Want to not drop the ball on your health and fitness goals? Magician and best-selling author Penn Jillette has maintained a 100-pound weight loss for over 20 months, but he still doesn't trust promises he makes to himself before the ball drops. Find out what he does trust in this brand new article by the man himself.
New Year's Resolutions
By Penn Jillette
I don’t believe anything anyone says in the hospital, right after orgasm, or for New Year’s. That includes me, because in all three of those situations I often say the same thing.
It was in the hospital near the end of 2014 that my doctor told me I was so fat it was going to kill me fairly soon. He suggested a stomach sleeve and I didn’t say no. I just said we could set up the stomach sleeve operation for early the next year, and then I shut up. But I had no intention of getting a stomach sleeve. I’d figure out how to make sure I didn’t need it later, but what I didn’t do was promise my doctor, my wife, my long-suffering manager or myself that I would lose the weight on my own. I could have resolved in that moment to change my diet and get healthy but I didn’t. New Year’s Eve was coming up and I could have announced my resolution to lose weight beginning with the new year — but I didn’t do that either. I left the hospital and started thinking hard.
A fat guy in the hospital at the end of the year promises to lose weight — we all know that’s a big fat lie. I read something someplace (which is code for “I made up”) that some study concluded (this is not a heavily-researched column) that people who announced goals were much less likely to be achieve them. I used to think that announcing my goals would help keep me honest. That the thought of being embarrassed by my friends saying “hey man, I thought you promised you were going to get that gold medal in archery” would keep me going. Fear of shame would be part of my motivation. But this article that I probably made up said that you get such a charge out of just announcing your goal that actually accomplishing the damn thing doesn’t get you that much more. The article talked about dopamine hits and other stuff that someone else made up and I don’t understand.
A few weeks after getting out of the hospital I talked to my scientist buddy, CrayRay, who knows all about diet, and on December 9th I set out to lose weight. I wasn’t going to wait for New Year’s. But I didn’t make any promises to anyone, not even myself. I didn’t promise it, I just did it.
CrayRay took over my eating, and CrayRay’s first two commands were that I couldn’t tell anyone I was losing weight, and I had to buy a Withings scale. (The rest of his commands you can find in my book, Presto: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales.) I would get no praise until people started noticing my weight loss. It took a few weeks before people started noticing and praising, and by that time I was getting encouragement to keep doing something I’d already done the hard work on.
The Withings scale enabled me to keep track of my weight, and at the same time instantly sent the information to CrayRay and my doctor. There was no way to round off or explain in a note — I stepped on the scale, and when I stepped off they had the raw number in front of them. CrayRay insisted on a Withings scale by name before I began working for Withings. As a matter of fact, I approached Withings as a fan and asked if I could work for them. I’d lost over 100 pounds in about 4 months. Thank you CrayRay. Thank you Withings.
Whenever I’m home, I still step on my Withings scale every day right before my shower and it still goes right to CrayRay. Right now, my weight is up a bit. That happened at the end of last year too. Holidays mean lots of “rare and appropriate” retro eating with my family. And I just got back from Tasmania, where I had to try that fresh bright yellow butter, that leatherwood honey, and those fish and chips (you know you can’t get chips at home — you have to settle for fries). I also ate on the plane over and back, just for the entertainment. It’s a fifteen-hour flight, for the love of Christ, and I just couldn’t watch Purple Rain again.
So it’s December and my weight is up. CrayRay believes in seasons, that winter is a good time to lose weight, but I’m not going to promise that here. No promise to you or to myself that I will be back at target by March 5th, 2017. I won’t make that promise now, even though I’m not in the hospital, because New Year’s is coming up and, more importantly, I’ve just had an orgasm. I can’t be trusted, but my Withings scale can be.