Fill’er Up

Nonsurgical weight-loss procedure provides effective alternative to conventional dieting.

Looking back on her first few years in college, April* often wonders how it was she managed to find the time to keep up with her studies. She was a very active co-ed, after all, a member of both her school’s cheer squad and its soccer team.

Stock photo from

Weight-loss treatment is one of many wellness services provided by the ZMD Center.

April remained active even through graduate school, playing recreational soccer and softball whenever she could and working out regularly at the gym. It wasn’t until she entered law school that the demands of her education finally forced her to slow down.
“I just didn’t have the time to do all the things I was doing to stay in shape,” April explains. “I still got to the gym a couple days a week, but once I passed my bar exam and started working, I couldn’t even find the time to do that regularly.”

Stock photo from

Before & After

April first began to notice the change her less-active lifestyle was taking on her several years ago, when she could no longer fit into a particular size 6 dress she liked. After a while, those size 6 dresses became size 10s and eventually size 12s.
“I’m five-foot-four, and right after my thirty-eighth birthday, I went shopping for a new dress. I noticed that even the twelves were a little tight,” April relates. “That’s when I realized my weight gain had gotten out of control and decided I needed to do something about it.”
April tried dieting for a while, but without regular workouts to augment the diet plan, she struggled to lose the weight. That’s when she decided to take a different approach to losing weight.
Anxious to lose 40 pounds, she did not qualify to undergo LAP-BAND® or gastric bypass surgery. April acted on a tip from a friend, who recommended ZMD Center for Face & Body Rejuvenation – A MediSpa.
During her first visit to ZMD Center, which offers an array of aesthetic treatments and services, April met Brian K. Zebrowski, MD, a board-certified general surgeon who recommended that April try the Obalon® Balloon System.

Obalon Balloon System

The Obalon Balloon System is an FDA-approved, three-step, nonsurgical procedure in which the patient swallows a vitamin-sized capsule that contains a small balloon. The balloon is then filled with a gas similar to nitrogen.

Graphic courtesy of Obalon.

Patients swallow three capsules each containing a small balloon, which are filled with a
gas similar to nitrogen.

The balloon is filled through a tube connected to the pill. Once filled, the balloon floats in the stomach and effectively shrinks the available space inside the stomach. The patient feels full and therefore eats less.
“The problem many people have with losing weight is that they are used to taking in, say five thousand calories a day,” says Dr. Zebrowski. “In order to lose weight, you have to cut back on your calorie intake, which means you have to run your body at what it perceives to be a deficit.
“When you’re running your body at a deficit, you get cravings to eat because you get hungry. The Obalon Balloon System combats that by giving you a sense of fullness, which helps to take away those cravings.”
The program calls for patients to swallow three pills at different intervals, with the second pill usually being swallowed two weeks after the first and the third usually being swallowed nine to 12 weeks after the second, according to Dr. Zebrowski.
The three balloons remain in the stomach for a period of six months. They are then removed through endoscopy, and research shows that patients typically lose about three times more weight through the Obalon system than by dieting during that span.
“One of the great things about the procedure is that everything is done while the patient is awake,” says Dr. Zebrowski, whose MediSpa is the first in Tampa to offer the Obalon Balloon System. “That’s why I emphasize that it’s a procedure, not surgery.
“Surgery is when we alter the anatomy. With a gastric bypass or a sleeve or band, we physically change things. With this procedure, no incisions are made, so there’s no need for general anesthesia, and when you’re done, there’s no scarring.”
There is, however, more to the program than just pills, balloons and that feeling of satiety that they leave. At the ZMD Center, Dr. Zebrowski has a team of registered dieticians who help educate patients throughout the process about eating healthy.
That education, Dr. Zebrowski says, is what helps prevent patients from gaining back the weight they lost. It is also one of the reasons why he prefers the Obalon Balloon System over surgical treatments such as LAP-BAND and gastric bypass.
“With gastric bypass or some other weight-loss options, you can lose twenty pounds in forty days,” Dr. Zebrowski confirms. “But at the end of that time, are you really in a place where you’re going to maintain yourself? Do you even know how to maintain yourself?
“Our process lasts a full year, six months with balloons and six months without balloons, and during that time, you learn how to eat properly, which means eating proper portions that regularly contain meat and vegetables.
“That’s what our dieticians teach. A large part of our goal is to educate you so that you continue to eat the proper way for the rest of your life, not just the one year or six months.”

Looking Better, Feeling Great

April’s goal was to lose about 40 pounds and return to wearing at least a size 8 dress. She surpassed her goal and lost a total of 45 pounds and 12 inches overall during the six months with the balloons. April has continued to stay at or near her goal weight since having the balloons removed four months ago.
“I know I look better now that I’ve lost the weight,” April reports. “The best thing, though, is that I feel great. I’m a lot more confident about my appearance, and I feel a lot healthier because I know I’m eating right.
“I can’t thank Dr. Zebrowski enough for suggesting the Obalon Balloon System, and I’m so grateful for all the people at ZMD Center who helped me along the way. The dieticians did a great job educating me on how to eat properly and keep the weight off, and it’s working.”

*Patient name withheld at their request
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