Fit for business

Like Raath, these satisfied clients wanted to make SureSlim their career and became franchisees, opening up the Surrey location in the Fleetwood area. Raath adds: "I'm also currently dealing with someone interested in Halifax. And we have a franchise opening in Mississauga in November, and three more locations on Vancouver Island by a current franchisee." He expects to open 40 more locations across Canada within the next few years.

The Canadian Immigrant magazine
May 1, 2009

Fit for business
Margaret Jetelina

Many newcomers find that as their time in Canada grows, so does their waistline. South African immigrant Gerald Raath offers all Canadians a new way to lose weight.

With a permanent residency card in one hand and a Big Mac in the other, newcomers to Canada may find that they not only gain a new life, but also a bigger waistline.

There is something about the Canadian lifestyle that makes longtime immigrants and first- and second-generation Canadians pack on the pounds, suggests a recent report from Statistics Canada. Adapting to a North American (read fast-food) diet and a sedentary (read couch-potato) lifestyle are the meat of the problem.

Gerald Raath, owner of the SureSlim Wellness Clinic franchise in Canada, an immigrant himself, sees this trend swelling. "I have observed that people who are immigrants, when they come to this country they start to eat the North American way," says Raath, who was born in Kenya and lived in South Africa before immigrating to Canada. "For a lot of Indian people, their cholesterol goes through the roof. When Chinese people come to Canada, they gain, too."

Of course, for every fast-food restaurant in North America, there seems to be a gym or weight-loss clinic, too. Raath's SureSlim franchise is unusual in that its origins were not in North America, but in South Africa.

"I negotiated with the owners to bring SureSlim to Canada in 1999," says Raath, who is based in Victoria, B.C. "It wasn't easy; when you arrive in this country as an immigrant with great ideas, you tend to get shut down. They tend to look down on ideas not from North America. I thought I must be insane to challenge North America on the weight-loss industry," he says.

Raath knew he'd have to prove to Canadians that his weight-loss system works. Of course, being a SureSlim success story himself doesn't hurt. Raath lost 70 pounds (32 kilograms) on the program while living in South Africa in the 1990s.

At the time, Raath was co-owner of a discount department store in Nelspruit near Kruger National Park. "We sold everything from furniture to electronics, and employed more than 70 people," he says. But while growing his business, Raath also started to grow in size. "I had developed a tremendous weight issue. I had fought it for years, trying to lose weight with limited success," he says.

Raath explains that he had tried lots of different diets and weight-loss pills, but he could never lose the weight and keep it off until he tried SureSlim.

"It wasn't a fad thing; it was about eating natural foods," he says. "I lost 70 pounds and my health improvement was unbelievable. Before, I was seriously asthmatic, suffered from sleep apnea and could hardly walk. Not only did I lose weight, but I could feel my body changing; I could feel the health oozing back into my life."

He no longer had asthma or sleeping problems. "I'm not exactly a thin person, but I no longer have an issue controlling my weight. I was 290 pounds [131 kilograms], now I currently revolve around 210 to 220 [95 to 99 kilograms], and my doctors are always saying my cholesterol is like a child's."

Trim, fit and feeling ready to take on the world, Raath and his wife, Glynda, who also joined the SureSlim program, decided to leave South Africa.

"We were getting tired over there. We wanted to move to a less violent country - and our countries of choice were Australia and Canada," he says. They chose Canada because the entrepreneurial Raath wanted to open a SureSlim franchise, and the franchise was already well established in Australia.

"SureSlim was a very emotional thing for me, which is why I wanted to start my own SureSlim franchise," he says. Raath opened the first location in Victoria in 2000 and, in 2002, he acquired master franchiser rights to sell SureSlim franchises across Canada. In B.C., there are now two locations in Victoria, one in Surrey and one in Coquitlam. There are two in Calgary, Alberta. In Ontario, there is one in Hamilton and Stoney Creek.

Unlike many other weight-loss programs in North America, SureSlim takes a very scientific, medical approach, which claims it will correct your body metabolism and balance hormone levels. Each client begins the program with a blood test, which is analysed by a physician.

"When we do someone's program, we consider the blood test results; we look at kidney, liver and thyroid functions, and lipid profiles, together with age, height and sex, and we feed that information into our software program to get their correct nutritional needs," he explains. "It gets people eating the correct way, with the correct balance of proteins, vegetables, fruit and so on."

Raath explains there are three key hormones involved in digestion and the metabolic process - insulin, human growth hormone and serotonin. When these chemicals are not balanced, the body goes into survival mode and begins to store fat. SureSlim creates eating plans that either stimulate or suppress the production of these hormones to correct any imbalances. The weight-loss portion of the program incorporates lots of vegetables, meat, fish, poultry and some dairy, but only a very small amount of starches like bread and crackers daily. Specialized programs can be created for vegetarians or people with culturally specific needs.

"I've seen thousands of people not only lose weight, but also have lots of health improvement," he says.

Helen Janos is one of these SureSlim success stories. Also an immigrant from South Africa, Janos found that she couldn't lose weight, even though she exercised frequently and was always on some sort of diet. "I had a hard struggle with my weight," she says. "When I got into my 40s, I felt absolutely horrible. I was tired, depressed and bloated."

After she and her husband, George, immigrated to Canada in 1995, she heard about SureSlim and started the program. "She didn't tell me right away," says George, "but I started to notice what she was eating." Helen dropped 40 pounds (18 kilograms). Her husband, George, dropped 20 pounds (nine kilograms).

After taking the initial blood test, Helen had also discovered that she had a thyroid problem, which had never been diagnosed before. "Not only did I lose weight, but my metabolism and thyroid fell into range," she says.

Like Raath, these satisfied clients wanted to make SureSlim their career and became franchisees, opening up the Surrey location in the Fleetwood area.

Raath adds: "I'm also currently dealing with someone interested in Halifax. And we have a franchise opening in Mississauga in November, and three more locations on Vancouver Island by a current franchisee."

He expects to open 40 more locations across Canada within the next few years.

Now that's growth that Raath need not try to lose.

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