Presto - How I Made over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales

Posted by khrishan on 2016-12-12

So how I got onto reading this book needs a bit of explanation first...

I love magic. I love watching magic tricks and being 'fooled' by the magician. When I was younger, and thought it was genuinely magic, I thought (secretly) that there was hope that the whole Harry Potter world was real. When I finally grew up and realised magicians are just con men (that’s a bit harsh to call them con men - but when I say it I mean it in a nice way) - I was extremely gutted.

I watched a lot of Derren Brown growing up. My most fond Derren Brown trick was when he played chess with 9 of the UK's best chess players. He put them at tables in a circle and 'played them all at chess'. He wins 4 games, loses 3 and draws 2 games.

He says at the end that he memorised the moves the pro players made so that they played each other (and one game he played himself)

Here's the video :

Whilst watching an assortment of magic tricks on YouTube, I came across a video where a Canadian magician called Shawn Farquhar where he was on a show called Penn & Teller : Fool Us. (Hosted by Johnathon Ross, which I found weird. I found out (after reading the book - it was aired in the UK because they failed to get any buyers in the US - but after the success of the UK show, the US then bought the show)).

Penn & Teller are world famous American magicians and entertainers. Penn is the fat, loud bombastic juggler accompanied with his partner Teller the mime magician. After watching this, I watched anything and everything that they did. My most fond 'trick' is the cups and balls trick where they essentially show the audience the trick.

This breaks what I would think would be the first rule of magic "A magician never reveals their secrets" - but even though they did - I was still amazed by the trick - amazed by the little moves they did that made the trick work... they then did the same with other tricks - in different ways. My personal favourite was with the nail gun.

This is what made them my favourite magicians of all time. (Watch their stuff when they go to India/China & Egypt ;))

I then saw a video where Penn Jillete was thin. First, it was when Shawn Farquhar fooled the duo again (that trick I thought I figured it out - not bragging or anything :P). I thought it was just Penn getting old, either that or he was ill.

I then watched an interview he did with Reason TV (see below) in which he talks about a variety of things - but the main one being "I lost weight because of my health - and I wrote a book about it". I had to read this book!

It was a great read.

The overall message is to cut out oil, salt & sugar and eat more healthily. That’s it! But the read is more than that. It’s about how a "fat, loud, bombastic, 'stuck in his ways" American finally had a wakeup call from nature and how he, being a "fat, loud, bombastic, 'stuck in his ways" American" found his own way to 'dieting success'.

He was upfront and honest with himself. I know so many big people than blame their overweightness (or anything on other factors (genetics, work, lack of time, lack of money etc. etc. etc.) and Penn Jillette was exactly the same. Yet, he was man enough to admit this failing and then proceeded to work on making it right.

(Another thing to mention was that he tried 'normal dieting and exercise' first before he went to his more 'radical diet').

I'm not fat or overweight... but what made this a 'page turner' for me was learning about Penn's psyche - about how he didn't want to be just another Average Joe losing weight... he wanted to do it 'a crazy way' - eating nothing but potatoes for two weeks, not exercising and having 'contrast showers' does seem crazy.

But it worked - PLUS he hasn't fallen off the wagon!

There were a few things I took from the book which did hit home for me.

Penn says the words 'Pride in Difficulty'. This is where he wants to achieve something that people said was impossible... he didn't like the easy way out. He puts this down to him being a juggler and comparing the differences between jugglers and magicians. Magicians want everything easy, they find tricks to make their 'magic' look easy - whereas juggling - the mindset is "the more dangerous/difficult... the better I look".

He's got a point. There are challenges in my life that I want to accomplish in which I am trying to find 'niche ways' to avoid the hard work. Why? Where is the reward? The justification? Surely the more difficult, the more impressive it looks?!

The second point made was 'Why not make new good memories?'. As a fat man, his good memories were always eating food (that wasn't that healthy)... but why stick with that mindset? That only those things will make you happy for the rest of your life? Times change - so why not change what makes a good memory?

The final thing I took from this book was actually a diet thing. I know in the book Penn Jillette quite clearly states If you take any lifestyle or medical advice from a juggler—you’re an asshole! But this one thing does make sense!

Ray Cronise is was the 'cold expert' when he was a scientist. He states that 'We, as humans, have 'conquered winter'. Our bodies don't realise it yet so its stores fat as a reserve - but to our body... winter never comes! So it seems living in a cold student house is actually quite beneficial! :P

If you want to know more about the diet itself... then it’s better to search for Ray Cronise but if you want to know how a 'CroNut' feels when going through the whole experience... then this is the book for you.

Thanks for reading :) x