Not a Diet (joining the congregation of Penn’s Sunday School)

I recently bought and read the book Presto! by Penn Jillette, about how he lost over 100 pounds.  I’ve been needing to shed a few (too many) pounds for a while and have been feeling a  little crappier than usual, so I was willing to embrace a new weight-loss philosophy.  And, I like Penn, so this was a bonus.  I’m a regular listener of his podcast Penn’s Sunday School, so I was aware that the book was coming out long before it was published.  I was one of the folks who preordered it and helped make it a New York Times bestseller.

If there is anyone who doesn’t know this already, Penn is the tall, talkative half of the magician duo Penn & Teller.  Even those who knew this may not know that he is also a staunch Libertarian and outspoken atheist.  I am neither of these things (though I confess to some Libertarian leanings), but I still like and respect Penn and enjoy hearing him speak.

Penn, both in the book and in various television appearances and on his own podcast, has repeated the caveat that only a fool would take weight-loss advice from a Las Vegas magician.  The book Presto! is not actually a diet book, really, but a chronicle of Penn’s own weight loss.

No spoilers here, I don’t think, but the lifestyle change (not a diet) is kicked off by two weeks of eating a single food, which kills off the bad bacteria in the biome, or midichlorians or somesuch techno-medical-jargon.  In Penn’s case, this food was potatoes.  In my case, as well, only I couldn’t make the entire two weeks.  I started having major spells of dizziness and crazy bouts of cramping.  I made it only one week.  The dizziness and cramps were major side effects, and may not be typical results, but I lost nearly 20 pounds in that week, eating as many plain potatoes that I wanted.  I’m not kidding.

I’ve continued to lose weight at a slower pace since, but I’m still losing.  It’s all about eating a lot of vegetables, cutting out all animal products and refined grains, and severely limiting sugar, salt and fat consumption.  It’s also about fasting during most of a 24-hour period.  For me, it’s about 16 or 17 hours.  My blood sugar tends to crash during the morning hours, so I keep glucose pills handy to get me over the hump.  I have to be at work at 4 AM tomorrow, for instance, so I won’t eat from around 6 PM tonight until after I get off of work at noon tomorrow.  But, I can eat pretty much all that I want of the right foods for the following seven hours or so.

Like Penn, I’m not claiming that this is a healthy way to lose weight.  I’m just saying that it’s working for me.  I’m also not saying that it’s easy, because it isn’t.  Giving up meat and cheese and eggs and ice cream and every delicious thing that’s chock full of salt and fat and sugar is very difficult.  And this new,  healthier way of eating means giving up all of that, almost all the time.  Every couple of weeks or so, in what Penn calls Rare & Appropriate occasions, you get to eat whatever you want.  Not a cheat day, because you’re not denying yourself anything, just limiting when you can indulge.  Mostly, it’s about reprogramming yourself to eat better.

I’m a work in progress.  I recommend the book; it’s an interesting read, even if you don’t need to lose weight.


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