Health is where we live, work, play, pray and have fun. And if you’re Penn Jillette, the magician who collaborates with Teller, it took more than sleight of hand or a magic trick to lose 100 pounds — one-third of his body weight.

He did it, according to this video, with the help of hard work, and using activity tracking tools from Withings.


Unlike many people who quantify themselves for wellness and fitness, Penn did so to avoid having a medical procedure (i.e., the implantation of a stomach sleeve for weight loss) and also to reduce the six meds he was on for blood pressure and other chronic conditions. By this time, he reached 300 pounds and entered the hospital in October 2014.

Penn Jillette before and after

Here’s Penn’s before and after, losing some 100 pounds through changing what he ate, how he moved and how he tracked both. (Oh, and he’s off the prescription drugs now, too. Sorry, pharma).

Penn points out on the video that it’s not just one thing one changes to achieve this life-change. It’s food, movement, social support (like his friends who joined him in the health journey and nudging each other along the way), and the technology that supports tracking.

Withings has also been working with Spotify and Penn to curate playlists for rest, sleep and waking up.

I look forward to hearing more from Penn at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January 2016. Stay tuned to Health Populi for my take on all-things-digital-health-and-wearable-tech then, 24×7, from the show floor and Digital Health Summit.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  After being both a consumer of wearable tech for health, and an industry advisor, I’ve come to think about these tools as digitally-enhancing therapeutics. They can, of course, be wedded to drug therapy, as, say Propeller Health can marry to a respiratory Rx and bring tremendous benefits to patients with asthma and COPD.

But increasingly I look to personal health technologies to help digitally enhance ME/the person as the therapeutic blockbuster. This gets to the heart of what my friend and colleague Leonard Kish wrote back in August 2012, that the patient is the blockbuster drug of the 21st century. We, ourselves, are our own best blockbuster drug when we are engaged and activated in our health and wellbeing. Health is social, so as Christakis and Fowler noted in Connected, our own self-care bolsters others’ in a virtuous cycle of health-love. This has certainly worked out for Penn,

Truth be told, like Penn, I am a Withings fan when it comes to my weight scale. I’ve used the company’s wireless scale religiously since 2010, and it helps me track my BMI and stay honest. I weigh myself in the morning each day (when I am at home), and doing so helps me stay mindful for the day.

Now that Withings is working with my favorite food-tracking app, My Fitness Pal, it’s even easier to stay on-track and in my target zone bringing together weight, activity and calorie burn. The data silos between apps are breaking down, to the benefit of users.

In the new year, I may adopt something new-new for me: a smartwatch that tracks health metrics, and that could be the Withings Activité . I haven’t yet made the leap, and may wait until 2017. We’ll see what CES 2016 shows me. If I end up happily kicking tires of a new-new thing, I’ll let you know here on Health Populi!