Penn Jillette

Overweight for most of his adult life, Jillette, 61, thrived on unhealthy foods: grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers, candy, buttered popcorn. “You could have [guessed] my diet based on [which chain restaurant] had the biggest billboard,” says Jillette.

His eating showed no sign of slowing down. It took a toll on his health. He weighed 334 pounds at his recent heaviest, was on six different blood-pressure medicines — “they were all at the highest doses available” — and in October 2014 had surgery for a heart blockage. That was when his doctor suggested gastric bypass surgery to reduce his girth and curtail overeating. But Jillette didn’t want to go that route. “The measurement was so extreme that it gave me license to do something crazy [in order to avoid it],” he tells The Post.

He wasn’t sure what that crazy thing would be until running into Ray Cronise, a former NASA scientist who is writing a book called Our Broken Plate. “I asked Penn to make a major lifestyle transformation and to interrupt his current relationship with food,” Cronise tells The Post. He put Jillette on a whole-food, plant-based regimen.

After 14 days of eating nothing but potatoes in December 2014, Jillette dropped 18 pounds. At that point, he was allowed to enjoy corn. “It tasted like candy,” he recalls, adding that, over time, Cronise worked in other vegetables, fruits and unrefined grains. Jillette thrived on the diet’s rigidity, dropping another 72 pounds by March 2015. “I fail at things that are not black- and-white,” he says. “Introduce shades of gray and I f–k up.”

* The content for this page was excerpted from a 2016 New York Post article by Michael Kaplan.

Watch Penn discuss his medical scare and lifestyle change with big think in this video.