After the excesses of the holiday season, the New Year means dieting for many people – but in Florida, dieting can be fun as well as healthy.
The secret to one successful dieter losing hundreds of pounds was walking round Florida’s famous theme parks.
Stephen Pagano used to enjoy riding Florida’s thrilling roller coasters, but in the days when he weighed around 43 stone, (600 pounds), he could not fit in the seats and get clipped in to the safety gear, the Tampa Fox news site reports.
So instead of enjoying the theme park rides, Stephen would walk round the parks as exercise instead of using a gym treadmill. Making good use of his annual pass to Busch Gardens, Stephen visited several times a week for almost three years.
He also received help and support from Weight Watchers in Brandon, Florida, and expanded his exercise goals over time. He still carries a keychain filled with charms the represented each completed 5km run or weight benchmark.
It took two years and a loss of around 23 stones (325 pounds) before Stephen could get back into the seat and ride the rollercoasters again.
Garrett Kenny, CEO of leading Florida real estate agent and developer, Feltrim Group says, “Florida is famous for the South Beach diet, but perhaps now Stephen’s ‘theme park’ exercise method will take off and help people shed a few pounds gained over Christmas – as well as having fun.”
Stephen always had trouble with his weight and in his early 20s his health spiralled out of control.
“I couldn’t walk from the (Publix) parking lot into the building. I needed an electric cart. I was so oversized, it was dying pretty quickly. I had to do something,” he says.
Stephen used to wear a 9 XL and 70-inch waist pants. Now, he has lost half his body weight, and his waist measures less than 44 inches.
“It’s been a long time since I met somebody with the drive that he has,” says Peter Berry, one of his work supervisors. “If anyone has the drive to lose 350 pounds, that tells me something about their personality, and their drive to make themselves better. Hopefully, I can have ten more Stephens.”
Stephen still visits Busch Gardens every week and rides the big rollercoasters, but he also has a new goal, to go skydiving.
And his message to fellow dieters is to keep going. “Take it one step at a time, one day at a time. Tomorrow’s a new day, just get started. You only fail if you give up,” he says.