By Meneesha Govender

I was a bit sceptical about trying out an eating programme that promised amazing results. In my experience, diets seldom work and if they do, it involves a lot of pain and deprivation.

My problem with most eating programmes is the requirement that I have "five small meals a day". What IS that? I eat on the go - while I'm driving to pick up and drop off kids, at my computer just before the next 10-minute deadline, 30 minutes before my bath and bedtime. Try factoring five "small" meals into that kind of day. Try finding a lunch box to carry all these "goodies".

It is for this reason that my biggest problem has always been that I do not (or forget to) eat until I am really ravenous and then I eat the first thing I see - which, most often, is something that is really not good for me.

So I went into my first consultation with Dr Rajen Cooppan feeling rather nervous and anxious about the Slender Wonder programme.

First off Cooppan was at pains to state that this is not a diet. It is a "formula" based on three fundamentals.

Cooppan, who runs the programme at SanAquam Urban Sanctuary in Durban North, was very encouraging and talked me through how the next six weeks would play out.

The initial consultation involved getting on to a rather intimidating scale (one you would associate with weighing large carcasses at a butcher) and having my body stats measured with a body stats analyser.

All of this data was entered into a computer that did the necessary calculations - BMI, goal BMI and weight, body hydration percentage, fat and muscle percentages and other things we need to know before the programme can get going.

Cooppan then explained the worst part - I needed to inject myself every day before noon!! Well, I almost walked out. Ask me to starve myself, ask me to eat bland, tasteless food, ask me to detox, ask me to do anything else - but don't ask me to inject myself. The very thought made me nauseous.

Cooppan took my response in his stride and proceeded to show me how to administer a "minor pin prick" there and then. To be honest I felt nothing, but a tiny squeal still escaped from between my clenched teeth.

Needless to say this injecting myself was something that took a bit of getting used to. My family soon learned to ignore "soap opera mornings" with quiet diplomacy.

Injections aside, the rest of the programme was just made for me. I did not have to have five meals a day, and best of all it worked for me as a busy mom and journalist on the run.

The "formula" is based on:

1. Raising the leptin levels in the body and this is done with the injection. Leptin cannot be taken orally as it will be broken down in the liver before its desired effect is attained. Hence the need for the injection;

2. Breaking up the fat globules that are stored in fat cells and expelling them out of the fat cells (this translates into centimetre loss); and

3. Re-training the body to benefit from using low glycaemic index foods.

The Slender Wonder eating programme involved consuming two rather delicious shakes, supplements as well as one meal of protein and vegetables a day.

Some foods were an absolute no-no: oil or butter, potatoes, rice and pasta.

I also had to do some form of exercise. I wanted something that I could do at home, preferably while watching the 7.30 news, and something that did not require hours of blood, sweat and tears - high standards, I know.

I have discovered a trampoline or rebounder that is just great (it even has my kids moving) and 30 minutes on it every day is all that's needed.

The combination of supplements, injections, eating formula and exercise are meant to contribute to the process of fat burning.

Cooppan warned me not to look at my scale. "The statistics we are interested in will not show on a bathroom scale," he said. "Scales only show weight loss, but that does not mean fat loss."

So every two weeks I had to go back for a body stats machine session and that showed whether I had lost fat, whether my hydration levels were correct and whether I had gained muscle.

After two weeks my weight had not changed, but I was happy to see I had lost fat and gained muscle. That was the most encouraging thing as muscle is heavier than fat. I began to feel my clothes getting loser and after three weeks I had gone down a dress size.

The results became apparent almost immediately on my face, arms and upper body and people were noticing.

But by week four we began to see a pattern that suggested my use of asthma medication and a sluggish metabolism were contributing to me not seeing results as quickly as other people do.

My programme was adjusted to factor these variables in.

I have decided to continue with this programme - it is something that works for me and does not involve fussy foods and spending hours preparing meals.

And now the injection routine is as easy and painless as making myself a cup of coffee. It is all just a part of the morning routine - goodbye soap opera mornings.

However, I have to stress that this programme does not offer a quick fix to weight loss and good health. Like all programmes it is a lifestyle choice and requires commitment and some work.

The results vary and while some women do see an average weight loss of five kilograms every two weeks, my results were not apparent overnight. That said, the changes are definitely visible and that is very encouraging.

The Slender Wonder Medical Weight Loss Programme has been around for 37 years and boasts that more than 36 000 people have successfully lost weight.

About 65 percent of these successes have apparently translated into permanent weight loss.

The programme is run by a medical team and is based on the discovery that low leptin levels lead to weight gain and sluggish metabolism.

Leptin is a hormone that is produced in fat cells. Adequate leptin levels enable fat burning rather than fat storage and switches off the potent feeding stimulus substance in the stomach called Neuropeptide Y.

The programme is initiated by the medical team assessing the client's needs using various measurements and a body stats analyser.

Once the baseline measurements are done, the client is taken through the programme step by step.

Progress is tracked every two weeks. Sanaquam offers ongoing medical and psychological support throughout.

Depending on the needs of the client, the cost of the programme starts at R1 300 a month.

For more information call SanAquam Medi Spa at 0861 999 181 or e-mail [email protected]