Jared Fogle And The Plight Of The Celebrity Dieter

Subway dieter Jared Fogle's recent weight gain illustrates the price of becoming a celebrity diet spokesman — more so than for any other star, your weight becomes everybody's business.

Back in December, a paparazzo snapped Fogle looking heavier than usual, and Samantha Chang of Examiner.com predicted, "we're sure Jared will lose the extra weight in no time. After all, his career as a Subway spokesperson depends on it." Sure enough, when Fogle admitted he'd gained 40 pounds, Subway decided to whip him back into shape by training him for the New York City Marathon. While it must be nice to get personal training from such luminaries as Michael Phelps, all on Subway's dime, Fogle's also in a somewhat troubling position — if he gains too much weight back, he may lose his lucrative relationship with Subway. His livelihood depends on doing something most people can't: losing 250 pounds and keeping it off.

Subway spokesman Tony Pace was all sweetness and light when he talked to AdAge, saying, "We aspire to be a pretty open brand and we try not to hide things. Jared is kind of like the everyman. He has his ups and down, and though he hasn't had crazy ups, this one got a lot of attention." Pace claims Subway didn't freak out over Fogle's weight gain, and that, "We're always looking for new things to do with Jared." But other celeb dieters who regained weight have found themselves victims of what AdAge's Emily Bryson York calls "the duck-and-run approach" — Jenny Craig, for instance, appears to have quietly replaced Kirstie Alley with Valerie Bertinelli when Alley put on weight. And while Subway seem to be behind Fogle for now, if he returned to his old size he might well be swapped for a slimmer spokesman — or none at all.

York points out that Weight Watchers has reduced its reliance on spokespeople, perhaps because it recognizes their liabilities. Weight-loss companies likely know that most diets fail and most dieters gain significant weight back, and using real human beings as spokespeople risks drawing attention to this fact. A revolving door of slimming celebrities can take the emphasis off any one star's weight gain for a while, but perhaps the smartest approach is to promote the nebulous concept of weight loss without tying it to any specific person. Of course, this strategy won't help dieters, who are still being sold the idea that losing weight and keeping it off is easy, as long as they're not slackers with no willpower. It also won't help Jared Fogle, a man who will be known for the rest of his life primarily for whether or not he stays thin. Fogle chose this path, but it's still somewhat disturbing to see him walk it, dogged by paparazzi who can't wait to see him "backslide," and by the risk that Subway will decide his body no longer represents their brand.

Celeb Dieters: What Happens When The Pounds Creep Back? [AdAge]

Related: New Photos Show Subway Guy Jared Fogle's Weight Gain [Examiner]