Q&A With Bob Levey
Washington Post Columnist
Tuesday, March 18, 2003; Noon ET
"Levey Live" appears Tuesdays at noon ET. Your host is Washington Post columnist Bob Levey. This hour is your chance to talk directly to key Washington Post reporters and editors, local officials and people in the news.
Today, Bob's guest is Jared Fogle, spokesperson for Subway.
| Jared Fogle |
As a 22-year-old college student at Indiana University in early March of 1998, Fogle abandoned the habits of late-night food orders and uncalculated snacks characteristic of many students his age. And he assumed a strict daily diet of two low-fat Subway sandwiches. Abiding by this regimen, Fogle lost 245 of his original 425 pounds.
What Fogle calls his “Subway Diet” nearly trimmed his waist in half from 60 to 34 inches. For the next year Fogle ate a six-inch turkey sub for lunch and a foot-long veggie sub for dinner. He sipped coffee for breakfast and held the cheese and mayonnaise on his daily sandwiches. His resulting diet totaled less than 10 grams of fat and about 1,000 calories per day. And once Jared reached 300 pounds he slowly replaced taking the bus with walking to classes.
A slim 190 pounds today, Jared stops by Subway on occasion and enjoys other foods as well. But other foods don’t beg the story he retells as a famed full-time motivational speaker for weight loss.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Bob Levey: Good afternoon, Jared, and thanks for joining us today on "Levey Live." Your story is nothing short of astounding. How much of your success is due to willpower, and how much of it is due to the turkey you bought at Subway?
Jared Fogle: I would say probably half and half. Before you can lose any kind of weight you have to be mentally ready to do it. And then, I would say the other half was finding the right method for me, which was the Subway sandwiches. But, yes, I would say you definitely have to have both and they both have to come in line together.
Orono, Maine: Any thoughts on the lawsuits filed against McDonald's by the youngsters who claim that the restaurant's food made them fat?
Jared Fogle: Well, I think it you over-indulge in anything it can be a bad think. But at some point you have to take control of your own life. I was happy to see that the judge threw it out. As a person, you have to take a stand for yourself.
Bob Levey: What's your opinion of popular diets like Atkins or Weight Watchers?
Jared Fogle: My opinion is you have to do what works best for you. That's why there are so many diets out in the world today. What works for one person may not work as well for another person. It's a matter of finding what works for you and going forward with it. The Subway sandwich diet worked well for me, and it's worked now for 1,000s of other people. Make sure you talk to a doctor and see what might work best with your body type.
Evansville, Ind.: Do you get free Subway anytime you want? Also, is that girl in the commercials with you your girlfriend or wife? If not do you have one (maybe one of each?)
Jared Fogle: I pretty much do get free Subway now. I haven't had to pay for one in the last four years or so, which is definitely a plus. I don't know if I'll get it the rest of my life, but having it right now is pretty good.
And the woman in the commercial is my wife. But the house in the commercial is not the real house.
Bob Levey: Where did your motivation come from? Did you just wake up one day and say to yourself, "Self, I'm going to be dead if I don't do this?"
Jared Fogle: My motivation came from years and years of failed diet attempts. And getting to the point where, really, enough was enough. And I think with every person you sort of reach your own breaking point. It was was day, forcing myself to go into the doctor's office and getting on the scale for the first time in several years and actually seeing that I weighed over 400 pounds just really, really got to me. And at that point, I knew I really needed to do something. But it was still a matter of what could I do.
Alexandria, Va.: Jared, are you able to make a living solely through being a spokesperson for Subway or do you have a nine-to-five-type job as well?
Jared Fogle: No. I don't have a real job. This is definitely more than full-time. Essentially, I go all over the U.S. and the world to local cities sharing my story with the public and media, to whomever wants to listen really. I also participate in special events like the American Heart Association "Heart Walk." So that's pretty much what fills my time.
Bob Levey: It's easy to find ways to blame Americans for being so obese. Hour upon hour in front of the TV set. Commuting by car instead of on foot. Enormous portions at restaurants. A "pleasure culture" that tells us that, if it tastes good, it is good. Do you think our society can ever be seriously skinny, given all these factors?
