WITH her confidence at rock bottom and in a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting, Andrea Norris knew she desperately needed to do something about her weight.
She’d reached a staggering 16 stone after piling on the pounds after having two children and was depressed with being the “biggest one out of her friends”.
Watching the TV one day, Andrea caught a segment about the Elipse Balloon – a non-surgical weight loss treatment which involves swallowing a capsule-encased balloon, that is then inflated to keep the stomach feeling full.
After a consultation, the primary school teacher, who lives in Littlehampton, West Sussex, decided to have the procedure in May 2019.
She has shed an impressive five stone in just nine months and now feels happier than ever.
Andrea said: “I am feeling one thousand times better about myself.
“It’s crazy to think that this time last year, I hadn’t even heard of the Elipse Balloon. It’s all happened so quickly.”
Andrea first started gaining weight after falling pregnant with her eldest child around 16 years ago.
And busy with her new life as a mum, getting in shape took a back seat as she begun eating huge portions – leading to the pounds slowly piling on.
She said: “I’ve always cooked fresh meals from scratch, so wasn’t eating loads of junk food or anything like that.
“Breakfast would be toast, yogurt and fruit, and lunch a salad – but then for dinner, I’d have massive portions of whatever I’d made for the family.
“We have these huge dinner plates and now I look back and wonder how I ever managed to pile them high and eat the lot.”
As Andrea grew to a size 22, she became embroiled in a vicious cycle of dieting, whereby she would lose two stone, only to regain it and pile on additional pounds too.
“I had tried every diet under the sun,” she said.
“Each time, I would lose around two stone, only to gain it all back plus more.
“I absolutely hated being the biggest person in my friendship group, and those negative thoughts I had about myself kept chipping away.”
I absolutely hated being the biggest person in my friendship group
By the start of 2019, Andrea was completely fed up and had virtually no self-confidence.
Her size was also causing her physical problems, like terrible knee pain, making exercise virtually impossible.
At 5ft 6in, this put her body mass index – used to gauge if a person is a healthy weight – at 36.1, compared to the healthy range recommended to by the NHS of 18.5 to 24.9.
However, in February, Andrea stumbled across a TV segment about the Elipse Balloon.
“I was intrigued and right away thought, ‘Here’s something I haven’t tried yet’,” she said.
“I liked that it was non-invasive. It seemed less drastic than something like a gastric band.
“I got straight on finding out where I could get it done near me and made an appointment right away.”
After a consultation, Andrea decided to go ahead and had the procedure in May 2019, performed by Mr Simon Monkhouse, a consultant weight loss surgeon at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital in Horley, Surrey.
She said: “Beforehand, I had a long appointment with a dietitian, who talked me through all the things I’d be able to eat afterwards.
“I had a whole programme set out, including a few days of being on a liquid diet, while my body got used to having this alien object in my stomach.
“There was so much to think about that I was almost on the journey before I’d had the procedure. It was really exciting, though.”
During the procedure itself, which took around 20 minutes, Andrea swallowed a thin polymer film balloon, which was encased in a capsule.
“It was almost like swallowing a big tablet,” she said.
“It did feel a little strange – but it was all over so quickly.”
Then, the Elipse Balloon was inflated in her stomach with 550ml of liquid to keep her feeling full.
At first, she followed an all-liquid diet and, other than a little nausea in the days immediately following the balloon’s insertion, she recovered virtually instantly.
In the first week alone, she lost just under a stone and, soon moving on to solid food, she worked closely with a dietitian to ensure she was putting the right things into her body.
Week after week she was losing more weight – and also noticed a huge shift in her mindset.
“One of the biggest things I have learnt is how to identify when I’m actually hungry,” she said.
“Before, I thought I was hungry almost constantly – but now I know I wasn’t, I just wanted food.
Every pound I lost gave me that push to keep going
“I’d emotionally eat, or do it out of boredom, or because the food was there – not because I actually had to.
“Spire Gatwick Park Hospital also gave me fantastic support, which spurred me on even more.
“I found reading other Elipse Balloon success stories really motivating, and every pound I lost gave me that push to keep going.”
After four months, the balloon naturally deflated and passed out of Andrea’s body painlessly through her gastrointestinal tract.
“I had been dreading the balloon deflating, as I worried that’d mean going back to my old ways, like I had so many times before,” she explained.
“But by then, my habits had changed beyond all recognition.”
Now, as she looks back and reflects on just how drastically her body has changed in the past year, Andrea believes her bad habits are behind her for good.
These days, she will have a protein yoghurt for breakfast, chicken salad for lunch and fresh vegetables with fish in the evening.
And she always eats from a smaller side plate, so she can control her portion sizes – also reducing the amount of calorie-packed alcohol she drinks.
How can a gastric balloon help you lose weight?
The balloons reduce the free volume in the stomach and therefore constrict how much a person can eat before feeling full.
It can be taken under the supervision of a medic, nutritionist or dietitian in a process that lasts just 15 minutes.
Patients swallow the pill with a glass of water, and once it hits the stomach, the balloon is filled with a pint of water through a tube.
The tube then detaches from the balloon and it pops after four months and passes out painlessly through the body.
Experts have said the pill could be used to fight the UK’s obesity crisis, which raises risks of type 2 diabetes, heart and liver disease and cancers.
Professor Jason Halford, from the University of Liverpool, said: “Potentially millions could benefit.
“It is cost-effective. If the studies are there, it should be considered on the NHS.”
Dr Simon Cork, of Imperial College London, added: “A device which doesn’t require surgery is a positive step forward.”
“I used to drink five nights a week, but now, moderation is key and I know that I have the power to make my own choices,” she said.
“I don’t have to drink just because other people are.”
No longer requiring any painkillers for her knees, Andrea hits the gym three times a week for a workout session, exercise class or a swim.
By speaking out, she wants to give hope to others trapped in a cycle of yo-yo dieting, just like she once was.
More weight loss success stories
“I am enjoying life so much more now,” she concluded.
The Elipse Balloon is available at private clinics in the UK (from £4000) for adults over the age of 18 and with a BMI of 27 and above.
For more information visit the Elipse Balloon website here.