Penn Jillette: Eternal Vigilance

Heart health
Success Stories
May 25, 2017

Our friend Penn Jillette is a world-famous magician, best-selling author, and a guy who has an amazing, transformative health success story. Here, Penn tells us what it’s like to have captured the brass ring of weight loss — he lost a huge amount of weight, and he has managed to keep it off for years. Find out what it takes to pull off this truly incredible trick.

Eternal Vigilance Is Not As Easy As I Try To Claim

By Penn Jillette


There are all these articles about people who read Facebook being less happy because all our friends look more successful, more well-adjusted, and more happier. We feel we can’t compete, but we still show ourselves at our best with happy careers and lives to depress the others who depress us. Everyone is a drag to everyone else.

People in my position are even worse. I wrote a book about my weight loss (that is just coming out in paperback, why not pick it up?). I tried really hard to be honest, but there I am on the cover looking all thin and as groovy as I can. The pictures are photoshopped and I’m all smiley, healthy, and glowing.

When I’m out pimping the book in interviews and they ask me if I’ve kept the weight off, I say, “Of course, it’s a lifestyle change and not a diet, and it’s fun and easy.” That’s all true and it’s also a lie. My new lifestyle is fun but it’s not free. If you’ve heard “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance” — it’s the same for my health. And it seems when it comes to that quotation, Jefferson wasn’t really responsible for it, but only took credit for it on Facebook.

I was one of the 350 million who let my vigilance slip in the liberty of our country lately. I’ve been better on my health but not perfect. You need to know that. Let me give you the non-Facebook, non-showbiz version of how I’m doing.  My fattest weight was a bit north of 335, but I don’t know how much, I didn’t weigh myself at my fattest. As of this morning, I’m at 241.1 on my Withings scale. My target weight was 229. So, I’m 12.1 pounds up. The heaviest I’ve been in the past two years is 246.4 and that was just a couple weeks ago. Since my meat cravings are gone and I’ve been reading Home Deus by Yuval Noah Hirari, my veganism is starting to add an ethical vibe. I don’t feel as good about making animals suffer for my food. I guess I never felt good about it. I used to feel nothing about it but now I’m thinking about it. Without the cravings it’s easier to be all high and mighty about cows.

I went to England for a one-week press tour and decided to try for vegan, hit vegetarian (I sure like butter) and for a while not worry about low salt, sugar, and oil. I ate a lot of vegan and vegetarian Indian food (and a couple/three big Cadbury bars with whole hazelnuts — trying to tell the truth here) and I felt ethically fine but physically awful. I felt the tightness in the chest and the lightness in the head that was a constant part of my life when I was fat with stupid high blood pressure. I can’t be just vegan for my health, I have to also do whole plants, no refined grains, extremely low salt, sugar, and oil.

I’m back home now and I try to eat one meal a day (And if you want to know how and why one meal a day — get my book). But some nights after the show . . . most nights after the show . . . just about every night after the show, I have a snack before going to bed, and that snack is often peanut butter and that’s how that weight sneaks on and that’s how my blood pressure sneaks up.

It’s been two years, two months, and two days since I hit my target weight and I’m up twelve but on my way back down and I hope I’ll keep going down. Truth be told, I’ll probably level off at about 234, so about five pounds above my real target. I’m used to the food, I’m used to being thinner and healthier. I like the lifestyle change and I’m glad I’m a tiny bit less a part of factory farming torture. I’m doing okay.

But, I’m not perfect. Remember: The pictures are photoshopped and I can’t open my mouth without spinning the facts in the most positive way possible.

There you go. Health is hard and you’re doing fine but we need to all pay the price of eternal vigilance in liberty — and in health.