Jared Fogle: I don't know if it's necessarily right to be skinny. There's a difference between being skinny and being healthy. And I think it's a matter of, as Americans if we partake in these fattenings things, whatever they may be, then it's going to be tough. But if we change our life styles and really try to change our habits to healthier ones, like more exercise, like eating lower fat foods, then all these things that Bob just mentioned would have to change as well. Essentially, as long as there's demand for it, it's going to be there. But if there's no demand for it, it's going to change. But I definitely have hope that it can change, for the better.
Washington, DC: Jared, not a question, just a comment. Loved your performance on South Park last season.
Jared Fogle: The South Park episode, although typical tasteless humor that it is, it was very flattering to see that they took a complete half hour talking about me.
You know you've made it when shows like South Park start pardying you.
Bob Levey: During the year when you lost 245 pounds, you ate chips at every lunch. Chips? How in the world can a person lose that much weight if he eats chips?
Jared Fogle: Well they weren't just chips. They were the baked chips. The baked chips at Subway have about 130 calories per bag and one gram and half of fat. That's it. That allowed me to still have a very low fat and low calorie diet.
Alexandria, VA: Jared, since you are "in the public eye" are you feeling pressure to keep the weight off? How have you been able to do it up to now?
Jared Fogle: I wouldn't say it's being in the public eye is being pressure. I look at it as being more motivation. I know I worked too hard to get the weight off in the first place. And I would never want to put it back on. But it's always a challenge and you have to find that sort of "middle ground" where you don't over-obsess about it, but you never lose sight that the weight could come back on. And that's really the key. I think when people put weight back on, it's because they have sort of forgotten that it can come back on. And one of the things that I do is, obviously, eat Subway a few times a week, not every day any more. But that definitely helps.
Washington, DC: What food did you eat before you went on the Subway diet? What was your typical breakfast/lunch/dinner on your diet?
Jared Fogle: Before the Subway diet, a better question to ask would be what didn't I eat. It was just extremely large amounts of fast food, usually fried, and all the time. And on the Subway diet, it consisted of for lunch: a six-inch turkey sub with all the veggies but no mayno, no oil, no cheese, and a bag of the baked potato chips and diet soft drink. And then dinner was usually a foot long veggie delight sub, which was with all the vegetables again but no cheese or mayo again and a diet soft drink. Again the only reason I didn't usually eat breakfast was because I was in college at that time. Therefore, I didn't get up before 10 a.m. So my first meal happened to be lunch. But I do recommend that people eat a highly nutritious breakfast if you have any kind of a normal schedule.
Wheaton, md: Did you ever drink alcohol during your weight loss period?
Jared Fogle: No. I did not. One of the main reasons was, when I was over 400 pounds, I was pretty much out of the social loop. And really it just wasn't part of my life at that point.
New Albany, Ind.: I heard you are going to be the next bachelor candidate (#4). Sign me up.
Jared Fogle: We can squash that rumor right now. Unless there's something that my wife hasn't told me yet.
Lyme, Conn.: Years ago, I cut out most meat and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Yet, I have not lost much weight. Now, I hear the Atkins people telling me I should resume eating meat and cut out bread. Now, Subway has both bread and meat. Any advice on what one should do?
Jared Fogle: I think it's important to talk with a medical professional to figure out your own body type. But my philosophy was that I just wanted to lower my fat and my calories. And that's really why the Subway sandwiches worked so well for me and why it has worked so well for so many other people.
Burke, Va.: You are probably part of one of the longer running ad campaigns for a restaurant. Do you have any idea of how successful your story has been for the Subway franchise?
Jared Fogle: It's been very successful for Subway. And in general it's been double digit increases in sales for Subway. But, it's not just my advertisement but the product itself has really improved over the past few years. And there's even more healthier options at Subway than when I actually lost weight. So all of those things together have really boosted Subway overall.
Bob Levey: What was it like to be a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, given that she has had so much trouble with weight herself?
Jared Fogle: It was probably the most rewarding experience and at the same time probably one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I've had. It doesn't get much bigger being on the Oprah Winfrey Show. And the fact that Oprah personally struggles with her weight just goes to show you that no matter how much money you have it can still be a struggle and you can still have to be on top of it. But it was a definite thrill to be on her show.
