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After 236 pound loss, speaker says he doesn’t intend to quit

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image Stephen Pagano goes over some of the things he chooses to eat while losing 400 of his 600 (starting) pounds with Weight Watchers leaders Janet Wright, left, and Michelle Broedur. Photo Penny Fletcher

Anything is possible if you stick with the program, say his Weight Watchers leaders.

At 25, Stephen Pagano is looking forward to doing a lot of things he’s never done before.

In fact, he’s already started.

“I dropped out of high school at 16,” Pagano said. “But I got my GED (general education diploma) this year and I’ve already started taking business courses at HCC (Hillsborough Community College).”

After leaving Brandon High School, Pagano held a job but said eventually it became hard for him to work.

Then it became almost impossible for him to walk at all.

At his top weight, he was almost 602 pounds.

“I never took my weight really seriously before,” he said June 1 before giving an inspirational talk at Weight Watchers Riverview on Big Bend Road. “But when I couldn’t get around, I knew I had to do something.”

So he got very serious about losing.

“I always had my Smartphone with me so I started online,” he explained. He enrolled in the Weight Watchers program and 16 months later, he had lost 236.4 pounds.

“I had been using electric chairs,” he said. “But recently I walked around Busch Gardens twice, just to see how far I could go.”

That was a total in one walk of 7.5 miles.

When he was first able to walk, he began attending meetings at the Brandon Weight Watchers Center under the direction of Michelle Brodeur.

Now 395 pounds, Pagano said he has about 220 more to lose.

But how can someone lose so much in so little time?

That’s what the 70-plus standing-room-only crowd at the Live Life Active Celebration came to hear.

Although it was a national day of celebration held by Weight Watchers groups all over the country, each group got to choose its own agenda.

The Riverview Center, led by Janet Wright, had two “success story” speakers besides Pagano, one who had lost 70 pounds and another 110; and also called in experts to give demonstrations of  activities including laughter yoga, a fitness workout, someone from the Silver Sneakers program (an AARP program for people over 55), Zumba, Judo and health screenings.

Wright — a Weight Watcher herself, as are all the leaders — said she had gone through her leader’s training in Chicago with someone who had lost 306 pounds.

“Anything is possible if you just stick to the program,” Wright said.

Stephen said he is doing that in every way possible. He checks the Weight Watcher “point value” (a method by which every member knows how much he or she should eat daily) of everything before he eats it; attends meetings online and in person, and is increasing his activity level.

He wears a special monitor that tracks his physical activity as well as counting his food points.

“There is no food that is off limits with the program,” said Wright. “But each person has an assigned number of daily points and they must decide what they want to use them on.”

Naturally, a lot of fruits, vegetables and exercise are recommended but if he wants to balance it against something else, Pagano said he can have his piece of pizza or cake when he really wants it.

In that case, he knows he must weigh — or measure — his portion exactly, in order to stay on track.

Making up for lost time, Pagano said he will attend HCC classes this summer as well as in the fall.

“I’m not sure what I want to do yet,” he said. “But I know I want to be in some kind of business.”

To find out more about South County Weight Watcher’s Center in Riverview, visit the website at http://tinyurl.com/observernews1a or drop by the center at 10629 Big Bend Road (in the Sweet Bay Plaza).

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