Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Man. The Pants. The Legend.

This morning we got the call from the editor of the local paper: she wanted a reporter to cover a presentation by Jared Fogle, a.k.a. "The Subway Guy," at the local elementary school. It wasn't on the schedule, but Laurie has really taken to these occasional reporting gigs, and I hear I will actually get paid for photographs this time. Scoop and I are on our way.

He looks just like he does on TV. And he seems like the down-to-earth nice guy he appears to be. You can't learn everything in an hour or so, but you get a sense.

His message is well documented. He went from 425 pounds to 195 using diet and exercise. His creative use of Subway sandwiches for the nutritional component earned him national recognition and launched him on this long journey to public appearances great and small. He doesn't do a Subway infomercial. He talks about moderate eating and sensible activity. He explains how he settled into a sedentary lifestyle and what made him pull himself out of it.

Celebrity status complicates things in ways Jared did not address. He was morbidly obese, in danger of death, but, because he pulled himself back from the brink in such a catchy way he created a marketable success story when "being the Subway Guy wasn't on my goal sheet," as he put it. He just wanted to get fit and healthy again. So the message that never gets stated is that one can make a spectacular mess of oneself and then make a livelihood out of the story of recovery. On the other hand, there's already been a Subway Guy. There isn't a vacancy for another one.

In Jared's case it does not appear to be at all cynical. And I don't view it that way. I simply can't ignore the way the solution to an essentially self-created problem leads to great inspiration for others trying to defeat the same self-created problem.

Jared had the basis for his own recovery in him all the time. Others might not be so fortunate. Whatever causes them to eat may have deeper psychological roots. Physiologically, the mechanism of recovery will work on the basis of impersonal metabolism. Burn more calories than you eat and you will lose weight. So for the average lazy sod, and I include myself in that category, it really is just a matter of making better food choices and inserting more exertion into the average day.

Humans have made great advancements in labor-saving devices. We are too good at it. When exertion was unavoidable, it was nice to be able to choose to save energy on some tasks. But now we have to remember to exert. It isn't always easy to take a walk or a bike ride, so then we have to choose various human forms of the gerbil wheel.

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