A woman vowed to lose weight last Christmas has lost three stone in four months by having a £3,700 balloon inflated in her stomach.
Caroline Eardley wore a size 12 and weighed 11 stone in her early thirties.
But after Caroline, now 40, met her partner, recruitment company boss, Alex, also 40, in July 2012, she started matching his portions when they ate together – and she gained weight.
Eventually, she was 15st 2lb and a size 16-18 which, at 5ft 7in, put her body mass index (BMI) – used to gauge a healthy weight – at 33.2, compared to the NHS recommended range of 18.5 to 24.9, making her obese.
The final trigger came last Christmas when the subject of her weight was brought up by family members.
Caroline, who runs her own PR agency, said: “My family are the kindest people you’ll ever meet, so they only brought it up because they were concerned about my health.”
She continued: “My weight gain had been quite steady over a couple of years. They’d never said anything about it before, so the fact it was being mentioned at all was eye-opening.
“I knew they’d never say anything to hurt my feelings, so the fact they’d plucked up the courage to say something showed me this was more than a few festive pounds.”
After hearing about it through a friend, in February 2020, Caroline paid £3,795 for an 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.
In just four months, she lost three stone, and now weighs around 11st 11lb, having continued to slim down even after the balloon passed naturally out of her body.
Now a size 12, she said: “It felt strange as the balloon inflated. It was a bit like being force fed and eating three big Christmas dinners, one after the other.
“But what having it did for me was to take away my guilt over food and allow me to give myself permission to enjoy what I do eat, and indulge in the occasional treat. It’s the first time in years that feel I’m in control of my body and what I put in it.”
Growing up, Caroline had a “complicated” relationship with food, often falling into a pattern of emotional eating.
She said: “I’ve always been conscious about my weight.
“I remember looking at a group school photo when I was about eight and feeling frightened about what people would say because my tummy was sticking out so much.”
As she got older, she continued to struggle.
“I had a really good lifestyle and am a confident person – but all of that just felt at odds with how I really felt about my weight and how I looked,” she continued.
When Caroline met Alex in 2012, she was actually at her slimmest – 11 stone.
But as she settled into her new relationship, her weight began to creep up.
She explained: “I was very settled and happy with my life, but I ate and drank whatever I wanted.
“Looking back now, I can see part of the problem was that I was eating the same size portions as Alex, who is a 6ft man.”
Then, in mid-2019, having just turned 39, Caroline began thinking about weight loss, deciding that she wanted to get into shape in time for her 40th in May 2020.
But her final wakeup did not come until December, when the subject of her weight was bought up by concerned family members.
Around the same time, she looked back at some photos from a girls’ trip to Lanzarote in September 2019 – and was horrified by what she saw.
“We’d had a great time on that trip, but when I looked at the photos I was shocked by my weight and how unhealthy I looked,” she said. “I had so much fat around my face that my eyes had practically disappeared.”
So, in early 2020, Caroline decided to opt for an Elipse balloon.
The weight loss aid – suitable for people over 18 whose BMI exceeds 27 – sees patients swallow a capsule-encased balloon which, once inside the stomach, is inflated with a saline solution to simulate a feeling of fullness.
She added: “I wouldn’t want surgery – that would have been too extreme for me – so the Elipse balloon was a really good alternative.”
Following a two-hour consultation at Pall Mall Medical clinic in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, she was officially accepted as eligible for the procedure.
Next, she took daily anti-reflux medication for 14 days to ensure her body would not try to reject the balloon. Finally, in mid-February, she had the procedure itself.
She explained: “It was a challenge swallowing the capsule, which is about the size of a tampon, but the doctors prepare you for what to expect.
“I did gag and spit it out a few times, but was able to swallow it with the help of some fizzy water. Doctors then waited for half an hour for the capsule to reach my stomach, and took an X-ray to make sure it was in the right place before inflating it via a tube.
“If you don’t count the wait for the capsule to get to the stomach, the whole procedure took just 15 minutes.”
Heading home that same day, Caroline then spent the next 48 hours in bed, resting up. Although she did experience a little discomfort, she said it was minor, and within two days, she was able to eat a small ramekin dish of mash and baked beans.
She also had a dietician checking in with her daily for a week, to ensure she was staying hydrated and healthy.
Gradually but steadily, the pounds began to fall away, and she became increasingly mindful of what she was putting in her body.
Then, on June 10 – almost exactly 16 weeks after she had swallowed the balloon – Caroline woke and felt something had changed.
“There was no real pain,” she said. “But I had a sharp cramp, like a period pain – and then nothing.”
It turned out that, though she did not realise it at the time, the balloon was dissolving and passing naturally out of her body – just as it is designed to do.
Now, Caroline has not only lost weight, but has changed her entire relationship with food.
Her confidence restored, she escaped the UK for a holiday in Greece in October, when lockdown restrictions were lifted – and proudly wore a bikini for the first time in her adult life.
She said: “I was always that person in the black swimming costume, but when I put on a bikini for the first time in October, it felt really liberating. The balloon is not a magic pill. You still have to change how you think about food and what you’re eating.
“But I now eat a quarter of the portion sizes I used to, and I also eat far less processed foods. I try and eat everything in an eight hour window too, so I’m not eating too late.”
“I don’t drink alcohol any more from Monday to Thursday, but have any treat I want at the weekend. The bingeing and purging that was happening before is a thing of the past,” she concluded.
“It’s a great feeling knowing I look and feel healthier.
“Emotional issues around eating are a lifelong challenge but the balloon has given me the tools and knowledge to be more accountable for myself.”
The Elipse Balloon is available at Pall Mall Cosmetics for adults over the age of 18.