Tough lesson: Weight loss is only half the battle

We first met Stephen Pagano in October 2014.  His size 6x pants measured out to 70 inches.  The day we visited with him, he was down to 44 inches. 

With a starting weight of 600 pounds, Stephen dropped down to 275 in two years gaining motivation in a very unusual place -- a theme park. 

Back then, he was a season pass holder at Busch Gardens in Tampa, walking the park for exercise and dreaming of riding roller coasters.  The problem was he was too big to fit safely in the seat belt.

After dropping 275 pounds, he rode his favorite, Sheikra.  

Stephen also got support at Weight Watchers.  He earned tokens for his milestones, and for participating in 5K and 10K walks and runs.  He got a job at a local Publix supermarket corralling the same electric carts he once used to shop. 

Two years later, however, almost all of Stephen's weight was back.  He's now facing the same challenge he did in 2012.

Pagano says the weight starting coming back when his park pass expired.

"I wasn't going here, I started a job, it was hard to schedule them together," he admits. 

This was his first time back to the park in two years. "I miss it."

Stephen says there were many reasons why he believes the weight returned.  At 25, it was tough to resist temptations going out with friends, and on cruises.  Self-image also played a role.   

"When I was smaller I had a bunch of saggy skin.  It was screwing with my head...I was getting depressed just looking at myself," he explained.  

His weight loss program changed and was no longer working for him.  "I miss the meetings, huge support."

But today, courtesy of a Busch Gardens employee, Stephen's got a new pass.  As he and I walked the park, he could still remember trivial details about the park he spent so much time visiting -- a special place allowing him to regain incentive, to move ahead, and re-lose the weight he gained back. 

Through it all, there's something he'll never lose: Hope. 

He's now being considered for a reality TV show where contestants undergo bariatric surgery. 

His advice to others: "Don't give up."