01 Oct 2022

Mum will run London Marathon as she wins 20 year weight battle in 15 minutes “almost immediately” losing 24lb after swallowing a balloon

Mum will run London Marathon as she wins 20 year weight battle in 15 minutes “almost immediately” losing 24lb after swallowing a balloon

A mum is sprinting back to fitness and plans to run the London Marathon this year after winning her 20 year battle with her weight in 15 minutes prompting an “almost immediate” 24lb loss after simply swallowing a balloon.

Now shedding the pounds “without trying,” as her appetite has been reduced by half, Nicola Denley, 53, has lost 24lb since having a £4,000 non-surgical procedure in November 2021, and will be polishing her running shoes in time to complete the famous 26 mile circuit of the capital in October.

Too unfit to join the marathon last year, postgraduate student Nicola, of Hook, Hampshire, who has three children – students William, 20, Isaac, 17, and Noah, 13, with her IT expert husband, Andrew, 46 – said: “The balloon was inside me in minutes. It was so quick.”

She added: “You just swallow it down, the surgeon fills it with water and, since having it, I can maybe eat half of what I could before.”

Nicola, who had struggled to shift her pregnancy weight after each child, reached a size 18 and 13st at her heaviest which, at 5ft 5in made her body mass index (BMI) used to gauge a healthy weight, 30 – higher than the NHS healthy range of 18 to 24.9.

She said: “I tried every diet under the sun.”

She added: “With every last one my relationship with food became more destructive.

“For example, I did a juice fast once, lost 10lb and put 20lb immediately back on.”

Putting her weight gain down to juggling family life and a naturally large appetite, despite enjoying “a few glasses of wine” most evenings, as well as chocolate and snacks, Nicola was always very active – joining a local running group five years ago.

But she said: “It was difficult running at my size.

“It’s hard to run in the way you want when you’re carrying so much extra poundage.

“I couldn’t get the speeds that I wanted. Being overweight just made everything much harder work.”

Signed up to the London Marathon for 2021, when she began training for the event, Nicola quickly realised her fitness was not good enough, leading to her deferring her place.

This was the trigger she needed to tackle her size once and for all and, after reading about the Elipse balloon procedure online, she decided to go for it.

She said: “I didn’t qualify for other weight loss surgery, as I wasn’t big enough.”

She added: “But this balloon, which stays in place for six months, was a temporary measure that would do the same thing as a bypass in shrinking my stomach.”

After 18 months of considering the procedure and gaining 10lb, she contacted bariatric surgeon Dr Simon Monkhouse in 2020, paying £3,950 to have it fitted at the Spire Hospital in Gatwick, West Sussex.

She said: “I got up with the kids, sent them off to school, then drove to the hospital.”

She added: “I was weighed and measured, then given a tablet to swallow.”

The tablet, which contains the balloon, is the width of a finger and is connected to a wire.

As Nicola struggled to swallow it and the capsule quickly starts to dissolve on contact with the saliva in the mouth, Dr Monkhouse helped guide it down past her tonsils.

Nicola said: “After that, it was fine. The balloon has a tube attached to it and is then filled with around 550ml of water. The tube is then taken out.”

In all, the procedure takes less than 15 minutes and is dubbed a “lunchtime procedure,” as there is no need for any anaesthetic or waiting time before or after.

Nicola said: “I didn’t feel sick at all.”

She added: “Within two or three days, my appetite was back, but I could only have a fifth of what I’d have had before, so I was delighted.

“Even now, a few months on, I can maybe manage half of the portions I’d once have eaten without any thought at all.”

Nicola, whose diet previously included treats like a tub of ice-cream for dinner and chocolate brownies for lunch, now has porridge sweetened with raisins for breakfast, salad for lunch and meals such as fish or a stir fry for dinner.

She also limits her alcohol intake as her cravings have reduced.

She said: “I try hard to stick to a calorie-controlled diet. Having the balloon in place just makes it so much easier, as I physically can’t overeat.”

In four months, she has lost 24lb and currently weighs 11st 4lb, is a dress size 14 and has a BMI of 26.

While she hopes to reach 10st, she says the transformation in her fitness is what has most astonished her.

Just this week, she smashed a personal best for a 10km run that she had set in her 20s.

She is also confident about her ability to run the London Marathon this year.

She said: “I’d like to have lost more weight, but I’m running so much faster. My recovery is better and I feel fitter than I have in a decade.

“I’m so glad I’ve done this for myself.”

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