How Penn Jillette Lost over 100 Lbs and Still Eats Whatever He Wants


(Bunny) #1

I want to make it very clear my reason, purpose or idea for posting this is not to create an argument about which diet is better! (e.g. why meat and fat, carbs, veggies is better or worse ect.)

I do want to examine the long and short-term efficacy of any diet and the deeper technical aspects and science behind it?

This diet below appears to be ketogenic and more plant based despite getting slapped with definitions and categorized into something it is not?

Logically the science behind what is being presented below has some real teeth and fills in the grey area and missing link (cross-over?) of the dietary battle arena?

One the key factors I’m finding; that it is always about the avoidance of processed foods (…at least as much as possible?) and finding a way to eat without slowing down your metabolism seems to be the reason for the weight loss and burning actual body fat which also seems like the common denominator (including timing of eating windows i.e. fasting & degree of caloric restriction, portion size per meal ect.) no matter what diet your on?

How Penn Jillette Lost over 100 Lbs and Still Eats Whatever He Wants

Beginning Transcript: “…I lost over 100 pounds, a third of my weight. I was probably at my heaviest. You don’t ever weigh yourself at your heaviest but I was probably over 340, certainly around there. And now as I sit here in front of you I’m probably about 232. There’s a fluctuation of a couple of pounds, it goes back and forth. That’s a lot of weight. And I did not lose it for vanity. I was pretty happy with myself fat. I didn’t mind being fat. It wasn’t a big deal to me. I didn’t mind how I looked. But my health was getting bad.

I didn’t even mind how I felt very much. I didn’t mind not being energetic and stuff. But I started having blood pressure that was stupid high like, you know, like English voltage, like 220 even on blood pressure medicine. And I have two young children. I’m an old dad. My daughter was born when I was 50. So I’m 61 now.

And my life expectancy, the actuary tables were crashing down and the doctor said that I had to get a stomach sleeve. It was a wonderful moment because it then gave me the option to go crazy. If you’re going to surgically do something to me to stop me from swallowing that means I don’t have to worry about doing a sane diet. I can get nutty. And being given the option to be nutty was all I needed. I realized that not only am I not good at moderation, I also don’t respect moderation. Anyone I know who’s able to do moderation I don’t like them.

The people I respect and love are people that go wild. I mean I don’t want to go into Kerouac here but the mad ones. No one brags about climbing a nice little slope. You brag about climbing Everest. So once my friend Ray Cronise who I call Cray Ray[1], once Cray Ray[1] told me that I could lose the weight but it was going to be really hard, it got really easy. Once you make something a challenge, you make something I can brag about, I can do it. …”

image link


[1] Thermogenics - Fuel The Burn: Starvation Mode - Ray Cronise

[2] The Penn Jillette Diet – 105 Pounds in 86 Days (nice review)


[3] Scientifically, What Would Be Considered The Perfect Diet?

[4] BURN FAT NOT SUGAR P:E ratio calculator

[5] Metabolism Models

[6] The Perfect Health Diet Food Plate

(Karim Wassef) #2

Seems that any elimination diet eventually limits the desire to eat. Just starch (potatoes) without fat can be unpalatable… and repeating it daily doesn’t achieve satiety… it resembles disgust more than anything.

Pure caloric deprivation, even with starch and the insulin effect will put a body into ketosis and start fat burning. Insulin is most potent at storing dietary fat - that’s why fat + carb will drive more fat gains. Carbs alone are inefficient since lipogenesis isn’t as conventions as just packing away dietary fat. So my suspicion is that caloric restriction caused lean mass and fat mass loss… Unfortunately, there’s no accounting for how much of the 105lbs lost is lean muscle vs fat…

If there’s a better scientific explanation for why a starch only diet works, I’d love to hear about it. I think it’s disgust leading to caloric restriction that ends with massive lean mass and fat mass loss. And along with the oxidative damage of living on just carbs comes the byproduct of accelerated aging and disease… just my $0.02

(Karim Wassef) #3

I agree. We also have no idea how much his metabolism has slowed down… losing fat without losing lean muscle or reducing metabolism (much) is the goal - can we actually tell if this potato approach achieves it? I’ve seen no data on it.

