Dear Penn

December 4, 2015

Penn Jillette writes the letter to himself he’d send if he could send it back in time nearly 10 years.


The groovy cats and kitties at Withings have invited me to write now and again about my “weight loss journey” (that phrase was in their email). Their first suggestion was that I write a letter to myself ten years ago today: December 2, 2005, when my weight was way over 300 pounds (I don’t have the exact number because I didn’t have my Withings scale then and I didn’t weigh myself often for obvious reasons – but it was about 100 pounds more than I weigh now). December 2, 2005 is nine years, one month and two days before I went into the hospital with blood pressure higher than U.K. voltage.  Nine years, one month and two days before my doctor suggested that I get a “stomach sleeve” to control my weight.  I didn’t do that, I got a scale instead.
Here’s that letter.
December 2, 2015
Las Vegas, NV
Dear Penn,
You’re wicked fat. People think they are being kind by not telling you that. But even if they did tell you that, you’re strong enough to not be swayed by peer pressure. You’re strong enough to not be swayed by vanity. You’re strong enough to not be swayed by the advice of your doctor. You are strong enough to not be swayed by the fact that you take a handful of pills every morning and night to keep your blood pressure where it is: a red . . . hair from stroking out.
Our hero Bob Dylan sang, “To live outside the law, you must be honest,” and you pride yourself at having the strength to do that. The New York Times and the government tell you to take better care of yourself and you have a few Krispy Kreme doughnuts and feel like you’re sticking it to the man. You aren’t. I can tell you what no one else dares to tell you: you are exactly like everyone else.  You are not honest – you are living well inside the law and you’re doing that by lying to yourself.
You want to really live outside the law?  Get healthy. Your beautiful daughter, Moxie, just turned six months old. You found out today that your next baby, who’s going to be born May 22nd 2006, will be a boy. You’ll name him Zolten. Start telling people now it means “king” in Hungarian, so you’re naming him after Elvis, because you won’t think of that joke on your own until he’s three months old.

You’re a way-old dad. You were fifty when Mox was born, and your life expectancy at your present weight is about another 15 years. Remember how you couldn’t stop crying for a full year after your dad died?  You were forty-five then.  How do you think Mox and Zz are going to deal with you dropping dead of fat when they’re just teenagers, you selfish prick?
I’ve got an idea, why don’t you grow some gonads and stop eating S.A.D. (Standard American Diet)? Why don’t you live outside the law and care more about your family than you care about hype?  You didn’t listen to the Eagles – you listened to Sun Ra. You didn’t watch Seinfeld – you read Nicholson Baker. You didn’t drink beer – you learned to juggle. How come you eat like everyone else?
I’m sorry, Penn, but you’re going to eat like a hippie. You’re going to be mostly vegan (but UNethical vegan  – no ideology, just health). You’re going to stay away from refined grains, salt, oil and sugar. You’re going to just eat whole plants. The hippies were wrong about The Grateful Dead and socialism, but they were right about love and diet. You’re a fifty-year-old man with a ponytail; you can be seen eating cruciferous vegetables.
Here’s something you’ll like – at first, weight loss is really hard. You need to take off in a few months what you put on in a few decades. Enjoy the difficulty. Everything you love in life, everything you’re proud of, you had to work for. That’s why you’re proud of it. Don’t believe the hype that there are easy ways to get healthy. Live outside the law. Be honest. It’s easy once you get there, but it’s difficult to start. You’re bucking the whole system. The law says make things easy – so do things that are hard! Everything you love was hard to do: Juggling, playing bebop jazz on upright bass, catching a bullet in your teeth, working with Teller, being married, raising children, even reading Moby Dick was hard. All the things that make life worth living take work. Don’t believe the hype. Don’t go on any diet that’s easy and makes small changes. Penn, please go crazy. Obsess. Change. Have fun.
Live outside the law – and live there for a long time!
Oh, and by the way, on November 24, 2008, buy all the shares you can of (ass)Whole Food at $4.01 and sell it on November 29, 2013 at $64.95 – in ten years, you’ll be wicked thin, wicked healthy, and wicked rich.
With love to your fat ass,

Penn Jillette