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What Is the Optavia Diet (and Does It Work)? Everything You Need to Know
Twenty20

Grocery shopping? Yawn. Why bother when you can get food delivered straight to your door—including the Optavia diet, a meal plan that “The Cake Boss” credits with his 35-pound weight loss and has been gaining traction online. But does it deliver on health and nutrition? We investigate.

What is the Optavia Diet?

The Optavia diet is a weight loss plan based on eating several meals a day, called “fuelings.” These mini meals provided by the company are supposed to fill you up and help you shed pounds. Sound familiar? For those familiar with Medifast meal replacements, Optavia is essentially an updated version that comes with a coach.

So, how does Optavia work?

There are three different low-calorie plans to choose from depending on your goals. The 5&1 Plan includes five Optavia fuelings and one “lean and green” meal consisting of proteins and vegetables (some chicken and broccoli, for example). For a little more flexibility, the 4&2&1 plan includes four fuelings, two lean and green meals and one healthy snack (like a piece of fruit). For those who are interested in weight maintenance, the company offers the 3&3 plan that includes three fuelings and three lean and green meals. Dieters receive advice and motivation from their Optavia coach and an online community of dieters.

And what exactly are these “fuelings?”

There are more than 60 different options including shakes, bars, soups, biscuits and even brownies. Each fueling is protein-based and includes a probiotic for digestive health.

How much does the Optavia diet cost?

The cost of the Optavia diet depends on which program you choose. The 5&1 plan starts at $415 for 119 servings (which works out as $3.48 per serving) while the 4&2&1 plan costs $408 for 140 servings (so $2.90 per serving). If you opt for the 3&3 plan, then you’ll pay $333 for 130 servings ($2.56 per serving). Each plan is designed to provide you with one month of fuelings. 

How effective is the Optavia Diet?

“This program may be appealing to some because it does not require tracking carbs or calories,” says registered dietician Summer Yule. “Participants may also see quick weight loss with this program because the dietary component is so low in calories (800 to 1,000 calories per day, in some cases). They also get some behavioral support from coaches, which can be helpful with weight loss.” Previous research has shown that ongoing coaching can help people lose weight—both in the short-term and long-term

One 16-week study (which was funded by Medifast, the company behind Optavia) found that participants with excess weight or obesity on Optavia’s 5&1 Plan had significantly lower weight, fat levels, and waist circumference, compared with the control group. The same study also found that those who were on the 5&1 diet and completed at least 75 percent of the coaching sessions lost more than twice as much weight as those who participated in fewer sessions. 

Are there any cons of the program?

While meal replacements can be helpful for short-term weight loss, they don’t tend to work in the long-term, Yule tells us. “Someone who uses meal replacement products for weight loss is going to have to relearn how to structure their diet at some point and this can end up being a slipping point.” And the diet isn’t exactly cheap—the kits range from $333 to $450 per month. Another negative? This diet is very low in calories, something Yule says you should only do with close medical supervision. 

The bottom line

Optavia might help you lose weight initially, but for long-term results, you’re better off learning good-for-you habits and sticking to a tried-and-true healthy eating plan like the Mediterranean diet. “If someone is looking to lose weight, I would encourage them to think about lifestyle changes over the long-term, rather than quick fixes.” Translation: You’re going to have to make some trips to the grocery store, after all.

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