Why the Optavia diet can help you lose weight fast but is not recommended by dietitians (2024)

The Optavia diet aims for rapid weight loss centered around pre-packaged foods like soups, brownies, and shakes that the company calls "fuelings."

The most popular Optavia plan, called the "5&1," consists of eating five fuelings each day and one meal consisting of lean protein and vegetables.

Although Optavia can lead to rapid weight loss, it's not a sustainable approach to healthy eating due to the calorie restrictions and reliance on prepared foods, says Holley.

"In order for a diet to work long term, it has to be realistic," she says, adding that the Optavia diet does not match that description.

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What is Optavia?

The Optavia diet was introduced in 2017. The diet encourages people to eat small portions throughout the day, centered on the pre-packaged foods that the company sells.

In addition to these fuelings, you'll eat between one and three "lean and green" meals per day. These are meals that you make and buy on your own. Each meal should have one serving of lean protein, like fish, and three servings of non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, and two servings of healthy fats, like olive oil.

Optavia offers two plans:

  • 5&1 Plan: You'll eat five fuelings and one lean and green meal. Optavia recommends this plan for people seeking to lose weight.
  • Optimal Health 3&3 Plan: You'll eat three fuelings and three lean and green meals. This is recommended for sustaining weight loss.

Two other plans are available to people who have additional considerations. According to Optavia, this includes people with medical conditions like diabetes, those that exercise more than 45 minutes each day, and those over 65. If you fall into those groups you should talk to your doctor about if either plan is right for you.

  • Optimal Weight 4&2&1 Plan: You'll eat four fuelings, two lean and green meals, and one healthy snack, consuming 1,100-1,300 calories each day.
  • Optimal Weight 5&2&2 Plan: You'll eat five fuelings, two lean and green meals, and two healthy snacks, consuming 1,300-1,500 calories each day.

The plan also promotes working with Optavia coaches, but that may sound better on paper than in reality, says Amy Adams, RDN, founder of Backyard RD.

"These coaches do not necessarily have a background in health or nutrition," Adams says. All that's required to become a coach is purchasing an Optavia business kit, she adds.

Who makes the Optavia diet?

The diet was developed and marketed by Medifast. The company is known for weight loss plans like Optavia, Medifast, and Take Shape for Life that are built around pre-packed foods.

The multilevel marketing company previously settled a lawsuit over unsubstantiated claims about weight loss from its products. This lawsuit happened before Optavia was launched and didn't deal with Optavia.

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How does the Optavia diet work?

The Optavia plan creates a calorie deficit, which encourages weight loss.

On the 5&1 plan, which Optavia recommends for weight loss, you will consume:

  • 800-1,000 calories per day
  • 80-100 grams of carbohydrates, making it a low-carb plan
  • At least 72 grams of protein
  • Less than 30% of calories from total fat, which based on the calories target would be about 27-33 grams

This can lead to rapid weight loss, but the results likely won't last, Adams says.

"Most diets that are low-carbohydrate or are very low-calorie focused tend to only show significant results short-term," she says. "In general, these diets are not sustainable, and many participants may regain the weight they lost."

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Is Optavia healthy?

Overall the diet focuses too heavily on processed foods and doesn't provide enough calories or carbohydrates, says Holley.

"It's not nearly enough to fuel your body properly," she says.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that the average adult woman consume at least 1,600 calories per day, and adult men consume at least 2,000 calories. This amount will vary depending on factors like age and activity level.

From those calories, 10%-35% should come from protein,45%-65% from carbohydrates, and 20%-35% from fat.

Moreover, losing weight too quickly can lead to hormonal imbalances, loss of muscle mass, and trigger unhealthy obsessions over food. In addition, there's no research to support the long-term success of Optavia, Holley says.

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Is anything healthy about the Optavia diet?

The plan recommends eating fish twice each week, which is in line with federal recommendations. But overall, the Optavia program may not lead to good long-term health or weight management.

Does the Optavia diet cost anything?

To follow the Optavia diet, you must purchase fuelings from the company. That will cost you between $400-$450 each month. This is on top of the cost of groceries that you'd buy for making your "lean and green" meals or meals made with fresh foods.

"This program is super expensive," Adams says.

Since you need to purchase the fuelings even in the maintenance phase, you'll be spending thousands of dollars on this diet long-term. If you're able and willing to spend money on eating healthier, there are better ways, says Adams.

"Save money and speak to a registered dietician who can tailor a plan to fit your needs and ensure you have a healthy relationship with food," she says.

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Alternatives and other considerations

The Optavia diet has captured the public's imagination because of celebrity success stories like "Cake Boss" star Buddy Valastro, who said he lost weight on the plan. Although these stories boast rapid weight loss on the plan, the diet won't transform your health overnight Holley says.

"Diet plans are not a magic pill," Holley says.

Rather than spending on a specific diet, she recommends following the tried and true methods of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Eat a diet rich in whole foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.

"Stick to the basics: Move your body, eat a well-balanced diet, find ways to reduce or manage stress, have fun and live your life," she says.

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Insider's takeaway

It's natural to wonder if a popular diet can help you lose weight and improve your health. Yet, the best approach to sustainable weight loss is by incorporating small, repeatable changes into your routine that you can stick with long-term.

"A good rule of thumb would be to stay away from any diet that promises 'quick fixes,'" Adams says.

The Optavia Diet relies on severe calorie restriction and processed foods, which are expensive to purchase. That makes it restrictive and unrealistic, says Holley.

Instead of signing up for Optavia, consider meeting with a dietician who can work on your specific health and wellness needs, creating a plan that you can follow for a lifetime, not just a few weeks. Start by making small changes like incorporating fruits and vegetables into your meals, or reducing your intake of sugary snacks. Those changes will pay off in the long term.

