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Personal Stories


Ashlee Before Gastric Bypass
Ashlee Before Gastric Bypass

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with my weight and body image. I’ve tried every diet and weight loss program out there from the time I was 16 well into my late 20s. I would always lose weight, then something would cause me to backslide and I would gain everything I lost plus some extra. This cycle repeated over and over for more than a decade.

I’ve always been a happy, spirited, and outgoing person. My weight and size never inhibited me socially. There were several periods in my life where I decided to just stay big and be happy. To my knowledge, I didn’t have any health problems like diabetes or anything, and I was still fairly able-bodied despite my size. More and more of my favorite stores were carrying plus sizes, so I could still dress fashionably. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it, right? Wrong.

Ashlee Before Gastric Bypass Surgery

From summer 2014 to the end of the year, due to a new neighborhood, changes at work, and other factors, I rapidly added another 25-30lbs to my already too-heavy frame. The plus sized fashions I had come to love were getting tighter and tighter. Basic activity became more difficult, and I was starting to experience back and knee pain. Eventually, I was so embarrassed and disgusted with myself, I stopped wanting to go out and be my normal social self. The “stay big and be happy” plan was not working.

In January 2015, after another failed round at a popular weight loss program, I had my first appointment with Dr. Ellner, where I saw my highest weight ever: 260.5 lbs. I couldn’t believe it. If I had let things go on for another year, I could have easily reached 300 lbs. My pre-op lab reports showed I was in the danger zone for type 2 diabetes. High blood pressure and stroke risks run in my family. I knew it was time to stop killing myself by trying to do it on my own and concede to the fact that I needed help.

On April 6, 2015, I arrived at Sharp Memorial Hospital to have gastric bypass surgery. Thank to Dr. Ellner’s skills and care, my surgery went extremely well. I had no post-op complications and within 4 weeks of surgery, I was back to almost my regular activity — I even started running!

Ashlee After Gastric Bypass Surgery
Ashlee After Gastric Bypass

I spent years being envious of people who ran past me at the track as I walked because they made running look so easy. I made several futile attempts at trying to run; the most notable one ended with me in hysterical tears of frustration and defeat after not being able to complete a .5 mile running exercise. I thought I gave up on running forever that day. Since having surgery last April, I have lost just over 100 lbs. Exactly 5 months after my surgery, I completed my first half marathon at Disneyland with a finish time of 3 hours and 49 seconds. I am signed up for 3 more half marathons in 2016, and a bunch of 5k, 10k, and 15k events in between. Whenever I get tired on a run or think I’m not going to make it, I think of the girl who couldn’t run a half-mile a year ago, and I finish my races for her.

Ashlee After Gastric Bypass

Having weight loss surgery definitely wasn’t easy. I had to make a lot of major changes to my lifestyle, especially the way I view and treat food, and prioritizing exercise. Thanks to Dr. Ellner’s guidance along the way, I’ve learned how to make healthy choices and to treat food as fuel. I now eat to live instead of living to eat. I still love food, but I love it differently. I’ve learned to appreciate food on a better level. Even though I can’t eat as much as I used to or as frequently, my new tool has still allowed me to be a bit of a “foodie.” Yes, despite what you may have heard: you will eat again! Just not very much, and you’ll make better choices.

I am grateful everyday for what choosing gastric bypass surgery has done for me. For every pound I’ve lost, I have gained so much more. I’ve made tons of new friends, had dozens of new experiences, and a I’ve generally got a whole new grasp on life. Many consider weight loss surgery to be the easy way out. This journey has not been easy, but it has definitely been worth it.

If you have questions about gastric bypass, or want to know more about my experience, you may email me at