01:12 - Source: CNN
Jeb Bush faces questions on Iraq at Iowa State Fair

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Cheating is part of his secret, Bush says

Bush finds all the attention about his diet somewhat amusing

Des Moines, Iowa CNN  — 

Of anyone on a diet, Jeb Bush has perhaps the largest accountability system.

The Republican presidential candidate has become so widely known for his weight loss on the “Paleo” diet that when he indulged in some fried goodness at the Iowa State Fair on Friday, he was frequently questioned by voters and reporters about his splurge.

Others simply marveled at his thinness. Shortly after he arrived at the fair, for example, one woman told the former Florida governor that he looked great.

“Paleo?” asked the woman, who said she came from Indiana to see Bush.

“Yeah,” he said. “But I’m breaking it today.”

RELATED: Bush explains why he went on ‘Paleo’ diet

To his credit, Bush didn’t fall too far off the bandwagon. In more than four hours at the fair, he had a fried Snickers bar, a beer and a fried potato chip.

But cheating is part of his secret, he says. “The only way to be on the diet is to cheat,” he told one reporter.

He also had a pork chop on a stick, but meat is a key staple for anyone on the so-called “caveman diet” that only allows meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and most nuts.

Bush’s marked success on the diet has become a key topic of conversation for voters and journalists who cover him, in part because of how rarely public figures openly discuss their eating habits.

Since starting the diet after Thanksgiving of last year, Bush has lost at least 40 pounds. He freely admits that he tends to cheat once a week on “Sunday Funday” with his family, when they eat Mexican food. He also likes to drink wine occasionally.

And once in a while he’ll enjoy a local dish, like when he had a lobster roll in New Hampshire last week or some peach cobbler in South Carolina last month.

Bush finds all the attention about his diet somewhat amusing. Asked Friday what he thinks about the interest, Bush said, “It’s a little unusual.”

“I don’t get it,” he said, brushing it off. “But people seem to be fascinated by it.”

The candidate is keenly aware of his physical changes. One man approached Bush Friday asking him to autograph a recent photo. “That’s a skinnier Jeb,” Bush said, pointing to the photo. “I see these older pictures,” he continued, “and that one is closer to me now.”

Then the voter asked him to sign a less-than-recent photo.

“Now that’s a slightly bigger Jeb,” Bush said, laughing.

CNN’s Maeve Reston contributed to this report.