Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette
PRESTO! is not your typical diet book--and the author is most definitely NOT your typical dietician! In fact, the Penn Jillette suggests readers do NOT be too quick to use his drastic weight loss method. On the contrary, the author is not trying to sell the reader any plan, and makes that clear in a long preliminary disclaimer.
In his usual self-deprecating way, the author warns the reader: "This is a book written by an idiot. Take everything in this book with a grain of salt (but only a grain— salt is poison, as even this idiot now knows). I have no expertise. This book is about what I did, not about what you should do."
Further, he doesn't claim his method was even scientific: "I’m writing only about my experience. I didn’t run a scientific experiment. I didn’t set up controls and other stuff I don’t really understand. I’m just a dipshit potato-eater who lost a lot of weight."
When faced with a serious heart blockage, the author chose a drastic plan--and the plan started with just potatoes for 2 weeks. "We were going to eat nothing but potatoes. Nothing else. Nothing but potatoes. Just potatoes. Potatoes and nothing else...we had joined a crazy cult."
Penn started off on day 1 at 304 pounds, and the weight loss was drastic and quick. In a few months he lost a THIRD of his body weight. The author made an appointment with his doctor--not to get a checkup, but to BRAG: "My doctor came in, looked at me, and gave his medical opinion: 'Wow.' I said, 'Um, this visit isn’t really a medical visit. I just came in to brag about my weight loss.'"
Perhaps the most controversial statement in the book is this: “Exercise has nothing to do with weight loss.” Penn is not saying that exercise is not good--just that it has nothing to do with losing weight. To be clear, during his extreme weight loss, the author did not exercise AT ALL. It was afterwards that he resumed exercising, and regained the muscle that had been lost. Penn admits, however, that he has not real authority on the subject: "You’ve finally done it . You found a book that has told you not to exercise. Too bad the book is written by an idiot"
In one semi-serious chapter, "Letter to the Globe after Their Lying Article About My Weight Loss," the author lambasts a Globe journalist who had accused him of lying about his weight loss. Penn insists that "My recent weight loss was not a trick. It was my life. I was in the hospital with some pretty serious hypertension issues. I was scared."
All in all, I found Presto! to be a fun, easy read. Despite the humorous tone throughout, the author is dead serious about what he had to do. "This was not a magic trick. It was not a stunt. It was not done for vanity. It was done for my health."
I'm glad the "potato famine" plan worked for this entertaining man.
Note to reader: in case you didn't already know, Penn Jillette uses language that is quite "colorful." If you are easily offended by profane language, this is not the book for you. Sensitive readers might find their ears singed.
Advance Review Copy courtesy of NetGalley.