Subway diet train stops in Irmo
Local firefighter touts weight-loss success in new commercial

By JAYMI FREIDEN Staff writer


A firefighter from Irmo is the latest diet success story from Subway restaurants, dropping more than 130 pounds on a regimen that included plenty of exercise and a few sub sandwiches a week.
And if you've watched television lately, Clay Henry's song probably is stuck in your head:

"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."

The commercial featuring Henry, who volunteers with the Irmo Fire Department, began airing nationally around Christmas.

"It's unbelievable," said Henry, a 26-year-old finance student at USC. "All this just from eating a sandwich and doing something positive for yourself."

Henry had been overweight all his life. But he got motivated to lose weight when he started volunteering with the fire department at age 18. At 6 feet 2 inches, he was at his heaviest at about 330 pounds.

Irmo Fire Department chief Mike Sonefeld said when Henry started, there was no gear large enough to fit him. He had to borrow a set of bright-red equipment from the state fire academy.

"He stuck out so bad," Sonefeld said, laughing.

Henry knew he had to lose weight, and he discovered subs were much more healthful than burgers.

When Henry saw Jared Fogle gain fame after losing 245 pounds by eating at Subway twice a day, he knew he was on the right track.

"Instead of going to Taco Bell or Pizza Hut, I started going to Subway."

His favorite meals are the turkey and ham, club, and roasted chicken subs.

Henry also started exercising. And he grilled and broiled fish and chicken, and ate breakfasts of fruit and cereal.

Over four years, the weight started coming off. Some months he'd lose 15 pounds, other months only five. He ran a marathon last summer.

In late 2000, with encouragement from his co-workers, he e-mailed Subway with his story. He had lost about 115 pounds.

A few months later, Subway contacted him about appearing in a commercial, but he couldn't because he had exams. Subway called again about a commercial being filmed in July 2001. He flew to Los Angeles for three days to appear as a firefighter in the spot.

"It's much harder than you think," said Henry, who estimates he slid down the firefighter's pole 25 or 30 times during the taping.

He puts up with a lot of good-natured teasing at work. He's often serenaded with a few rounds of "He's Henry, Clay Henry."

Michelle Donnelly, his fiancee, eats subs with him a few times a week. She knows the song by heart.

"I'm really proud of him," she said. "He's a very motivated person, and it motivates me."