Lean Plate Club: Two subs a day was just the beginning

  • Article by: SALLY SQUIRES , Washington Post
  • Updated: May 21, 2008 - 9:28 AM

Jared lost 245 pounds in college the old-fashioned way; now he's reached a 10-year milestone.

He's known by his first name -- Jared -- and his claim to fame is being a super loser.

Meet Jared Fogle, who as a junior at Indiana University, shed 245 pounds on a self-devised diet of Subway restaurant sandwiches and earned a job as spokesperson for the fast-food chain in the process.

Now he's reached another milestone: maintaining that weight loss for 10 years.

With a rising obesity epidemic, the number of people who need to shed triple-digit pounds is also increasing. But a growing number try to meet that goal surgically with stomach stapling or gastric bypass. That makes Fogle's accomplishment all the more important.

"It's fantastic that he's done this because weight loss surgery is taking on such emphasis," said Brown University psychologist Rena Wing, co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry, a group of 6,300 "successful losers" who have shed at least 30 pounds and kept them off for at least a year.

"Jared supports our findings in the registry that it is possible to achieve and maintain triple-digit losses using behavior changes," Wing said.

He lost his weight the old-fashioned way, by eating less and gradually exercising more. At his peak of about 425 pounds, Fogle figures that he consumed about 10,000 calories daily -- or roughly five times the intake of the average adult.

Consumed by food

Like many, his weight battle began in childhood -- although no one else in his family is overweight. His father is a family physician; his mother a preschool teacher.

"I grew up knowing what was healthy and not healthy to eat," Fogle said. "My parents always cooked fairly healthy food and they didn't buy a lot of junk food."

Even so, he piled on pounds starting in the third grade. "From that point, food slowly but surely consumed me," said Fogle, who has started a foundation to help prevent childhood obesity.

Despite concern from his parents about his weight, he resisted all their attempts to help him. It took a college roommate to persuade Fogle to make changes. He slipped a tape recorder under Fogle's bed, then played the tape to show him that he had a severe case of sleep apnea, a condition that produces an interruption in breathing. "After years of denial ... I thought, 'Wow, enough is enough. I need to make some changes.'"

His first attempts at weight loss were unsuccessful. Then he stopped to eat in the Subway restaurant next to his college apartment, read a nutrition brochure and realized he could eat two sandwiches daily as his "diet."

"It was sort of a crazy idea, but I thought it was worth a shot," he said.

For daily brunch, he ate a six-inch turkey sub loaded with vegetables, but no mayonnaise, oil or cheese, plus a small bag of baked chips. He also switched from regular Mountain Dew and orange soda to diet soft drinks. "That was very tough," he said.

For dinner, he dined on a foot-long veggie sub, another bag of baked chips and more diet sodas. The daily caloric total was about 1,500 calories.

94 pounds in three months

When he felt hungry, Fogle reminded himself that he was burning fat and calories. The first month, he lost about 30 pounds. At three months, he had shed 94 pounds. When he lost 100 pounds, Fogle began to walk 30 minutes daily. It took him nine more months to shed the remaining weight.

"The rate of weight loss slowed the more I lost, but it never stopped," he said. "At the end, I almost lost a little too much weight." He added back about 15 pounds the first year, but has maintained his weight at 190 ever since.

Fogle's story was featured in the Indiana University student newspaper. Local radio stations picked it up. Then Subway contacted him to become its spokesperson. He's since done more than 50 commercials and travels much of the year for company appearances.

And while Fogle still dines frequently on Subway sandwiches -- Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki with baked chips is his favorite meal -- he also has learned to eat other healthful food. "I read more nutrition labels and pay attention to what is a healthy way to prepare something vs. not a healthy way," he said. "I'm not a calorie counter per se, but I have learned to know what is a decent size of food for me."

He works out regularly with a personal trainer when he's at home in Indianapolis. On the road, he walks regularly.

"I think the reason why I have been around for nine years is that people can relate to my story," Fogle said. "I'm not some buff jock or famous actor. I'm just sort of like everybody else."

In short, he's trying to eat smart and exercise more one day at a time.

Join Sally Squires on the National President's Challenge at www.presidentschallenge.org. Register until Thursday for the Lean Plate Club group, number 69734. The challenge continues through May 15. You can subscribe to the free Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter at www.leanplateclub.com. Squires is a writer for the Washington Post.

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