A firefighter in Irmo, South Carolina has become the latest Subway sandwich celebrity, for losing over 130 pounds by working out and eating healthier foods, including 4 to 5 Subway sandwiches a week.
You may know him from his commercial.
Part of his ditty goes, "His name is Henry, Clay Henry. He's a fireman and a Jared fan. He gets his might from a Veggie Delite, great taste each day from his local Subway. He's Henry, Clay Henry."
Henry said everyone at the fire department has been very positive about the commercial, although of course they love to tease him about it. One of their favorite things is to start singing his song, and then change the words to it.
Henry, now 26, joined the department as a volunteer when he was 18 and weighed about 330 pounds at 6 feet, 2 inches.
As soon as Henry joined, he knew that he wanted firefighting to be a major part of his life but that he didn't have a good chance of getting hired in his current health condition.
"I was a risk more than a benefit," he said.
Irmo Fire Department Chief Mike Sonefeld said Henry didn't have much confidence at first, and realized that to be in this business he really had to get in shape.
The chief said Henry didn't fit in any of the department's turn out gear, and he had to borrow a bright red set of equipment from the state fire academy. Sonefeld joked that because Henry was so big, you could write "Engine 2" on him and nobody would notice.
Things are a lot different now.
"His confidence is unbelievable," the chief said. "We see it, too. The guy is not gonna get winded."
"It's totally night and day," he said. "Now I feel so much better and physically able to do the job."
During his weight loss process, Henry got into running and cardiovascular training, and increased his activity as he was able to do more and more. He finished his first marathon last June.
"Seeing that lapse over into firefighting was really cool," he said.
It took Henry about four years to lose the first 100 pounds. Some months he would lose 15, and others he would just manage to maintain his weight. He stayed at 230 for a while, and weighed about 225 when he started training for the marathon. He then lost more weight, and is now at 195.
Henry was about 250 pounds when he got hired by the fire department. "Losing the weight definitely put me in a position to get hired," he said. Henry worked full time for several years, and currently works part time and as a volunteer while taking college classes.
He said people were pretty skeptical about his eating at Subway so often as part of his diet, but the sandwiches are much lower in fat than the other fast foods he would normally have been eating. Then, Subway aired the commercial about Jared Fogle, who lost 245 pounds by eating at Subway twice a day, and Henry was sure that he was on the right track.
Firefighters at his station urged Henry to share his story with Subway, so he e-mailed them through a special link on their web site in late 2000. He was contacted a short time later, and shot the commercial in July 2001. It started airing nationally around Christmas.
For the taping, Henry flew out to Los Angeles with his fiancee and spent about 13 hours one day shooting the scene. He slid down the fire pole about 25 to 30 times, to perfect the action and for adjustments to lights and camera angles.
And it wasn't until he got to L.A. that Henry learned of the song with his name in it. When he found out, he finally understood why the people at the L.A. office would sing "It's Henry, Clay Henry," when he called on the phone.
"The whole thing was quite an experience," he said.
One of the highlights of the experience was hanging out with the extras in the commercial, who were real firefighters from the L.A. area. "When you're a firefighter you can go joke around anywhere," Henry said.
Henry said he knew the commercial would be a fun and positive thing to do, and he hopes it will inspire other people to improve their health.
"I just want to say, if you're out there and need to lose weight, make the changes to do so," Henry said. "Because it's unbelievable the effect it will have on your life, especially in the fire service."
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