(squirrel-kissing paper tamer) #4

This worked for him, obviously. I’m interested in how he will maintain his weight and how he will feel long term. It sounds like he also didn’t drink alcohol and was coming from the dark side of SAD which makes a vegetable diet a shock to his system and effective for weight loss. Again, can you survive the rest of your life on it? (And to be fair, I ask the same thing about keto/carnivore.)

(Bunny) #5

Exactly my point also, I wonder about that because it is mostly plant based, any method can be great for losing or repairing metabolic damage, but long-term?


(squirrel-kissing paper tamer) #6

I have a friend who hasn’t had meat since she was 10 years old. She’s in her 40’s now and very healthy. She has always been thin, mentally all there, successful at two careers, etc. I don’t necessarily think vegetarianism is bad for every single body on the planet. It’s working for her, long term. She eats whole foods, though. Not junk food.

I think the first step is cutting out junk, sugar, processed boxed and bagged food. Keto pulls people into eating whole, single ingredient natural food again. It’s also what Penn did, he just chose to eat veg. We do more meat. Both of us are saying no to cake and chips.

(Bob ) #7

Have you read Denise Minger’s “Death by Food Pyramid”? It’s really an investigation of this question.

Denise did a famous deep dive on the China Study. I used to hear much more from her on the various podcasts (most of what I listen to wasn’t around back then).

Just about the highest compliment I can give someone is that they’re a clear thinker; Denise definitely is.

It has been five years since I’ve read it, but my main takeaway is what’s being talked about here. We tend to focus on what people eat versus what they don’t eat; or what people do versus what they don’t do. Avoiding the excessively processed foods, the added sugar, added flour and so on is one thing the strict vegetarians and keto have in common.

One of the things Dr. Fung says in Obesity Code is “all diets work” at least temporarily. And he presents plots of weight loss and regain - which is the way it ordinarily goes. Unfortunately, the only way to answer how people will do on a diet for 20 years means waiting 20 years.

(⚕ ⚕) #8

Thanks for posting this, @atomicspacebunny. I have a lot of respect for Penn Jillette, even if he and I come at life from distinctly different perspectives. I’m bookmarking this for later perusal.

Tangentially, I had the pleasure of sharing a gym with him way back when I worked in NYC and we both were larger men. It was always a fanboy treat to bump into him.

(Carl Keller) #9

But is it really keeping her healthy? I recently watched the video below that uses forensics to determine the health of agriculturalists vs hunter/gatherers. The agriculturalists died younger, had 700% more cavities, died more often in childbirth and had more issues with their bones. Skip to 27:00 if you want to watch where he compares two ancient societies that had vastly different diets and zero processed foods were involved:

(hottie turned hag) #10

As I like to soapbox about, everything is case by case or should be. EVERYthing.

Those in medicine -the smarter ones- know this.

In my own family -just an anecdote- I have a lifelong, never had meat not once, vegetarian, now 7yr vegan daughter who just had her 3rd (and 2nd effortless home delivery) kid in 5 years, she’s 35y/o, stayed vegan for all pregnancies and long lactations and looks like a fitness model. I am not kidding. Her muscle tone is enviable, she does NO WORKOUTS (though is active w/kids and two big dogs), her energy and general health, ditto.

When I was pg I had to eat tons o’ meat. Tons. Otherwise I felt like crap. I was vegetarian for 8 years (animal advocacy reasons) and never felt well. I need animal protein, actual meat, to function optimally.

I have seen more cases than I can count in my decades old career in medical genetics, of idiosyncratic responses, symptoms misaligning w/hard data, tx being tailored to suit what flies in the face of protocol, and getting good result.

No one diet works for all. Individual biochem is not measurable therefore overlooked and underconsidered.

