Penn Jillette can make just about anything disappear, but this time the famous illusionist performed a dramatic vanishing act on himself. The taller half of Penn & Teller dropped over 100 pounds by eating only two things and skipping exercise altogether.
The 6-foot, 7-inch magician weighed 322 pounds over a year ago, when doctors discovered a 90 percent blockage in his heart. The father of two decided to take drastic measures to see his young kids grow up. Under medical supervision, Jillette embarked on the “potato diet,” eating only plain potatoes for two whole weeks. After subsisting on spuds alone, he started phasing in vegetable stews for added nutrients.
Despite the crazy restrictions, Jillette stuck to it, losing 75 pounds in just 83 days without exercising. The boring menu helped the 61-year-old break bad eating habits he’d fallen into before. “I’m not good at moderation. I wanted to do hardcore stuff,” Jillette told Good Morning America. “I wanted to lose the sense of eating socially… it was just a way to lose all the habits I had gotten into.”
But the potato diet won’t work magic for everyone. “While there’s no doubt that potatoes—just like all vegetables—are supremely nutritious, eliminating almost all other food groups in totality is not only dangerous, but can really backfire,” says Jaclyn London, R.D., Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. The dramatic changes usually slow down your body’s metabolism and result in binging later on, she explains. “While veggie stews and potatoes can be amazing weight-loss allies, it’s never good advice to completely eliminate food groups in order to lose weight for the long-term.”
Despite his dramatic diet, Jillette says he’s happier now more than ever, comparing the transformation to “night and day.” You can read more about his weight loss in Jillette’s new book, Presto: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales, out now.