Garrett Park, Maryland: Your success on a high-carb, low-fat diet certainly leaves the Atkins types with egg on their face (pun intended). Have you ever been asked to debate the high-protein types on cable tv shows?
Jared Fogle: No. I haven't. But as I said before, there's a reason why there are so many diets out there. I would never insult any diet that can work for somebody. You just have to find what's right for you.
Bob Levey: Let's say that Jared Fogle lived next door to a Burger King while he was a student at Indiana. Do you think you could have lost as much weight as quickly if you'd eaten a grilled chicken sandwich at BK every day for a year?
Jared Fogle: Well that's actually a good point, because when I lived in a dormitory my first year at IU, I had a McDonald's in my dorm, which was a major factor in me becoming over 400 pounds. So I would say, no. It really took the variety Subway had to offer coupled with their low fat menu. And bottom line, the taste that offered me allowed me to lose the weight. I think, also, being able to have the baked chips with the sandwich allowed me to feel that I was having an entire meal, which was definitely helpful.
Rockville: Hey Jared--
Any ideas for influencing Subway to add healthy vegetarian sandwiches? Or even better, vegan (no dairy)? What about a little roasted tofu? Portabello? Hummus?
Jared Fogle: I personally don't have too much influence in the Subway sandwich selection process. But I know they are always up for hearing new ideas. And maybe someday they might be up for a tofu sandwich.
Shirlington: Jared - How does your wife feel about you being the nation's favorite "former fat guy"? Did she know you when you were bigger? Does she mind the publicity that you get?
Jared Fogle: Well we met after I lost all the weight, but well before any of the Subway story got out publicly. So she actually knows me as Jared and not Jared "the Subway guy." I think she's proud of what I've done and proud that I've always stayed true to who I am. And what you see on the commercials is who I really am.
Burke, VA: I enjoy your commercials for Subway. What campaign has been more successful, yours or that blonde guy who yells on the bus telling people about the new subs?
Jared Fogle: Well I think they've both been pretty successful. You know, I think it's interesting because Subway has two different campaigns. They have my campaign, which is primarily low fat. They also have what they call the fresh campaign. It talks about the new breads, the new products coming out. And I think it's great they can have both running together.
Bent Hatchet, UT: What do you think of the idea of college's making nutritionists available to students who live on campus?
I'm in a dorm now, and it's very hard to eat properly when you're eating mainly at the dining hall.
Some guidance would certainly be welcome.
Jared Fogle: I think it's a fantastic idea to have more dietitians available to talk to students, especially in the college and high school level. I think people start to make their eating habits for life at about that age. And information is really the key. And I would say if it's not readily available to you, then it's not a bad idea to try and seek it out on your own. If that's not available, picking up a nutritional brochure, like the ones at Subway, can be an excellent way of finding out what you are consuming.
Bob Levey: Last fall, you were quoted as saying that "healthier fast food is the way the world is going." Does that mean you're predicting the end of McDonald's (or at least the end of their artery-destroying french fries)?
Jared Fogle: I would think yes, in a way. We've already seen the burger joints trying to come up with healthier options. I think people of today are smarter, they have more information. And they want to be healthier, which is forcing some of these other restaurants to rethink some of their menu options, which makes Subway look even better, because they are truly leading the pack with healthier options.
Bob Levey: I understand a "Jared book" is in the works. Give us a sneak preview...
Jared Fogle: Yes it is. You know, it's going to be sort of a hopeful, inspirational book talking more about my story. But ultimately, relating the way that I lost the weight to other parts of life so that this book would not just be good for someone who is overweight but for someone who wants to change any part of their life in a positive way.
Alex, Va: Jared,
Ever thought about speaking out against junk food/vending machines/fast food chains operating in schools (both k-12 and university)?
Jared Fogle: I've really never thought about it. But I think it's important that those decisions are made for the best interest of the students.
Bob Levey: You've often said that you started to gain weight in third or fourth grade and just relentlessly kept gaining. Why? It's usually very hard for a young child to gain lots of weight, because young children are so active. Were you unusually passive?
