What is OPTAVIA?
The team behind Medifast introduced a health and wellness lifestyle program under the OPTAVIA brand, offering products called “Fuelings” with the identical macronutrient profile as its original Medifast products. The company states that by integrating healthy habits, working with its coaches and following its nutritional guidelines including OPTAVIA products, you’ll achieve “lifelong transformation, one healthy habit at a time.”
More specifically, if you stick to the brand’s Fuelings and supplement them with a “Lean & Green” meal (one meat, veggie and healthy fat entrée) each day, you’ll stay full and nourished. You also won’t lose loads of muscle because you’ll be eating lots of protein, fiber and key nutrients while consuming very few calories – typically 800 to 1,000 for adults. On average, clients lose about 12 pounds in 12 weeks on the Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan.
Some carb curbing also goes on behind the scenes. Because carbs are your main energy source, restricting them sends the body to the best available alternative fuel: fat. OPTAVIA is said to curb carbs just enough – you’ll eat 80 to 100 grams a day – to start burning fat.
For the beginners, Various Cookbooks on OPTAVIA are available.
- Nutritionally sound
- No counting carbs, points or calories
- Bars and powdered, just-add-water food
- Might be tough to stick with
OPTAVIA is Ranked:
- No.3 diet in Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets (Tie)
- No.7 diet in Best Weight-Loss Diets (Tie)
- No.8 diet in Best Commercial Diet Plans
- No.8 diet in Best Diets for Diabetics (Tie)
How does OPTAVIA work?
Most dieters follow the Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan, which includes five Fuelings a day. You can choose from among more than 50 options including shakes, bars, soups, biscuits and pudding, all of which include high-quality protein and a probiotic the brand says supports digestive health. Your sixth daily meal, which you can have at any time, is built around cooked lean protein, three servings of nonstarchy vegetables and healthy fats.
While on the diet, you’ll work with OPTAVIA coaches and can become part of a community to help encourage your success. Once you reach your goal weight, transitioning off the plan is theoretically easier since your old habits are replaced by healthier ones. The company offers a specific line of products via its Optimal Health 3&3 Plan designed for weight maintenance.
For people looking for a slightly more flexible and higher-calorie diet, OPTAVIA also offers the Optimal Weight 4&2&1 Plan, which includes four Fuelings, two Lean & Green meals and one healthy snack, such as a serving of fruit or a baked potato.
The company also markets specific plans for people with diabetes, nursing moms, people with gout, seniors and teens.
How much does OPTAVIA cost?
Prices for OPTAVIA’s Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan range from about $400 to $450 for 119 servings or about three weeks’ worth; that’s about $13-15 per day. The additional grocery tab won’t break the bank – you’ll be buying mainly vegetables and a little protein to supplement.
Will OPTAVIA help you lose weight?
How much you lose following the OPTAVIA diet plans depends on things like your starting weight and age, as well as how well you stick to the plan and how active you are.
OPTAVIA represents the community of coaches and lifestyle brand Medifast launched in 2017. Previous studies were conducted using Medifast products, not the new OPTAVIA products. While the OPTAVIA products represent a new line, Medifast has advised that they have an identical macronutrient profile and as such are interchangeable with the Medifast products. Therefore, we believe the following studies are relevant when evaluating this diet. Little research specifically on the OPTAVIA brand has been published.
The studies, as is true for most diets, have been small, with many dropouts. Short term, it seems impossible not to shed at least some pounds; you’re eating half the calories most adults consume. Research seems to support that. The long-term outlook is less promising. Here’s a closer look at the data:
- A 2019 randomized controlled study sponsored by Medifast and published in the journal Obesity Science and Practice found both the OPTAVIA and Medifast groups, which provided different levels of behavioural support, were significantly more effective for weight loss than a self-directed, reduced-calorie diet. The 16-week study resulted in an average weight loss of 11 pounds in the OPTAVIA group.
- A 2017 study sponsored by Medifast found that more than 70% of overweight adults who were put on Medifast and received one-on-one behavioural support lost more than 5% of their body weight by their final visit (anywhere from four to 24 weeks later).
- A 2016 study supported in part by Medifast and published in the journal Obesity found that obese adults lost 8.8% of their body weight after 12 weeks on Medifast products and OPTAVIA-style coaching, and 12.1% of their body weight if they took phentermine, a weight-loss drug that can reduce food cravings, at the same time.
- A 2015 study released by Johns Hopkins Medicine found little reliable evidence that most commercial weight-loss programs – including Medifast – resulted in people achieving long-term weight loss. The researchers reviewed studies that ran for 12 weeks or longer and on randomized control trials. Participants in low-calorie meal programs, such as Medifast, lost more weight than nonparticipants in trials lasting four to six months. But the researchers only found one long-term study, which showed no additional benefit for these plans at 12 months. The very low-calorie programs also carry higher risks of complications, including gallstones, the researchers found.
- A 2015 study in the Nutrition Journal looked at the charts of 310 overweight and obese Medifast clients who followed the Achieve Plan and found that participants who stayed on the plan lost an average of about 24 pounds by 12 weeks and 35 pounds by 24 weeks. No matter their age or gender, participants lost mostly fat rather than lean muscle.
