Radical ways to fight obesity are on the increase, as more people choose surgery instead of eating less

For millions it is as much a part of the festive season as the mince pies and the hangovers. But for some the January diet is being shunned this year as weary revellers choose radical new cosmetic surgery techniques to battle their bulges.

So out go the Atkins and the F-Plan as those desperate to fight the flab look instead to gastric balloon insertions and lap band tightening. Keyhole surgery and non-invasive procedures have revolutionised the world of cosmetic medicine, and Britons are now abandoning the old-fashioned approach to weight-loss.

Last year, the number of overweight people choosing to slim surgically rocketed by 60 per cent, according to one leading clinic. Medics expect that this year will see an even greater number of slimmers willing to take such drastic action.

"There has been a huge increase in surgery," said Janet Edmond, of the British Obesity Surgery Patients' Association. "We expect it to double next year as well."

Obesity in Britain has quadrupled in the past 25 years. Three- quarters of the UK population is overweight and one-fifth is now classified as obese. Operations to deal with clinical obesity are on the increase within both the NHS, and the private sector. Transform Medical Group revealed that thousands were signing up for its procedures. These include the insertion of an inflatable balloon in the stomach that restricts the amount of food a person can eat.

One of those desperate for positive results is Emma Wade, a 19-year-old medical student, who has had a gastric balloon pushed down her throat to her stomach. She payed £6,000 to have the silicone bag inserted. It was then filled with a saline solution. Since the operation two months ago, her weight has dropped from 17.5 to 15.5 stone. However, the big test will come when the balloon is removed in two months' time.

Other obesity operations are for life. Gastric banding accounts for more than half of all operations for obesity and it sees a permanent adjustable band inserted under the skin and around the stomach at a cost of £6,830.

The effect is similar to that of the balloon. The more established gastric bypass, meanwhile, shortens the intestine surgically so food bypasses most of the stomach. It costs £10,400.

The non-invasive nature of the balloon is thought to appeal to those who might balk at the idea of liposuction or a gastric bypass. However, Dr David Haslam, from the National Obesity Forum warned: "The artificial balloon technique is not gentle on the stomach. The NHS doesn't use it."

Case Study: 'I'm determined this will work'

Emma Wade, 19, works as a sales adviser while studying to be a doctor. She paid £5,995 to have a gastric balloon inserted in her stomach at the Transform clinic in Harley Street, London, last October. She has lost two stone.

"I was always really chubby as a child. I'm a comfort eater. I've tried dieting but it never worked. I went to a surgery clinic and just asked 'what can you do for me?' I chatted to a consultant and agreed to have it done. It was as simple as that. When I first decided to have it done my boyfriend didn't agree with me because of the price - £5,995 is quite a lot for a balloon. When I got there I was put under general anaesthetic and afterwards the clinic told me the procedure took under seven minutes. I was able to leave that night. It was weird to have a foreign body in my stomach. The clinic gave me a dietician and she has been brilliant. The problem is that you can't eat any fat because if you do your body rejects it. You have to eat little and often. I have experienced some pain in my stomach. Part of the problem is that I work in a call centre as well as being a full-time student, so I'm quite stressed. The balloon comes out in April, and I'm really looking forward to it. I am determined that this will work."