The Harry Potter Diet (I Kid You Not)

As popular as the Harry Potter novels have been, it is no surprise that there is a Harry Potter Cookbook you can purchase — in fact, there are three: Magical Kitchen, The Unauthorized Harry Potter Cookbook, and The Wizard’s Cookbook. I haven’t read or seen a copy of any of them but welcome a guest post group-review written by anyone out there of the culinary bent, House Elf division.

But a Harry Potter Diet? That’s a bit of a reach.

Jenny McCartney of The Telegraph wrote a delicious spoof of the Atkins Diet in 2003 in a piece called ‘I am Living Proof of the Magic of the Hogwarts Diet.’ Her dietary recommendations, however, all translations of Atkins’ method, require living at Hogwarts or Hogsmeade.

There was a young person named Banks Lee who worked at Universal Studio’s ‘Wizarding World Theme Park’ who was too fat to ride the Forbidden Journey ride. I say ‘fat’ instead of ‘heavy’ because it seems the ride, at least at the time of Lee’s struggle, required passing a test of ‘three clicks’ on a belt buckling system. See Forbidden Journey Rider Wanna-Be: The Three Clicks Diet (MuggleNet) and Banks Lee & The Three Clicks: The Rider’s Blog of His Journey for more on that dieting effort, one that could be called a Harry Potter diet — though Lee avoids that (working where he does, that would be prudent, no?).

But Joe Posnanski has written a seven post series at his Patreon blog called ‘The Harry Potter Diet’ flat out. It is hilarious, inspiring, educational, and a lot of fun.

You may remember Posnanski from a classic piece he wrote in 2011 about his trip with the family to Orlando’s Wizarding World, the legendaryKatie the Prefect.‘ I wrote a ‘Shared Text’ post about Posnanski and his love of Harry Potter in 2012, ‘The Dementors in Cleveland Munincipal Stadium.’ I shared my belief there that Joe Posnanski is not only the best sports writer in America but in the running for best American writer, period.

If you go to Joe to read the ‘The Harry Potter Diet’ diet series, though, and you should, believe me, you’ll learn that these posts are all behind a Patreon paywall. Posnanski is that good that his readers — I’m one of them — pay $3 a month to read his posts on baseball and everything else, to include his love for Harry Potter (and Brice Springsteen, Buck O’Neill, Harry Houdini, etc., etc.). He’s written five sports books and his biography of Houdini comes out this October.

Anyway, what is the Harry Potter diet? Posnanski explained it this way in the series finale:

Back in May, I bought a Harry Potter button-down shirt to impress my daughters. There’s a great Seinfeld line about how all dads dress in the style of the last good year of their lives. I certainly do, that year being probably 1993, which means that I NEVER wear a short-sleeve button-down shirt, wouldn’t know how to wear one, couldn’t pull one off.

But all dads would like to, every now and again, surprise their daughters.

So I got the Harry Potter shirt. XXL.

It didn’t fit.

It didn’t really come CLOSE to fitting, if I’m being honest. I could barely button the buttons. And that was, for me, like looking directly into the not-yet-dimmed sun. Many years ago, I readily accepted my fate of wearing XL clothes. (I like oversized shirts, I told myself.) That didn’t even seem like a big deal to me — XL is fairly cool.

I was less ready to accept my entrance into the XXL club, but … I didn’t take it too badly. It was better than the alternative, which was changing my life. I filled my closet with XXL shirts and size 42 pants and told myself it was OK. I took the blood pressure and cholesterol medicine and told myself it was OK. I went through various periods of time where I lost some weight, sometimes even lost quite a bit of weight, but it never lasted very long, and I honestly didn’t think that much about it.

But something snapped in my brain when that Harry Potter shirt didn’t fit. The idea of living an XXXL life … it was haunting and dismal and more than a little bit frightening.

It’s hard to lie to yourself when the XXL shirt doesn’t fit.

So I went on the Harry Potter Diet, with the immediate and powerful goal of being about to wear that stupid, pointless and wonderful shirt. And, I’ll give away the ending here: I still can’t wear it. 

He can’t wear it now because the shirt is too loose. Joe succeeded in getting down from XXL to a comfortable L and is working on an M. How?

He did five things: 

I know no secrets. I’ve come up with no scientific breakthrough. I’ve done three things (well, 3 1/2 — you’ll see) and they’re the three things that EVERYBODY knows you have to do if you want to lose weight:

  1. I cut Diet Coke entirely out of my life. This was a hard and painful thing to do, and I miss it terribly. But this was for me the critical step for a couple of reasons, the first being that (as doctors had been telling me for years) Diet Coke can create hunger cravings. I don’t know that it does that for everyone, but it sure as heck did for me. The second reason is probably even more important: In all my previous diet attempts, I’d continued to drink Diet Coke (after all, DIET is in the title). I needed to stop drinking Diet Coke as a symbolic gesture as much as anything else, to prove to myself that this time was different. I had headaches for a week. Anytime I eat anything salty I see Diet Cokes in my daydreams. But I did it.