- A small study, funded and designed by Medifast and published in 2010 in Nutrition Journal, randomly assigned 90 obese adults either to the 5 & 1 plan or a calorie-restricted diet based on government guidelines. After 16 weeks, those in the Medifast group had lost an average of 30 pounds compared with 14 pounds for the other group. But 24 weeks later, after dieters gradually upped their calories, the Medifast dieters had regained more than 10 pounds, while the others had put back on about 2 pounds. At week 40, the Medifast group had less body fat and more muscle mass than at the start but didn’t significantly outperform the control group. By the end, almost half the Medifast group and more than half of the control group had dropped out.
- A Medifast-funded study of 119 overweight or obese participants with Type 2 diabetes, published in the Diabetes Educator in 2008, randomly assigned dieters to a Medifast diabetic plan or to a diet based on recommendations from the American Diabetes Association. The Medifast group had lost an average of 10 1/2 pounds after 34 weeks, but, after 86 weeks, had regained all but 3 pounds. The diabetics on the ADA-based diet had lost an average of 3 pounds at 34 weeks; at 86 weeks, they had gained it all back plus a pound. The dropout rate was nearly 80%.
- In a Medifast-funded analysis published in 2008 in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders, researchers looked at the medical records of 324 overweight or obese Medifast dieters who were also taking a prescribed appetite suppressant. The patients lost an average of 21 pounds at 12 weeks, 26 1/2 pounds at 24 weeks and 27 pounds at 52 weeks. Additionally, about 80% of them had lost at least 5% of their initial weight at all three assessments. That’s not bad – if you’re overweight, losing just 5 to 10% of your current weight can help stave off some diseases. These figures come with a few asterisks, however. First, they’re based on completers or those who finished the 52-week program and were thus more likely to lose a greater amount of weight. (In an analysis that accounted for dropouts, weight loss was still significant but less dramatic.) Second, a review of patient data carries less weight than a study with a control group. Finally, in an analysis where researchers split dieters into groups of consistent Medifast users (those who reported consuming at least two shakes per day at each check-in) and inconsistent ones (the rest of them), weight loss wasn’t significantly different.
- A 2013 study in the International Journal of Obesity looked at 120 men and women between the ages of 19 and 65, half of whom used Medifast while the other half simply cut calories. The researchers found that over 26 weeks, those on the Medifast diet lost an average of 16 1/2 pounds, compared to the control group, which lost 8 pounds.
How easy is OPTAVIA to follow?
The OPTAVIA is ranked #23 in the Easiest Diets to Follow
You’ll have more than 50 Fueling options on OPTAVIA, but it still may be difficult not to yearn to stray from them. But you get to eat every couple of hours and don’t have to track much of anything – there’s no counting carbs, points or calories.
In the 2010 Nutrition Journal study described in the weight-loss section, about half of both the Medifast and the control dieters had dropped out at 40 weeks. In the Diabetes Educator study, Medifast retention was much better than the other diet – but that still only meant 16 Medifast dieters finished the entire 86 weeks, while eight in the other group did. Only 81 of the original 310 made it to 24 weeks in the 2015 Nutrition Journal study. However, the 2019 Obesity and Science and Practice study had a higher completion rate with 92% of all participants finishing the four-month study.
- Recipes are available on a variety of platforms and eating out on OPTAVIA is doable, especially with the dining out guide, but alcohol isn’t recommended. Ordering meals and prepping them is quick and easy. Followers can lean on their OPTAVIA coaches and online community for tools and resources.
- OPTAVIA has partnered with The Culinary Institute of America to develop Lean & Green meal recipes that are shared each month with coaches and clients. It also offers a recipe conversion guide so you can modify your own recipes to fit the program.
- Eating out is challenging but not impossible. OPTAVIA suggests making your meal out be your Lean & Green meal for the day. Just download the company’s dining out guide, which provides tips for navigating buffets, ordering beverages and choosing toppings and condiments.
- Choosing a plan and ordering is simple, and automatic delivery is available. Food prep is fast – the most difficult instructions for OPTAVIA meals require adding water and nuking in the microwave. Even unskilled cooks should be able to quickly tackle the Lean & Green meal.
- OPTAVIA coaches aim to help you learn healthy habits while being a part of the OPTAVIA community gives you access to weekly and monthly support calls, community events and the nutrition support team, which includes professionals like registered dietitians. You can also access a slew of informational guides and FAQs online for free.
- OPTAVIA meal plans incorporate six small, balanced meals throughout the day, one every two-to-three hours, to help keep you feeling full and satisfied. In the 2010 Nutrition Journal study, researchers reported no significant differences in satiety between Medifast and other dieters in either post-meal or general fullness. The Diabetes Educator study also found no significant differences in appetite between diet groups. Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of satiety, the satisfied feeling that you’ve had enough.
- OPTAVIA products likely won’t win cuisine competitions. But a company representative says Fuelings are developed by a panel of food scientists and dietitians and put through a taste panel that incorporates consumer feedback. OPTAVIA Fuelings are clean label and don’t contain artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners.
How much should you exercise on OPTAVIA?
OPTAVIA recommends 30 minutes most days of a moderate-intensity exercise you enjoy and can easily incorporate, like walking. Start slowly and gradually increase time and intensity as your body allows, the company suggests. However, don’t go overboard, or you’ll run out of energy. There are special recommendations for the Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan.