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Penn Jillette's New Book 'Presto' Sheds Light on His 100-Pound Weight Loss Journey

by Andi Rocco 8:30 AM PDT, July 29, 2016
Photo: Simon & Schuster

Ta – da! It's Penn Jillette greatest trick yet!

The 61-year-old magician, who has been overweight most of his life, will release a new book on Tuesday, Aug. 02, titled Presto! How I Made Over 100 Pounds Magically Disappear, in which he chronicles his drastic weight loss with absolutely no tricks.

In his new book, the 6-foot-7 performer shares his dangerous health crossroads and discusses how his poor eating habits led to heart surgery in 2014. After being diagnosed with high systolic blood pressure, Jillette shares how doctors urged him to consider gastric bypass surgery. But things took a drastic turn when he met former NASA scientist Ray Cronise and was introduced to an unconventional meal plan, the wild "potato diet."

Besides weight loss tips Jillette also opens up about his childhood, his love for food and how he's optimistic about making new memories because long are the days of eating "like a f**king hell-bent pig."

Photo: Simon & Schuster

Read an excerpt from his book below:

The hard stuff on a diet is supposed to be dealing with the cravings and mustering the willpower to pass up all the foods you love. I had pizza in Brooklyn with Lou Reed, and I remember that night and that pizza and now the same pizza is available in Vegas. But I don't need the pizza for the memory. The fabulous chef Jet Tila taught me to cook the best steak I've ever eaten, and I cooked a version on TV and the judges agreed it was the best steak ever, and now I know how to do it and how good it is, and I live in Vegas, the land of good steaks, but it’s still not hard to resist.

I went to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts the day they opened in Las Vegas and got the first Vegas glazed raspberry-filled Krispy Kreme doughnuts and some cold milk and they were so good. I've had dozens and dozens, probably grosses of Krispy Kremes.

I had my mom's pork roast and homemade blueberry pie baked with shortening and blueberries she picked herself (she didn't pick the shortening herself). I had a Jet Tila steak. I ate Indian food with the prince of Sri Lanka. I had Chinese food at the best restaurant in Beijing (not as good as the pizza in New York with Lou Reed). I've had scallops on a dive boat, brought up from the bottom of the sea and served disgustingly fresh, almost live, with some wasabi right there on the boat. I've had my mom's macaroni and cheese with real Vermont cheddar. I've had one of Mrs. Teller's glorious meals with three different kinds of succulent meats and fresh bread and butter. I had the first Egg McMuffin served in Greenfield, Massachusetts, when I was in high school because I thought it was funny to stay up all night and be there when they opened.

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No one is ever going to make a blueberry pie like my mom. I'm not ever going to have her gravy on Thanksgiving again. She and Lou Reed are dead and gone, and gravy without Mom is just salty liquid fat (sounds good), and pizza without the rock ’n’ roll animal is just pizza. I can't live those memories again, so why not make new good memories?

I've had the lobster at Ruth's Chris Steak House, and wow, it's good. I've had several different cuts of their steaks served rare, bloody, and perfect. I've had their fully loaded baked potato and loved all of it. I had a "salad" that was dripping with blue cheese and bacon. I've had their chocolate mousse that I always seemed to have room for --another couple thousand fat calories.

What I'd never had was their plain steamed asparagus with a little fresh lemon squeezed on it and a plain, earthy baked potato without even oil to make it shiny. That was a different thing.

For almost sixty years I ate like a fucking hell-bent pig (my mom fed me pretty well). I've eaten sea urchin and fried chicken and waffles. I've had real maple sugar on snow in a sugarhouse in New England with my mom, my dad, and my sister. I've had some great eats. So for the next forty-five years, I'll make new memories. I’ll have memories of eating things with my wife and children that will be new and tasty and allow me to maybe spend more healthy years with said wife and children. I won't eat pizza with Lou Reed, but I have that memory. Maybe I'll get to eat a vegan meal with Paul McCartney -- who knows?

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As I write this, it seems like pure bullshit. The worst kind of resolution of cognitive dissonance. It's worse than sour grapes, it's boring steak; some grapes are really sour, but I never really had a steak that I didn't enjoy. So, I guess it is bullshit, but it's bullshit that feels right for me now.

I've had truffled macaroni and cheese with bacon at fancy-ass restaurants, and it didn't really bring me the comfort of my mom's macaroni and cheese. Why keep trying to chase that first high? That's heroin thinking. Nothing is going to be like the first Krispy Kreme I had with Teller in South Carolina, just two Yankee boys running away to be carny trash and getting our first taste of the sweet, fat South on our way to making magic. So, fuck it -- let's have a potato.

From PRESTO!: HOW I MADE 100 POUNDS DISAPPEAR AND OTHER MAGICAL TALES by Penn Jillette. Copyright © 2016 by Penn Jillette. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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