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David Geffen School of Medicine

Appetite for Change

  Family portrait of Dan Galorath
  This family portrait of Dan Galorath (center) inspired him to address his weight issue.
Photos: Courtesy of Dan Galorath

By Dan Galorath

If you asked me 10 years ago what it meant to feel satisfied at the end of a meal, I wouldn’t have known how to answer the question. Back then, I usually ate until I couldn’t eat any more. You know that sensation — the uncomfortable point of feeling like one more bite and you will burst. That was how I ate. And I am sure if I had kept going like that, it would have killed me.

I started out heavy. My family was not well-off — my parents divorced when I was young, and my father wasn’t particularly good about paying child support, so my mother made do with serving my two sisters and me what she could afford; macaroni was a staple of our diet. And the decades in which I grew up, the 1950s and ’60s, were an era when your mom told you to eat everything on your plate because there were children starving in China. It was never clear to me how cleaning my plate was going to help starving children thousands of miles away, but that was the way I was raised. Then there was the fact that my mother often claimed she wasn’t hungry so there would be more for us, which just meant that much extra food on my plate for me to clean up. And I did.

Though my childhood was one of serious weight problems and husky-size clothing, I did get lean during my adolescence. I was never particularly athletic, but I got on the Stillman diet and took to riding a bike a lot. It was fortunate that the combination of diet and exercise worked for me, and I didn’t really give it much thought and stayed fit through my early adulthood. But when I was in my mid-30s, married and with kids, old habits kicked back in. Remember those starving children in China? If our five sons left food behind on their plates, I would eat it. Perhaps Chinese children weren’t starving in the ’80s and ’90s, but in my head, that was still where I was at. Stack on top of this the abundant quantities of snacks and junk food in the house. Of course my wife, being the wonderful mother that she is, delighted in making homemade cookies for the kids, so those were always around — fresh, warm and delicious. Add to the mix, this also was the period during which I was building a business, which created a lot of stress in my life. Whatever exercise I was doing, I stopped to make more time for my long work days.

  Dan Galorath chair and snowshoeing

At his heaviest, “I felt embarrassed to be me,” Dan Galorath says. Since dropping the weight, he has become an avid fitness advocate.

The weight started to creep back on. I had no understanding of nutrition or portion control. I am not an emotional eater, but if there was food available, I would devour it. As I said at the beginning, I didn’t know what it meant to be satisfied — eating until you are no longer hungry and then stopping. I thought being full meant stuffing myself until I wanted to throw up.

I tried lots of diets: Weight Watchers. Atkins. Jenny Craig. Nutrisystem. You name it, I tried it. I’d lose a bunch of weight, but then it would come right back, plus 10 or 12 pounds more. With each diet it seemed, I ultimately put on more pounds — the all-too-familiar diet yo-yo. One day, I stopped to look at a photograph on the wall of our home of myself, my wife and our sons, taken on a beautiful day in a park not far from our house. And I was appalled. Discouraged. Angry. Looking at that image of me — which hangs next to a picture of my wife and me when we were married and I was in good shape — I felt like I didn’t care about myself. I asked: “What’s wrong with me?” I had young kids, and I couldn’t do anything physical with them. I had a young wife, and I felt like I had let her down. My life was going pretty well in most respects — my family and business were doing well, and we had a nice lifestyle. But I felt embarrassed to be me. One time I was flying on business, and the seat belt wouldn’t fit around me, and I had to get an extension. It was so humiliating.

  Dan Galorath at wedding
  Dan Galorath is the founder and CEO of Galorath Inc. in El Segundo, California. He lost more than 90 pounds as a patient in the UCLA Risk Factor Obesity Program and has maintained an
appropriate weight since 2007.

I didn’t know what to do. I considered bariatric surgery, but that felt too extreme, and the thought of it scared me to death. I was getting kind of desperate; I knew that I had to do something. Then I heard about UCLA’s Risk Factor Obesity Program, which sounded like it might be a good option for me. It turned out to be a great decision. It wasn’t easy. Keeping to a medically supervised protein-powder diet that allowed only 920 calories a day was a challenge for someone who easily could consume thousands of calories at a sitting. Anyone can lose weight on such a diet, but that wasn’t really the hardest part for me. I needed to relearn how to live my life. The classes and support helped, and I kept with it. I had to acknowledge and abandon old habits and build new ones. I learned how to manage social and business situations without insulting everyone around me while maintaining my commitment to the plan. I learned about nutrition and appropriate serving size and to say “no” to fresh-baked cookies and that a small amount of exercise didn’t burn enough calories to offset a huge burrito. I re-learned to exercise and build muscle, something that now is a priority for me. And I learned what it means to be satisfied.

If I hadn’t lost the weight, I truly believe I might no longer be alive, or, at the very least, I would be absolutely miserable. I was heading toward a heart attack or a stroke or some other devastating weight-related event. Before I undertook this journey, I had food; now I have a life. And for all those who supported me along the way, I am forever grateful.

To learn more, visit the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition and its Risk Factor Obesity Program website.


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