(It's all about the bacon, baby) #11

If you can get the essential amino and fatty acids from plant proteins, possibly combined with supplements, then it is possible to be in nutritional ketosis on a plant-only diet and remain healthy.

The other point to bear in mind is the success of the Kempner rice diet (Denise Minger has a lecture on it on YouTube), which involved eating a lot of carbohydrate and even sugar. It reversed many people’s Type II diabetes and promoted fat loss. The key to this diet was extremely low fat intake, just as the key to a ketogenic diet is extremely low carbohydrate intake.

(hottie turned hag) #12

This applies to my abovementioned daughter. She eats almost no fats.

Another v odd case I posted about in another thread of my pal who is aged 56, 5’11" weighs 140-145, wiry build, not much muscle definition though, brilliant programmer with severe ADHD. ZERO health probs (is a kinda hypochondriac so sees doc regularly), is an extreme hiker as in travels internationally to hike (went to NZ, Peru just last year alone for hiking), is NEVER STILL, hyper to an annoying af degree and whose diet consists 90% processed carbs and HIGH sugar, drinks only Mountain Dew, occasional burger but little meat.

He is strong as a freaking team o’oxen. I’ve watched him lift/carry heavy ass car parts (he rebuilds classic cars as a hobby), building materials (he builds his own houses too), tree trunks after cutting trees, his strength and endurance both are freakish. He looks like a weakling.

Has had the same doc for decades who tells him “it’s obviously working for you” regarding his horrendous diet.
He is a mutant. I in no way think his case would be extrapolative to many others BUT he is a good example of everything is case by case.


Extreme caloric restrction is part of it. Another part is limiting the intake of fat which does (at least) two things. They are both rather complicated and I’m less than good at trying to explain them.

  1. In the absence of fat the pancreas makes less insulin.
  2. Without bile feedback from intestines to liver, there is less hepatic glycogen storage in the absence of insulin.
    [3. Glucose from starch in a fiber matrix, without fructose, acts differently from sugars.]

Warning: rabbit holes ahead :warning: :hole:

And then there’s this:

Bon appetit!

(Karen) #14

I think you can eat a boatload of leafy green vegetables, and Cuciferous vegetables, and proteins and lose weight. I think it’s more about what he didn’t eat and what he did eat.

(Karen) #15

I have some relatives in a number of friends who weigh what they did in high school and they eat vegetables and low fat and very little meat. It’s frustrating to me being a bit of a fatty to be trying this carnivore/keto diet and losing weight so slowly. I look at this and say Gee should I be eating vegetables and low-fat? I’ve read all the books, and I see that we are largely not meant to be eating only vegetables. Additionally if you look at our physiology we are clearly not vegetarians.

(Karen) #16

I’m looking at this potato diet and I’m wondering if some of it has to do with the resistant starch created by cooking and cooling potatoes, particularly when you’re buying it in a container and rehydrating it. I can almost not swallow a dry potato, I would certainly not eat very much, although potatoes are very satiating. Of course, I always like to potatoes with sour cream and bacon and chives and butter … lots of butter. If I can’t eat potatoes with the these items why would I want to eat potatoes?

(hottie turned hag) #17

@atomicspacebunny has mentioned doing a potato gig, tagging her.

(Diane) #18

Exactly my thoughts!

(Bob M) #19

There’s very little resistant starch in potatoes after heating and cooling. You’re still getting quite a dose of carbs.

(KCKO, KCFO) #20

I read his book about his diet experience, and decided I couldn’t not do it that way. Cold showers and the crazy eating routine was something I wasn’t going to be doing. I kept searching and found keto, the rest is history for me. He was very honest about the hunger involved and he couldn’t do a show one night because he passed out.

I think some would be ok with it, just wasn’t for me. When I was in my teens and twenties, vegetarian diet did keep me thin, but I was sick a lot, wasn’t willing to risk going back to that at my current age. I like feeling years younger than my age.