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Subway spokesman visits Ranch hospital

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  • | 4:00 a.m. September 30, 2009
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — Although Lakewood Ranch Medical Center CEO Jim Wilson has never weighed 400 pounds, he has much in common with Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle, who lost more than 200 pounds by walking and eating Subway sandwiches.

Wilson, 40, has conquered his own battle with an unhealthy lifestyle and weight gain.

He and Fogle briefly shared their stories with members of the medical center’s staff Sept. 23 as a way to energize them before the American Heart Association’s Sarasota/Manatee Start! Heart Walk on Sept. 26 at Payne Park in Sarasota. About 100 members from the hospital’s staff walked in the event. The entire hospital worked to raise more than $13,000.

Julie Johnston, regional director for the American Heart Association for Sarasota and Manatee counties, said both Fogle and Wilson are perfect examples of how simple changes can make a dramatic difference on your health.

“(Heart disease) can happen to anybody — regardless of your age or what you look like,” she said.
Unlike Fogle, who weighed 425 pounds at 20 years old, Jim Wilson was a college swimmer. As an athlete, weight had never been an issue he graduated and took a job that required a lot of traveling. Soon, Wilson said, he became complacent.

“When you eat out a lot, you lose your objectivity of making appropriate dietary decisions,” Wilson said. “It’s very easy to get caught up in going out to eat, or saying, I’d rather watch that TV show than running around the block.”

Then, about 10 years ago, Wilson’s father was out golfing one day and experienced chest pain. Thinking he had pulled a muscle, he visited his doctor, who immediately sent him to the hospital. At 47 years old, Wilson’s father had quintuple bypass surgery.

At that time, Wilson realized he needed to make changes, he said. Although he couldn’t change his family genetics, he could take better care of his body.

He forced himself to eat more healthily, taking extra time to read labels at the grocery store, and started on a vigorous exercise regiment.

He dropped more than 50 pounds.

“I love working out,” Wilson said, smiling. “You get to meet people leading a healthy lifestyle like that. People just focused on losing weight may miss out on the bigger picture. That’s where the Start Heart Walk comes in. Everybody has a choice.”

The Start! Program is the American Heart Association’s national, yearlong campaign calling Americans and their employers to create a culture of physical activity and health through walking programs. The Start! Heart Walk is the celebration event of that campaign and the signature fundraising event for the American Heart Association, said Kate Sawa, the organization’s marketing director.

As part of the Start! campaign, individuals can register online for a free, Web-based fitness and nutrition tracker and download the Start! Walking Program, which has three downloadable walking plans with varying goals and fitness levels. For more, visit

Contact Pam McTeer at [email protected].