F-word.) His hair fell out because as he got his blood pressure under control, he stopped taking minoxidil, which is used to treat both hypertension and hair loss. He offers details that verge on – or wildly surpass – the TMI limit: “I finally found a good doctor. He’s a smart guy, and funny and honest and perfectly discreet. You’ll never find out from him that I have herpes.”
There’s lots of name dropping – Mariel Hemingway, Donald Trump, Oliver Stone, Charlie Sheen, George Clooney. Finding himself next to Clooney in the men’s room, Penn writes, “Yes of course I peeked, and no, I’m not publishing that info here. Ask me in person when I know you better.”
He adamantly insists that you don’t take anything he says as diet advice. “Even I know that a lot of what I did was wrong and stupid, but I don’t even know which things were wrong and stupid,” he warns. “Get a second opinion, and remember that my opinion doesn’t count as the first opinion.” He’s absolutely right.
But if you just want to be entertained and maybe amuse yourself into losing some weight, this could be your book. And, yes! – it includes recipes.