Jared stops by Suffolk

Published 11:05 pm Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Subway spokesman Jared Fogle visited the restaurant on North Main Street across from Farm Fresh on Wednesday afternoon. He greeted fans, including Toriano Johnson.

Subway spokesman Jared Fogle visited the restaurant on North Main Street across from Farm Fresh on Wednesday afternoon. He greeted fans, including Toriano Johnson.

Some customers’ jaws dropped as soon as they walked through the door of the new Subway restaurant on North Main Street on Wednesday afternoon.

Some coolly cheered “Jared” as they sauntered by and stuck out their hands for a shake.

Others shyly approached the restaurant’s spokesman to ask for a photo, with a companion holding a smartphone in hand.

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Jared Fogle stopped by the new restaurant in between appearances at elementary schools in Norfolk and Richmond. He has been doing advertisements and in-store appearances for Subway for the last 15 years, ever since he lost about 245 pounds following what’s now called “the Subway diet.”

“This feels like the Taj Mahal of Subway,” he joked about the new restaurant, pointing out the electronic menu board inside the store.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said 19-year-old Toriano Johnson, who was one of the jaw-droppers. “You never really think you’re going to meet someone in the commercials like that.”

Fogle, now 36, was 20 years old and 435 pounds while in college in his native Indiana. He had struggled with weight since he was in elementary school, but one day he happened to pick up a nutritional brochure at the Subway next door to where he lived.

“I started adding up the calories, the fat, and the light bulb went off in my head,” he said.

He ate Subway sandwiches twice a day, every day, for about a year and dropped the 245 pounds. A couple of local newspapers wrote articles about his weight loss, and then Subway came calling.

“I don’t eat it every day anymore,” he said. “I still eat it two or three times a week.”

Because his struggles with weight began in elementary school, one of his passions is talking to children about developing healthy habits.

At his Wednesday appearances at Norfolk’s Granby Elementary School and Tidewater Park Elementary School, he carried his message of fitness to the children and passed out Fit for Life 15 Day Challenge cards, giving students a tool to track their intake of vegetables, fruit and water and exercise time, versus time spent in front of the computer, television or video games.

“A lot of the kids can relate to it,” Fogle said. “They can relate to wanting to play video games all day. It’s an important message to get out to them.”

The children asked questions like what his favorite video game was as a child and whether he got picked on because of his weight.

Especially in an area with a high concentration of military families, establishing healthy habits early is important, Fogle said.

“You have a lot of kids that are very transient. If they’re constantly moving, it’s harder to develop those healthy, long-term habits. Even if we only reach a handful of kids at one of these assemblies, it’s worth it.”

In case you’re wondering, Fogle’s favorite Subway sandwich is the sweet onion chicken teriyaki, and his favorite topping is the sweet peppers, which are only available in certain areas, including Virginia. On Wednesday, he was drinking an acai-blueberry-pomegranate Vitamin Water Zero.

And he claims he hasn’t gotten tired of eating Subway.