My Patients


Personal Stories



o you have a troubled relationship with food? I did, for decades.

I carried around a mental picture of this relationship. In my mind’s eye I could see an old-fashioned scale, the type that’s like a seesaw, with a pan hanging from either end. In one pan were enormously important things in my life that were damaged by overeating: My life expectancy, my quality of life, my self-esteem, my appearance, my health, how I felt bodily from minute to minute and to a large extent, my relationship with other people. In the other pan was just one thing: Eating too much.

How in the world could too much food overbalance nearly everything else in life, so many of the really fundamental, vital things needed for happiness? Somehow it had become that way for me, this despite years of struggle to make it otherwise.

days after gastric bypass surgery
At Ragged Point

I had not been a fat kid. In fact, during my mid-teens I had a better-than-average physique. But those muscles slowly started getting covered by fat during college. It got worse as the years rolled on. An office job in aerospace did not help. The comfort and joy I found in food carried a steep price. Turned out I was naturally gifted in adding weight, no matter how many times I spoke sternly to myself about the need to change, no matter how deep the shame, no matter how committed I felt at the start of each round of dieting.

Oh, there were brief episodes of slimness, those times when I’d manage to diet and exercise successfully for several months. But the weight always came back, and with a vengeance. By the time I was in my mid-40s my doctor told me it was either lose weight now or 10-15 years down the road “they would be warming up the catheters” for a cardiac by-pass.

I loved food while I was eating it and hated myself afterwards. Over and over. I knew what I was doing to myself, bite by bite, day after day, the violence I was inflicting on my innards, the erosion of my self-respect and my abdication of the power to direct the course of my own life. Food was my solace, and the worse off I became for abusing it, the more I craved it in excess. Food, my closest friend and worst enemy. It never failed to soothe for the moment and wreak havoc in the long term.

By the time I was in my early 60s, it was clear I was headed for a premature death due to overeating. Classic, catastrophe-causing symptoms were there: High blood pressure, high blood lipids, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and Type II diabetes—the latter two discovered by tests that Dr. Ellner ordered. I was a walking time bomb, ready for an early grave or crippling disability, brought on by my failure to rein in my food consumption.

weight lifting after gastric bypass
Weight Lifting After Gastric Bypass

I’d love to know just why controlling my food intake became the biggest challenge in life I could not master. I have known success academically and professionally. My family life is good. Very good, actually. I have college degrees and deep interests in diverse areas. But food--why food? Why eating? Why should this primal, universal act be at the root of my greatest failure?

Actually, I still don’t fully know the answer to “why food?”, but Dr. Ellner showed me the practical solution to the problem. She offered a tool--gastric by-pass surgery--plus the knowledge and wisdom distilled from treating many patients before me. That surgical tool and her expertise, dedication and care, coupled with my motivation forged from a lifetime of frustration and failure—these have joined together to produce success where I have known only failure before.

I told Dr. Ellner and my family physician that “I needed a reboot”; it had to be strong medicine, a personal revolution. No one needed to tell me diets didn’t work. I had to take a dramatic course of action and make a commitment large enough to overcome my legacy of dieting failures. After attending one of Dr. Ellner’s introductory seminars, it appeared that gastric by-pass represented that powerful, game-changing step I needed to commit to.

Rich 3 Months after Gastric Bypass
3 Months After Gastric Bypass

Human nature being what it is, I did feel trepidation at the thought of truly, earnestly forsaking chronic overeating. Of course, I was also forsaking continuation of the enormous damage I was doing to my body and my psyche during those many years of overindulgence. Dr. Ellner inspired trust, on both a technical level and on a humanistic, personal level. That’s a powerful combination. I signed up.

First came the diagnostic tests--whose results proved that I was in more trouble than I realized. Seriously more trouble. But knowledge is power, and the news that I had a dangerous case of sleep apnea and had also recently slipped over the line into Type II diabetes strengthened my resolve and commitment to turning it all around.

The Liver Shrinking diet prior to the operation was not difficult to maintain, especially as the pounds quickly dropped off. Success builds on success. By the time my surgery date rolled around I had lost 60lbs of my 90lb goal. After surgery the weight continued to disappear. I’m working on the last 10lbs now.

My waist size has gone from a 44 to a 36. I’m bicycling like I used to as a young man. I walk about an hour a day, nearly every day. I lift weights and can feel my muscles strengthen and swell, bringing back memories of a much younger and healthier me.

I can personally attest to the efficacy of Dr. Ellner’s program. I needed a revolution in my life and I got it. My future now looks brighter than it had for years. It’s both a gift and something I have earned, and I will hold onto it for dear life.


Email sent to Dr. Ellner in July, 2018:

Dr. Ellner & Team -

I hope you've all been well. Dr. Ellner, you've often encouraged me to "get back on the water". Does "over the water count"???

My gastric bypass surgery in 2015 has allowed me to be active in ways that would have been difficult or impossible before it. I was able to check a box on my bucket list yesterday--and--live to tell the tale. Learning to "lay aloft" is an option in the tall ship crew training I've been taking aboard the "Star of India". About 15% of the trainees attempt it. The goal is to eventually be able to work up there--safely.

  1. "Star of India" is moored at San Diego's Embarkadero
  2. Receiving final instructions
  3. Approaching the rope ladder shrouds
  4. On the starboard foremast main yard
  5. The foot rope rises and falls as you or your crew mate steps along it
  6. Safely back on deck

The most difficult--and scary--part was taking the big step away from the shrouds to the yard, and then reversing it on the return.

I hope to sail as a crew member aboard the Star of India or one of the other tall ships in San Diego this November.

Thank you for your expert help in making this possible!

My best to all.


Richard's First Climb Up
A Ship's Rigging Part 1
Richard's First Climb Up
A Ship's Rigging Part 2