Jared Fogle: Actually, as a real young child, I was fairly thin, pretty active, but I think ultimately what started causing me to gain weight was I was socially awkward and the lack of having a lot of friends back then caused me to sort of turn to food more and more. And it just started taking more and more food to fill me up. And unfortunately, as I started eating more and more, I stopped moving as well, stopped being active. And those two things together are what eventually cause me to be 425 pounds.
Georgetown: Hey Jared - You mentioned the American Heart Walks? Do you know if you're doing a walk in the DC area? Will you be here?
Jared Fogle: That's a good question. We are actually, at this moment, determining the schedule for which American Heart Walks I'll be at. I would love to visit the Heart Walk in D.C. But at this time, I'm not positive one way or another.
Silver Spring, Md: I heard you on a radio program last summer, maybe Mix 107.3 - by the time I got to work I was in tears. So I hope this isn't too personal. I too, have a lot of weight to lose. I concerned about, er, loose skin after the weight is gone. Is there anything that can be done to mitigate that, or is plastic surgery inevitable? Thanks - you are an inspiration to me.
Jared Fogle: I don't think plastic surgery is inevitable. It just depends on a lot of factors, as far as how much skin you are going to have left. Some things you can consider doing to help minimize your excess skin would be working out and trying to stay fit while you are losing weight and, of course, once you've lost the weight. But I think a more important question to ask yourself is would you rather have the fat and the skin on your body or just the skin and then deal with that down the road. At some point, once you've had the weight off for quite a while, surgery may be an option.
Worcester, MA: What has been your favorite activity as spokesperson for Subway?
Jared Fogle: I'd have to say being a huge sports fan that some of the sporting events that I've gotten to attend on behalf of Subway and myself have been the greatest moments. I got to deliver the official game ball during this year's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, which was the national college championship football game. But pretty much anything that has to relate to sporting events would have to rank high on my list.
Bob Levey: Is there really a club called FOJ--for Friends of Jared?
Jared Fogle: It's not an official club, but just one of the terms that was coined of people who had heard about what I did and lost weight on their own by eating Subway sandwiches in some way. These people didn't necessarily eat Subway sandwiches twice a day every day like I did, but started incorporating the low fat Subway sandwiches into their own diet to fit their own life style and had quite a bit of success as well. I'm definitely proud of the "Friends of Jared" and we're always looking to add new people.
Laurel, Md.: Mr. Fogle,
No one would call me obese, but like many Americans I wouldn't mind losing a few pounds out of, to be blunt, vanity.
But whenever I start a diet, I just never experience "that full feeling" that a non-dieter gets out of a meal that includes a certain amount of fat. In every other respect, diets agree with me just fine -- stomach is full, energy level up instead of down after only two days, dried-fruit snacks get me through low-energy periods at work. But I just never feel like I've actually had my fill without something fat-laden or sugary.
What's the secret to filling in that blank?
Jared Fogle: I think I would say having that sense of hunger when you finish a meal and never being completely full becomes a very good feeling after a while. Because that's when you know you body is burning fat and calories and in the process losing weight.
Derwood, Md.: Jared -
How tall are you? (Bob already gave your weight!)
Jared Fogle: About six foot two.
Alexandria, Va.: What is your diet like today?
Jared Fogle: That's a good question. In a nut shell, moderation is my diet today. I pretty much eat whatever I want. I just don't eat the quantity that I used to eat. For instance, if I wanted pizza back when I was heavy, it would have been an entire pizza. Now, it's a couple slices and maybe a salad to go with it. Also, usually I have Subway a couple times a week when I'm going to have fast food.
Potomac, Md.: How many other people have lost weight on the Subway diet?
Jared Fogle: I don't know if there's any way to really tell for sure. I know that the Subway corporate offices have received 1000s of letters from all over the United States. But I'm sure that there are many more people who have used Subway sandwiches to become healthier that would never want the recognition or attention and are happy to keep it to themselves.
Bob Levey: Many thanks and best of luck to our guest, Jared Fogle. Be sure to join us a week from today when our guest on "Levey Live" will be Lynne Cox, the famous Arctic swimmer. Our visit with her will begin at noon Eastern time on March 25.
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