Patients → Personal Stories and Testimonials

You Too Can Do What Others Have Done


HEY! Who is this lady bold enough to have her picture professionally taken for Christmas presents, while sporting a sassy black hat, a power-red designer outfit, and beautiful jewelry? I haven’t known her for a long time, in fact, I just met her a couple of months ago. It’s me, Debbie Van De Riet, and I’m so happy to be the lady in the picture!

I say I just met her a couple of months ago because that is when I marked my 100 lb weight loss. That was when something happened that would never have occurred without the fabulous Dr. Wittgrove, his incredible staff, and Gastric Bypass Surgery. I am here to tell you that I have NO complaints and NO regrets whatsoever!


I am sure that you’ve heard about the surgery via this website, the newspapers, magazines, friends and/or family. I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories also. My story is all about the positive side of the surgery. I sailed right through the surgery and the recovery with only one issue. Let me first tell you about that “one issue” and then we will get to the awesome part of this experience.

During my second month post-surgery, I became dehydrated and had to be hospitalized for 24 hours to get hydrated again. I knew for about a week that I was getting in trouble and was in constant communication with Dr. Wittgrove’s office during that time. On Friday, we all agreed that a hospital visit was required to get hydrated again and stay there. TIP: Don’t let yourself get dehydrate. Finding veins isn’t fun when they are collapsed.

I don’t know why some people have problems and others don’t. I do know that I followed Dr. Wittgrove’s eating plan to the letter. When his plan said to eat vegetables, I ate them. When he said not to eat beef for six months, I didn’t. I also took my vitamins religiously.

Sure I threw up a few times, but I learned that the first two bites of every meal would set the tone for the rest of it. I also complied with follow-up requirements, which included checking in with him every three months during the first year. It’s simple. I did what I was told to do…..quite successfully.

I didn’t come into this surgery easily. A good friend of mine, and her daughter, had this surgery and were doing awesome, but I was a faithful Weight Watcher girl. Thinking back on it, I was an Atkins girl, a Jenny Craig girl, a Slim Fast girl, and even an Optifast girl.

In 2003 I made a major life change and moved from Seattle to San Diego. Now, there was no reason whatsoever for me to consider this drastic surgery. I had every intention of joining Weight Watchers again and walking every day! I don’t need to tell you that none of that happened! Needless to say, I was devastated. I was very heavy and gaining. It was time to face reality.

It was then I saw a commercial with Carne Wilson and realized I lived within 30 minutes of her physician, Dr. Wittgrove. I immediately called his office and scheduled me into his next informational seminar. From that moment on, I was absolutely committed to, and at peace about, having the surgery.

On April 20, 2004, Dr Wittgrove gave me the tool that would allow me six months later to meet myself: Gastric By-Pass Surgery. I didn’t go into the surgery with any preconceived ideas about changing my life. I just wanted to change my weight.

I had been very successful in life, in relationships, and in business, but could never get a grip on my weight. On the day of surgery, I weighed 284, was a solid 3X (size 20-22), and ready for a change.


I don’t have a lot of “before” pictures, simply because I would almost never allow my photo to be taken. I knew I was attractive. I knew I was successful. I didn’t need to look any further than from my neck up to feel good about myself. I never ever looked at me in a full-length mirror or window. I even refused to look at my shadow! I accepted myself the way I saw me…..only from the neck up.

I’m a forward-looking person and as such there is no need to talk about who I was at this weight. I did, however, include a bit about what made me successful and who I am today. Thanks for letting me share. I really liked the lady in the picture to the left but I love the lady below that I got to meet a couple of months ago.


1. I absolutely believed in my doctor, in the process of the surgery, and the aftercare that followed.

2. I had an incredible support group. My family here in San Diego took on my day-to-day care and my family and friends in Seattle stayed very close to me via constant phone calls and emails. As a member of the fabulous San Diego Chorus, I have 150 girlfriends that showered me with encouragement and support every Wednesday night. It was always enough to last until the next week!

3. I made rules for myself such as eat nothing that has more than 4gm of sugar per serving, eat by the clock, and use hot chicken broth as my comfort food when I had difficult moments.

4. Sugar Free Popsicles and Crystal Light were saviours for me. I used them as a treat or to flavor the water until I didn’t need them anymore. I have an intolerance to sugar now and LOVE IT!

5. I resolved to rid myself of all nasty habits. This would include caffine, sugar, being a couch potato, and snacking. I was a real addict when it came to Diet Coke. This drink had amazing power over me. I wanted a Diet Coke so bad, I actually cried for it one night and then I swore it off forever!

6. I always made sure I knew where the restrooms were wherever I was eating out. I also learned very quickly to try new foods at home before trying them in public. I finally understood and accepted that this time, I would be thin! By following the food plan that Dr. Wittgrove prescribed, I quickly left size 20, moved to an 18. Somehow, I skipped 16 and 14 and suddenly was a 12. All of that in just six months. Today I am a size 10 and think I’ll end up a size 8. Unbelievable! Fabulous!!


I twirl! When people say I look good, I twirl for them with my arms outstretched and a big smile on my face.

I have kneecaps! I’ll never forget the evening I was reading a book on my bed and took the blanket off my legs…. I gasped when these two little kneecaps popped up and said “Hello” to me. I had never met them before either.

I look at myself all the time. I always stop and look when I approach my reflection in a full-length window! The first time this happened, I grabbed my daughter’s arm and yelled, “Stop”! She said, “Mom, what’s wrong?” I said, “Look at my reflection!” She slugged me and laughingly, we went into the mall. (I still stop and look every time!)

I know every inch of my body now.I scratch my back and feel bones! I’ve had to become reacquainted with my breasts, or lack there of. Self-breast exams are very different now! A couple of months ago, I had this huge lump right between my ribcage. I thought I had a tumor….it was just the bottom of my sternum! Dr. Ellner and I laughed!

I’m a Nordstrom and Victoria Secret Girl now. What a blast to have a wardrobe sale of all my clothes! An even bigger blast is to start from scratch and build my closet again from my new favorite stores. I’m out of control and lovin’ it!

Two biggest lessons I learned.

  1. It’s not a requirement to buy an extra large Snicker’s candy bar every time you buy gas. I was just amazed at this!

  2. Jewelry is a great reward! Just trust me on this one!

Best of all…

As of today, I’m down 126 lbs with less than 10 to go. I have come from a size 20/22 to a solid 10 Medium. I cannot express the difference in me. People tell me I even walk differently now. There is a renewed sense of confidence.

Losing the weight was my only desire, but the physical and social benefits that came along with the weight loss are over the top. I will weigh myself everyday for the rest of my life. At 53 years old, I now think of myself as beautiful….stinkin’ cute…and ready to embrace life. Oh, and best of all… I love looking at my shadow!

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