ANAHEIM, Calif. — When Jared Fogle embarked on a diet consisting largely of Subway sandwiches nine years ago, it was a fortuitous decision for him as well as for the national restaurant chain.

Fogle, the popular spokesman for Milford, Conn.-based Subway, told an audience consisting largely of store-level produce and floral workers July 14 at the La Mirada, Calif.-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council's annual Expo, that he always has loved fruits and vegetables. The problem was he loved just about everything else too.

Subway spokesman shares story at FPFC expo
                                                              Tom Burfield

Subway spokesman Jared Fogle, a speaker at the FPFC expo, shows pants he wore before he began a diet consisting largely of Subway sandwiches.

His weight problem began around the third grade when he became addicted to video games, foregoing most physical activity.

By age 20, Fogle was consuming more than 10,000 calories a day and weighed more than 400 pounds. He had developed sleep apnea, swollen ankles and other problems.

He knew he seriously needed to lose weight, but he had little patience for cooking healthful food.

The solution came when he moved next door to a Subway restaurant and, on a whim, decided to try having one of the company's low-fat sandwiches twice a day. He skipped the cheese and mayonnaise but piled on the lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and jalapeños.

From spring of 1998 to the following spring, he lost 245 pounds, he said, "and, in the process, I got my life back."

Subway's advertising agency spotted a story about his feat that originated in his college newspaper and featured him in an ad campaign that still is running.

An appearance on "Oprah" resulted in the biggest sales spike Subway has ever had, he said.

Fogle spends about 200 days a year on the road and has established the Jared Foundation to fight childhood obesity, but he still eats at Subway a couple of times a week. He has a personal trainer and visits a gym when he can, but still, "keeping it off is way harder" than losing weight, he said.

He cited moderation, controlling portion sizes and exercising, even if it's just walking from the last row in the parking lot, as ways to help prevent pounds from returning.