Even master illusionist Penn Jillette couldn’t magically make his weight disappear – but he was able to drop from 330 to 225 lbs. by making a drastic change in his eating habits. The 6’7” entertainer decided to get healthy after his high blood pressure landed him in the hospital. “I was on six very powerful meds to bring the blood pressure down,” Jillette, 60, tells PEOPLE. “My doctor said I needed to get my weight down, and if I brought it down 30 or 40 lbs. it would be a little easier to control. And then he said something in passing that completely blew my mind – he said, ‘If you got down to 230, you probably wouldn’t need any of the meds.’ ”
The Wizard Wars judge decided to do just that, spending December through March on an “extreme low-calorie program” in which he consumed about 1,000 calories daily and was able to lose an average of 0.9 lbs. a day.
Since reaching his goal weight on his birthday, March 5, Jillette has stopped restricting the amounts he eats, and instead follows Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian diet – this means he consumes no animal products, no processed grains, and no added sugar or salt.“I eat unbelievable amounts of food but just very, very, very healthy food,” says the magician.
His typical daily diet consists of an “enormous salad” with vinegar as dressing for lunch (he doesn’t usually eat breakfast) and a dinner consisting of 3 lbs. of greens and three servings of black or brown rice with a vegetable stew, along with lots of fruits for dessert (his favorite is “an enormous amount of blueberries with plain cocoa powder”) and vegetables with vinegar or Tabasco sauce as a snack.
“I could probably have a steak or a doughnut every couple of weeks, but I just haven’t felt like it,” says Jillette. “When you’re feeling as bad as I felt, and you go to feeling as good as I feel, the temptation to go back to doing what you were doing when you felt bad is not very great.”
Although he wasn’t exercising during his extreme weight-loss phase, he now exercises every other day, doing the “scientific 7-minute workout” along with weight lifting, juggling and 10-mile tricycle rides. “Now it’s really fun to exercise,” he says. “The only hard part of exercise is keeping it hard enough to be hard.” Dropping the weight has come with many more pluses than dropping 10 pant sizes (from a 44 to a soon-to-be 34).“I have so much energy and I feel so good,” says Jillette. “I’m just plain happier.”