THE DISAPPEARING MAGICIAN Don’t Try this at Home By Hazel Dixon-Cooper


Instead of astounding one of his Las Vegas audiences by making an elephant disappear, Penn Jillette amazed the country by losing 104 pounds in four months.

In 2014, weighing 322 pounds and on eight different medications for hypertension, Jillette ended up in the hospital with life-threatening, uncontrollable high blood pressure. A doctor told him that if he could lose 40 pounds, he might be able to significantly reduce both his blood pressure and the medication he took. The doctor suggested bariatric surgery. Realizing that he must lose weight and change his eating habits if he was going to live, Jillette shunned the surgery but agreed to lose weight.

The magician says he does not believe in moderation. Instead of beginning a sensible and healthy weight-loss program, he called his friend, Ray Cronise, a former NASA engineer-turned-weight-loss coach. Cronise’s program is not moderate.

For the first two weeks, Jillette ate nothing but potatoes. Nothing. He could eat russets, fingerlings, Yukon Gold, or any other type he craved. He could boil them, bake them, or eat them raw. He had to eat them plain—no salt, oil, or sour cream—and was allowed up to five per day. He lost 18 pounds. Corn was next on the menu. “It tasted like candy,” Jillette said. He added other vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed grains over the next few weeks until he was eating 1,000 calories a day.

In addition to the potatoes-only diet, the program consisted of intermittent fasting, cold showers, and lots of sleep to trigger a metabolic winter. According to Cronise, the idea was to jump-start Jillette’s body into feeding on itself to create rapid weight loss. It worked. Over the next three months, Jillette dropped another 72 pounds. Now he eats one meal a day, usually a huge salad, in the late afternoon and all the fruit he can stuff in his face.

Jillette says he hates to exercise, and didn’t while on the program. The truth is that it was forbidden. “Why would you want someone who is 100 pounds overweight to risk injury by exercising?” said Cronise.

What injury? Does he think his clients should jump into an extreme body-building routine? Maybe the near-starvation diet and rapid weight loss made Penn Jillette too weak to exercise.
Even if you have a hundred pounds to lose, as I did, walking is a safe way to stay mobile. At first, my feet and ankles hurt so badly that I couldn’t go farther than the end of the block. I was short of breath so I shuffled. As I grew stronger, I increased the distance until I was routinely walking three to four miles a day. Our bodies are made to move.

Jillette admits that he had a 90-percent blockage in an artery in his heart. That, with his weight and dangerously high blood pressure could have been the perfect storm for either a heart attack or stroke, especially with the added stress of even moderate exercise. He had surgery to unclog the artery two months before beginning the drastic diet.

Quickly losing a huge amount of weight looks dramatic, and it’s tempting to think that you could be five or six sizes smaller within a few months. The trouble with that and every quick-fix program is that you risk your health. Rapid weight loss can set the stage for gallstones and fatty liver disease. You can lose more water and lean muscle tissue than actual fat. This is especially true if you are not helping your atrophied muscles repair themselves by exercising while you are losing. Jillette says that he did begin a mild program including riding an adult tricycle several miles a day after he lost the weight.

Exercise or not, you would think that, after such an extreme weight loss, Penn Jillette would be the first to promote this plan to anyone within earshot. Not so. Instead, he told Dr. Oz, USA Today, and a slew of others that this diet is not for everyone. In fact, he’s adamant about it. So is a line-up of physicians, nutritionists, and weight-loss experts who all agree this has done nothing but set him up for failure. Although potatoes contain natural compounds that affect inflammation, hunger, insulin, sleep, and mood, they do not provide all the nutrition your body needs to maintain health.

Ray Cronise alludes to creating the potato diet and says that he chose the starchy vegetable because it is a good source of protein. However, the concept has been around since 1849. That plan promised fat men that they would become lean and required them to stay on the potatoes-only menu for three-to-five days. More than a hundred and sixty years later, the potato diet is still being recycled as another miracle cure for obesity.

Penn Jillette has kept his weight off for a year. He’s also promoting his new book, Presto, about his experience. Right now, he’s still motivated. However, the long-term odds are against his maintaining both his current weight and his health. Ninety-five percent of people who fall for any medical, commercial, or over-the-counter weight-loss fixes are going to fail.

No miracle cure, no fad, no draconian hard-ass way to lose weight will help you keep it off. The only way that works is getting rid of your carbohydrate and fat addictions, and that is a slow process. Drive by the drive-through. Pass up the pizza. Dump the processed food and nitrate-loaded meat products. You can start as I did by gradually making healthier choices. One skipped order of French fries, one refused dessert, one trade from fried chicken to grilled halibut will start to turn your life and your health in the right direction.

There is no presto in weight loss. Just like a magic act, the promises of near-instant results are only illusions.

Noted astrologer Hazel Dixon-Cooper is known and loved by fans and astrology buffs all over the world. You can find more about her at and easily purchase her books at

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5 thoughts on “THE DISAPPEARING MAGICIAN Don’t Try this at Home By Hazel Dixon-Cooper

  1. James L. Secor

    104 lbs in 4 mos = 26 lbs/mo. Yup. Very dangerous. Recommended weight loss is 1-2 lbs/wk, which I find a tad whimpy. And then one meal/day. . .not good at all. More like 5 little ones. One meal/day will keep me depressed for ages. Worst of all in this story, is talking to Dr. Oz. Well. . .no matter. His hypertension and cardiac/arterial problems will continue to haunt him. Here’s my weight loss regimen: in China I weigh about 180 with exercise; almost immediately, upon returning to the US, I weigh in at 210-220 with exercise. I bought from street vendors but for condiments and canned goods and wine from the grocery stores. I am quite convinced it’s the shit we put in our foods, how we grow/raise them that is the difference. And HFCS. No HFCS = less body fat, less diabetes ii and, probably, more expensive soda products. Thank goodness it’s not used in wine, hard liquor and beer!

    1. Trish Jackson

      Good advice Hazel. There is only one way to stop any addiction–the hard way, and if you are overweight and you want to lose the pounds and keep them off you have to change your whole lifestyle. Fast food is the first you should dump and rather eat fresh food that includes as much vegetables and fruit as you can stomach. IT’s not easy, but it is doable.
      And Jim–I’m so glad to know HFC’s are not used in adult beverages!

  2. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    Great article, Hazel. Thanks for sharing. Dieting is hard work. Everyone has a different bio make-up as to what works for them. For me, it’s Atkins, as I discovered that my body is carb intolerant—I don’t digest carbs efficiently, and turns to fat instead of being used for fuel. Also, after a few days of eating carbs in normal amounts, my heartburn raises havoc. Thus, if a cheat too much, my heartburn lets me know it’s time to get back on track.

  3. Micki Peluso

    Interesting article, Hazel, proving the old common sense notion that no matter what you eat, when calorie deprived you will lose weight. I tried the no carb, low carb, Paleo, Mediterranean, etc. I was never obese but after six kids always had 15-20 pounds that should go. When I had the 5 botched heart sugeries, followed by worsening lyme, I lost my appetite and slowly lost 40 pounds over a year. I could only eat after 12 noon and ate no more than two meals a day. The lyme, demon that it is, like cancer, loves to eat uop collagen, muscle and even fat. So I kept that weight off and unless I force myself to high Caorie food like nuts, avocado and even ice cream, the weight will continue to drop as I still cannot eat more than 1000 calories a day. When sick I can’t tolerate veggies and fruits so do eat carbs–the comfort foods. As hard as losing weight is, it is far worse to not be able to eat and/or gain weight and muscle back.

  4. Monica Marie Brinkman

    As one who has fought a slow thyroid my entire life, I know there is no easy fix for weight loss. So well stated, Hazel.
    Personally, I believe if we eat organic food, free of chemicals and stop with the junk food craziness that has engulfed the world, we will find ourselves much healthier. At this point in my life, I prefer healthy to having the body of a sixteen year old.


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