MUNCIE - Friends call her Jared's sister, Jen.

That's Jared Fogle, the former overweight Indiana University student made famous by his own diet plan - eat a Subway sandwich a day and watch the pounds melt away.

And no, the two Hoosiers, Fogle of Indianapolis and Jennifer Cooper of Muncie aren't related, though they do have a diet plan in common.

In February 2003 Cooper wore size 20 pants and weighed in at 255 pounds. A single mother of two boys, she struggled to keep up with her sons.

"They're getting older and more active," she said of Tayler, 10, and Dalton, 6.

Now, Cooper is a size 10 and weighs 150 pounds. She carries a tattered and torn photograph of the "old Jennifer" in her purse.

Friends of Jared

Even though the sandwich-eating Fogle already was famous - he appeared in his first Subway commercial in January 2000, according to the company's Web site - Cooper didn't automatically go straight to the sandwich counter.

First she went to her doctor for help, and she started a six-month prescription of Meridia, an appetite suppressant. It worked and helped her lose some weight - she adjusted her eating schedule to include one meal a day, plus snacks throughout the day - but Cooper decided it wasn't enough.

So in August 2003 she joined Fogle on his quest for weight loss one sandwich at a time. Unknowingly, that made her one of the "Friends of Jared," at least that's how Subway refers to other dieters who are now following Fogle's lead.

From August to April 2004, Cooper was a Subway-only gal. Monday through Friday the 29-year-old's lunches included a six-inch sandwich of roast beef, ham and turkey on wheat bread, plus baked potato chips or pretzels and a soda. Mayonnaise and cheese were the big no-nos, but there was no limit on vegetables.

Minus the drinks - she never gave up her regular soda and couldn't bear the thought of drinking diet, "I've cut down, but not out," she said - Cooper kept every day's food fat count to less than 10 grams, just like Fogle did.

For people who eat 2,000 calories a day, it's recommended 20 percent of those calories come from fat. That translates to 44.5 grams a day, which means Cooper's diet included only a quarter of what's normally recommended.

Though she's expanded to more than just sandwiches in the past year, she still counts every gram of fat, and the 29-year-old Cooper has kept the weight off, all 105 pounds.

"I do eat more now, but I just limit it," she said. "Fat's what makes you fat."

Feed the cravings, on a small plate

Some of the tricks of the diet trade, little things she's heard about for years but never really believed until she tried them, are now her fail-free favorites.

When she cooks dinner for her sons, she eats the same food but on a smaller plate - a saucer.

When she craves something - whether it's a cookie or a Big Mac from McDonalds, she eats it.

"You cannot deprive yourself," she said with a laugh while talking about that Big Mac craving. She went through the drive-through, ordered the sandwich and then pulled one of the patties out of it and threw it out the window. She knew it packed lots of extra calories and fat, and all she really wanted was a taste of the hamburger, bun and sauce.

"It's all about portion control," Cooper said.

Laura Dean, a registered dietitian at Ball Memorial Hospital, agrees that portions and food choices are key. She hasn't worked with patients specifically asking questions about the Subway diet, but Dean said most of her patients are cancer patients, so losing weight is rarely a focus for them.

Still, it's a diet that can work, Dean said, and Cooper is evidence of that. The key is to make sure that a Subway dieter, just like any dieter, is combining healthy foods with exercise.

That's one thing Cooper didn't do, and she regrets it now.

"I didn't do a whole lot of exercise, and now I'm not as toned," she said. "I'm trying."

Even now, her exercise isn't an organized effort. It boils down to running after her sons, either in the park or on the football field. They also like to ride bikes together, she said. Eventually, she knows that toning her body, and specifically tightening her skin, will have to be a surgical procedure. It's just not in the budget right now.

Despite the excess skin, Cooper admits she's proud of herself, even though she doesn't like to brag about her success.

"I don't like to brag about it. I needed to do it. I don't feel like I've done anything that someone else can't do," she said. "I knew I was unhealthy. I looked unhealthy. I felt unhealthy."

Contact Henry and Randolph county reporter Joy Leiker at 213-5825.

A dietitian's tips

Laura Dean, a registered dietitian at Ball Memorial Hospital, said there are good and bad sides to most of the diets that attain lots of acclaim and attention. The real trick is to incorporate healthy foods with an active lifestyle.

Here are a few basic tips from Dean:

  • Adapt your lifestyle. That means cut down on the sweets, candy and junk food and eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat smart, no matter where you are. Going out for dinner is still OK, but stay away from foods that are fried or breaded. When you do go to a sandwich shop, remember that piling on the veggies isn't enough. Cutting the mayonnaise, cheese and dressings will make the biggest difference.
  • Exercise. Adjusting your eating habits is good, but it's not enough. Exercise is an important link.

Subway's Jared

The sandwich chain, with 23,483 restaurants in 81 countries, latched on to Jared Fogle as its spokesman after reading about him in news stories. Fogle, who weighed 435 pounds while a student at IU, lost 245 pounds on a diet he invented - a six-inch turkey sandwich for lunch and a footlong vegetable sandwich for dinner.

He appeared in his first commercial in January 2000, and is still a big part of Subway's advertising campaign. At , there's a section "All about Jared."

The company has heard from thousands of dieters who were inspired by Fogle. According to the Subway Web site, those dieters have lost 160,000 pounds.

Calculate your own diet figures

When you keep track of how many calories you eat and drink each day, it's easy to figure out how many of those calories are coming from fat. Nutritionists recommend that 20 percent of total calories be from fat.

First step: Number of calories consumed multiplied by .20 (20 percent) = Calories from fat

Second step: Calories from fat divided by 9 (there are 9 calories in each gram of fat) = Grams of fat

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