"Fad diets, cleanses, detoxes, fasts, supplement pills, etc. are not necessary to lose weight or be healthy," Holley says. "Just say no to fad diets."

Kelly Burch

KellyBurchis a New Hampshire-based freelance journalist writing about finances, health, family, and more. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and Forbes, among others. Follow her on FacebookorTwitter, and or learn morehere.

Why the Optavia diet can help you lose weight fast but is not recommended by dietitians (2024)

FAQs

Why the Optavia diet can help you lose weight fast but is not recommended by dietitians? ›

As a dietitian, I don't recommend the Optavia diet for several reasons: It's unnecessarily restrictive. The 5&1 Plan cuts calories to just 800–1,000 per day, which simply isn't sustainable. In fact, 2-year-olds require more calories than that ( 19 ).

What do dieticians say about Optavia? ›

"In my experience, the calorie restriction on Optavia is far too extreme for most people — especially those who are choosing it as the first step in establishing a healthier eating pattern and lifestyle on the whole," said Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., CDN, a New York City-based Registered Dietitian, consultant, and ...

Why is Optavia so bad for you? ›

Gallstones, hormone imbalances, fatigue, diminished metabolism, and depression are just a few of the side effects found to be associated with following very low calorie diets. Most Optavia plans fall within the 800-1300 calorie range, which can be less than half of some adults' basal energy needs.

How do people lose weight so fast on Optavia? ›

“The Optavia Diet is a meal replacement plan. Followers eat a certain number of 'fuelings' per day (plus one homemade meal), resulting in calorie reduction and weight loss. Experts worry that it's unsustainable; many will regain weight when transitioning off the meal replacements.”

What is the lawsuit against Optavia? ›

The plaintiffs allege that Optavia trains coaches to give disclosures on weight loss and health goals but does not train them to comply with the ARL.

What do doctors think of Optavia? ›

“The low-calorie and low-carb nature of the program likely leads to quick early weight loss, which is motivating,” one expert notes. However, other programs ranked higher in fast weight loss, and experts concur that the OPTAVIA program doesn't help teach people how to stay healthy in the long-term.

What is the Optavia controversy? ›

The problem with all of Optavia's plans is that they do not teach you how to eat healthily. Nor do they help you build healthy habits. Optavia claims to be a "balanced nutrition" program, but Optavia only offers prepackaged foods and shakes for your dieting needs.

How did Kelly Clarkson lose weight? ›

Kelly said she changed her diet.

“I eat a healthy mix,” she said. “I dropped weight because I've been listening to my doctor—a couple years I didn't. And 90 percent of the time I'm really good at it because a protein diet is good for me anyway. I'm a Texas girl, so I like meat—sorry, vegetarians in the world!”

Does Optavia mess up your metabolism? ›

Does Optavia ruin your metabolism? Absolutely! There are two major reasons for this, which is metabolic adaptation and loss of lean muscle mass. Your body has a basil metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories your body needs at bare minimum.

Who should not use Optavia? ›

The Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan® is NOT appropriate for teens, sedentary older adults (65 years and older), nursing mothers, people with gout, individuals with Type 1 diabetes, and those who exercise more than 45 minutes per day or participate in high intensity activity – if you fall into one of these categories, please ...

How long does it take to lose 10 lbs on Optavia? ›

Average weight loss on the Optimal Weight 4 & 2 & 1 Plan® is 10 pounds. Clients are in weight loss, on average, for 12 weeks. ACCOMPANIED BY THE DISCLAIMER: * In a clinical study, the group on the Optimal Weight 4 & 2 & 1 Plan lost 10 pounds and the self-directed control group lost 1 pound.

Why am I not losing weight in Optavia? ›

Skip optional snacks to reduce your carbohydrate intake. Try a new form of exercise or add extra time or intensity to your current routine. Consult your healthcare provider prior to doing so to ensure your exercise plans are appropriate for you. Call your independent OPTAVIA Coach for support and guidance.

What is Oprah taking for weight loss? ›

Winfrey, who in December admitted to using weight loss medication, empathized with the guests who shared why they turned to prescription medications such as Ozempic, Mounjaro, Victoza and Wegovy. "This is what I got for the first time after I took the medication.

What is the downfall of OPTAVIA? ›

One Optavia diet side effect is that the program may not provide your body with enough calories, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fuelings snacks are low in calories, typically clocking in around 90 to 120 calories per serving. And "Lean & Green" meals are usually about 300 calories per serving, per the website.

What are the negative reviews on OPTAVIA? ›

Potential drawbacks
  • You'll need to pay for the diet program and grocery store items for lean-and-green meals.
  • Low-calorie meals can slow metabolism and cause extreme fatigue.
  • The most common complaints about Optavia on Better Business Bureau include poor customer service and billing issues.
May 16, 2024

Do coaches get paid at OPTAVIA? ›

The estimated total pay range for a Coach at OPTAVIA is $46K–$86K per year, which includes base salary and additional pay. The average Coach base salary at OPTAVIA is $62K per year. The average additional pay is $0 per year, which could include cash bonus, stock, commission, profit sharing or tips.

Is Optavia scientifically proven? ›

BOTTOM LINE: The Optavia diet has been shown to result in short-term weight loss, but research is needed on its long-term effectiveness. The weight loss plan has limited food options and relies largely on packaged, heavily processed meals and snacks.

Who should not do the Optavia diet? ›

The Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan® is NOT appropriate for teens, sedentary older adults (65 years and older), nursing mothers, people with gout, individuals with Type 1 diabetes, and those who exercise more than 45 minutes per day or participate in high intensity activity – if you fall into one of these categories, please ...

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