  2. I mostly stopped eating all those things that everybody knows you have to stop eating to lose weight — bread, pasta, desserts, french fries, pasta, red meat, pizza, fried foods, pasta and, did I mention pasta? Yeah, it was the pasta that was the crusher for me. I so love pasta.

  3. I cut down portions. This, it turns out, was not as difficult as I thought it would be, in part because by cutting down portions I was able to cheat sometimes.

The other two things he tried were eating inside an eight hour window (no breakfast!) and treating himself to a square — not a bar, but a square — of chocolate every day.

And it worked. He lost fifty-two pounds, six pants sizes, and he can wear size L clothing now. And all because of a Harry Potter shirt and his desire to have one more fun Harry Potter moment with his family. From the beginning piece:

The Harry Potter shirt is one of those button-downs that you’re supposed to wear untucked. At least I think it is. Fashion has never been my thing. But I saw the Harry Potter shirt in a Target a few months ago, and though I wasn’t clothes shopping, I thought the girls would like it. The shirt is kind of beige and it has the symbols of the four Hogwarts houses — Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin.

Our youngest daughter Katie is a Hufflepuff.

Our oldest daughter Elizabeth, is a Slytherin.

I, obviously, am a Gryffindor.

And my wife, Margo, has vacillated on her Hogwarts house so many times that at this point we just assume she’s a Ravenclaw because that completes the set.

The girls take all this quite seriously; we take all things Harry Potter quite seriously. Margo loves to tell the story of how I got into Harry Potter … because it’s one of those times that she was right. She loved Harry Potter long before I did. She would often say to me, “You really should read these Harry Potter books; they’re wonderful.”

And I would say to her that I absolutely would, just as soon as I ran out of adult books to read.

So what happened? Two things. One, our first daughter was born. You don’t need me to explain how children change the way you view the world. Two, though, an entirely unlikely source recommended that I read the books: Bill James. Bill loves Harry Potter.

It still grates a bit on Margo that Bill James telling me to read the books jolted me into action, while her suggestion was brushed aside with an obnoxious retort. Ah, the bliss of marriage.

So I read the books for myself. I read the books to Elizabeth. I read the books to Katie. Sometimes, even now, when I want a break, want to escape, I’ll read my favorite passages — the time turner sequence in No. 3, or the shocking turn in No. 6, or the beautiful and haunting flashback in the last book.

But, of course, it meant the most of all when I read the books to the girls. I did this thing, this unbelievably annoying thing, when I read to them. I would climb into bed with them, they would snuggle up, and I would say, “Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy.”

This is the opening to the third book, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” The point was to pretend that I was going to start from there, which always led them to shout out, “DAD, WE’RE WAY PAST THAT!”

I don’t like one bit that they’ve grown older.

So, yes, I knew they’d love the shirt, and as a bonus, it came in XXL. Few shirts like that do. That has been my size for a few years now: XXL. It’s not my size because I like wearing T-shirts that are big. It’s my size because it’s my size. I’ve long stopped worrying about it. In life, you can fix the potholes or drive around them, and I’ve been driving around this pothole for a long, long time. Sometimes, I would diet and lose some weight. Then I would gorge and gain some weight. And in the end, I became someone, and that someone wears XXL shirts.

I bought the Harry Potter shirt. I could not wait to show it to the girls. I put it on as soon as I got home.

And … it didn’t fit.

The Harry Potter Diet a la Posnanski, then, has next to nothing to do with Hogwarts and the minutiae of the novels and films. Not really. It’s not about feasting in the Great Hall or Bertie Bott’s Every Flavoured Beans. It was the magic the series created in Joe’s family, what he wanted to tap into through his $19.99 Target XXL shirt, and the consequent disappointment when the shirt didn’t fit. That moment moved Joe to come to terms with his weight and health issues more than a kidney stone event on Thanksgiving that hospitalized him.

That’s real magic.

Here are the urls to every part of the series. Yes, it’ll cost you $3 to get behind the firewall of Patreon and read them. It’s worth it.

Post: I just read this story that seems a combination of the Three Clicks Diet’ and Posnanski’s Harry Potter Diet. A newly-married 27 year old man who weighed 310 pounds and was happy about it, not just resigned, was turned away from the Forbidden Journey ride at the Wizarding World theme park in Orlando because, you guessed it, he couldn’t pass the Three Clicks belt-buckle test. He buys his father a souvenier shirt at the park — and dad, also morbidly obese, died soon thereafter of a heart attack. His son loses 150 pounds by diet and exercise (surprise!) and now wears the shirt he got for his late father.

That last is a little creepy, forgive me, but it, too, involves rejection at the ride and a motivating shirt…

Speak Your Mind