Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Health

This man has lost 284 pounds — and counting

VALRICO

By now, many Americans are vigorously walking the treadmill, pushing themselves on the stair climber, straining through situps and lowering their intake of beer and chips, all to meet their New Year's resolution to lose weight. It was mere coincidence that Stephen Pagano started his diet and exercise program on Jan. 2, 2012. He was resolved, but it had nothing to do with New Year's. That just happened to be the date that Pagano reached his limit. At 601.4 pounds, he could hardly bear the pain of standing. He knew that soon he would have to use a motorized cart to get around. "It's either live like this and die, or make a change,'' he thought.

He joined Weight Watchers and, except for a few lapses that made him feel sluggish and depressed, stuck to it. In nine months, he had lost 100 pounds. "When I hit 100, I knew I could do this.''

As of this week, Pagano has lost 284 pounds. Now at just over 317, his goal is to get down to 180 pounds.

Pagano, an unemployed 25-year-old who lives with his mother in Valrico, is a reticent talker. He said he finds it hard to trust people. In school, he was the frequent butt of jokes. He could not fit in a desk, so he sat in a chair off to the side in class. Bullies would call him names, or they would pretend to befriend him, only to get him to do something "so they could all laugh.''

He remembers the relief he felt when he dropped out of school at 16. "It just went quiet.''

In the years since, he continued to put on pounds. Wilma Peoples watched it happen from the sales counter at the local Walgreens. They started talking about it, and she encouraged him to lose weight, telling him he was too young to be so heavy. "We just formed a bond from then on,'' she said. On the day he announced he was on a diet, she didn't believe him. But over the weeks, she noticed the pounds disappearing, and she became a kind of cheerleader for him, encouraging him, telling him to not lose patience.

"I am so proud of him,'' she said.

Pagano's mother is thrilled. "Oh, wow, he's doing great,'' Gloria Madonna said. She has seen him try and fail to lose weight a number of times, and she's not sure why he stuck to it this time.

"I think he was just tired being by himself, being like a loner.''

Madonna is going to Weight Watchers, too. She has lost 40 pounds and wants to lose another 60. She said her son has had a weight problem most of his life; part of it is genetics, she figures, but she wonders whether steroids he was prescribed for allergies as a little boy may have triggered it.

Pagano said he blames no one but himself. He just never made a real effort to control it until now.

"I would eat all times of the day, and I was eating the wrong stuff,'' he said. "A normal dinner would be like 2 pounds of chicken tenders from Walmart, plus a half pound of fries, while drinking a 2-liter (bottle) of Mountain Dew.''

Now, he said, he weighs everything that he eats. He goes to the gym twice a week. But he said his favorite place to walk off weight is Busch Gardens. Using his annual pass, he goes to the park about two days a week.

He has even more reason to go: He can finally fit on the rides. Before, he was too big for the seats. The seat harness would not buckle. Then, one day last November, "it clicked,'' he said, "and I was excited.

"Now I can't get off them,'' he said with a rare grin.

Losing so much weight, however, has left rolls of loose skin, and Pagano worries about being able to afford an operation to remove it.

Such an operation is considered cosmetic, said his physician, Dr. Robert Friedmeyer, though insurance may pay "a small portion'' of it if a case can be made that it would be beneficial to his health. "We'll work on that as soon as he chooses a plastic surgeon,'' Friedmeyer said.

Compounding his difficulties, he'll be dropped from his mother's policy upon turning 26 next month. Being unemployed, he's worried about being able to pay for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Having recently earned his high school equivalency degree, he said he's looking for a job and will work for "anybody that will take me.''

Friedmeyer, who practices in Brandon, seems amazed at Pagano's progress. "He's just phenomenal.''

Friedmeyer has watched his client's blood pressure drop substantially. He has determined that Pagano is no longer pre-diabetic. Apparently, after repeated lapses, something clicked this time. Pagano has stayed on the steady path toward his goal.

Friedmeyer's prognosis: "I think he's going to make it.''

Philip Morgan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3435.

     
Comments
Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

GENEVA ó Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing. In its latest revision to a disease class...
Published: 06/19/18
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
Itís time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Itís time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
Itís important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

Itís important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, donít forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. Thatís because both products work to protect your body from the sunís damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG ó Kidney disease doesnít discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Published: 06/08/18
Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

YES, MELANOMAS CAN BEGIN IN THE EYEIs it true that melanoma can develop in the eyes? If so, how common is it? How is it treated?Melanomas can begin in the eye, a condition called intraocular melanoma. Treatment for intraocular melanomas used to prima...
Published: 06/08/18
For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

High-intensity interval training is one of the biggest trends in fitness, but it has always seemed a bit scary to me. To a mere mortal with achy knees and an aging body, even the acronym ó HIIT ó sounded intimidating.But recently, I overcame my fears...
Published: 06/08/18
Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: Ďdraggedí

Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: Ďdraggedí

By KATIE WORKMANOne of the amazing things about Italian food is that the best dishes are often so completely, refreshingly simple. Like, four-ingredient simple. (We donít count olive oil and salt. Or water. Or air.) I love broccoli. I can roast brocc...
Published: 06/08/18
What to get Dad? Try a Fatherís Day gift that will do him good

What to get Dad? Try a Fatherís Day gift that will do him good

Dads are notoriously tough to shop for. Theyíre not all that great at dropping hints, the way moms do, and if you ask what your dad might want or need for Fatherís Day, heíll likely say, "Nothing" or "Donít spend your money" or "I just want to be wit...
Published: 06/08/18