When we met Jared Fogle in a Subway restaurant in Times Square, we found it difficult to immediately imagine him as the long-time spokesman of a fast food juggernaut, or as The Incredible Shrinking Man, or what have you. He comes off as an ordinary, grounded type of guy, just one who did something fairly extraordinary, inspiring others and selling sandwiches along the way.
Much has been written about Jared’s story, and most people are pretty familiar with it. In 1998, he weighed over 400 pounds, he switched to eating low-fat Subway sandwiches every day along with being more active, and then he lost about 235 pounds in a year. Back then, Subway didn’t have much of a healthy image, but Jared’s story helped change that. A friend at his college, Indiana University, wrote an article about him in the school newspaper, whereupon his incredible, improbable weight loss began to receive wider attention, and Subway contacted him from there. What followed became marketing legend. “Nobody planned it; it just happened,” Jared told The Daily Meal.
For the past fifteen years since shedding his iconic fat jeans, Jared has done far more than appear in commercials. He makes over 200 appearances each year with Subway, which have included conducting the “Tour de Pants” in 2008 and running the New York City Marathon in 2010. This year, his big event is Jared’s Journey, in which he’s “flipping the tables,” in his words, to interview health experts like Mario Lopez about where their fitness level was fifteen years ago. It’s all part of a campaign to connect Subway with the wider goal of encouraging greater fitness for Americans, as Jared’s story remains as relevant as it ever has been.
But what of those who scoff, who say that Jared’s story is too good to be true? That no man can lose weight on sandwiches? “Well, when I first went to Subway, I used a credit card to buy the sandwiches, so there’s documentation that it happened,” Jared said. But besides that, he’d say that there have been a lot of people who have done something similar; it’s just that his case was fairly extreme and led to being widely publicized. And he didn’t lose the weight just by eating Subway often; he switched to eating Subway’s low-fat options from a previous diet of burgers and fries, combining that with a more active lifestyle. So contrary to his naysayers, Jared has been working to inspire others to take similar paths.
A decade and a half is virtually an eternity in the fast world of fast food, but Jared has endured as The Subway Guy for that long and up to the present. His story is perhaps more well-known than the plot of “War and Peace,” and he’s even been parodied in South Park. So as Subway continues to grow and its image evolves in the future, putting ever more of an emphasis on both healthy eating and the “$5 Footlong,” where does Jared see his place? Firmly with the company, he says. He’s considering opening his own Subway stores in the future, but for now, he’s happy to continue his gig as the full-time spokesman. With a knowing look, he said, “as long as Subway wants me, I’ll be around.” And then, quite fittingly, our meeting with Jared ended with him and Subway’s executive chef, Chris Martone, making us one of Jared’s favorite sandwiches, Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki. This is a guy who knows his line of work.