If you look up Optavia on the internet, you’ll be shown a program that seems to have a lot of positive results and is rooted in science. However, as you remove the layers of clever marketing and coaches raving about the products (as they seek greater commission), we can see through the matrix to what this diet really is… a dangerous and expensive starvation program.
As always, here is my honest and unfiltered, dietitian review.
**I apologize for the audio quality in this episode. I know it's not great, but mama can't take the time to re-record
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DIETITIAN REVIEW OF OPTAVIA
If you look up Optavia® on the internet, you’ll be shown a program that seems to have a lot of positive results and is rooted in science. However, as you remove the layers of clever marketing and coaches raving about the products (as they seek greater commission), we can see through the matrix to what this diet really is… a dangerous and expensive starvation program.
What is the Optavia Diet?
Optavia is a low carbohydrate, low calorie meal-replacement diet that uses a 6 small meals/day method. 5 of those meals are Optavia’s own ‘fuelings’, and the last meal of the day is a ‘lean and green’ meal made by the individual.
What are Optavia Fuelings?
Optavia fuelings are products made by the company that are low-carb, high-protein, and will make up at least ½ of what the individual eats every day (depending on the plan they choose).
To lower the carbohydrate content of their foods and increase the protein, these products utilize sugar substitutes, whey protein, and soy protein isolate.
All fuelings are pre-packaged and manufactured. Lean/green meals can also be purchased pre-made to further reduce at-home food preparation and cooking.
Lean / Green Meals
These meals do not contain any source of carbohydrates. The recommended lean/green meal includes 5-7 oz of lean protein, 3 servings of non-starchy vegetables, and up to 2 servings of fat. No grains, dairy, fruit, or carbohydrates of any kind allowed.
Who Owns Optavia?
Medifast. It is worth noting that Medifast has lost in 2 large lawsuits for false advertisement
(source) and for being a Ponzi scheme (source).
How Did Optavia Start?
Medifast rebranded one of it’s program (called Take Shape for Life) as Optavia in 2017. Take Shape for Life was criticized as being a pyramid scheme and making lofty claims. Medifast has been using this similar MLM business model of small, frequent fuelings being sold by it’s own clients for a long time.
Are Optavia and Medifast the Same?
Basically, Optavia is owned by Medifast.
How Optavia Works
While following the strict dietary regimen, members are also supported by an Optavia coach, community forum, and an app that tracks what is eaten every day.
Optavia is mostly a nutrition weight-loss program and not a diet + exercise program. In fact, they discourage exercising at all for the first 3 weeks on the program (source).
5 & 1
o 5 fuelings, 1 lean/green meal.
o Goal: weight loss
4 & 2 & 1
o 4 fuelings, 2 lean/green meals, 1 snack.
o Goal: weight loss
3 & 3
o 3 fuelings, 3 lean/green meals.
o Goal: maintenance
Who Sells Optavia Products
Optavia products are sold by their ‘health coaches’. This earns them commission and they get a discount on their own products if they are a health coach selling product.
Who are the Optavia Coaches?
Optavia coaches are typically past clients. Some can become a coach in as little as 2 weeks after starting the program.
There is no formal nutrition training, education, or certifications required to become a health coach for Optavia (outside of Optavia’s own certification course). It is important to know that coaches are limited in their ability to give health advice due to their lack of training.
Some coaches are registered dietitians, however they are overqualified as the job does not require a medical training/background. It appears that RDs use Optavia coaching as a source of quick income on the side, capitalizing off of the weight-loss industry.
Are Optavia Coaches Paid?
Yes. The more product they sell, the more they earn. Base commission is 15% of product, with bonus’ given as certain milestones being met. Additionally, coaches are paid for mentoring other coaches. Essentially, the more recruits are locked in to the system, the more the individual makes (*cue the scene of Jim drawing a pyramid over Michael explaining his ‘new opportunity’ in the conference room*). For more details on their compensation plan, visit this page.
Why Optavia is Unhealthy
Optavia utilizes the classic low-carb, low-cal starvation method to drop their clients in water weight, muscle mass, and maybe some fat as well. The problem is, this isn’t a sustainable lifestyle, so the weight nearly always comes back plus more.
Weight cycling and dieting is likely to increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases (source). Programs like Optavia thrive on revolving-door customers who lose the weight only to gain it back and then need to lose it again.
In terms of a business model – it’s brilliant. If programs like Optavia can continue to convince customers that their products helped them lose weight but not see that their products are also the reason they gained the weight back plus more… then they will never run out of money. The customer will always come back and spend more money.
Can Optavia Cause Gallstones?
Following a high protein, low carb, low calorie diet as a weight-loss method appears to increase the risk for gallstones (source, source, source). There have been reports of Optavia users developing gallstones while on the program, and needing to stop (source).
Can Optavia Cause Stomach Problems?
Yes – the sugar alcohols used in their products can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea, especially when consumed in high quantities (such as 5 times a day). Optavia fuelings have also been scrutinized as having more lead contamination than nearly all other protein powders, which can cause gastrointestinal distress (source).
Are Optavia Products Healthy?
‘Healthy’ is a relative term, but if I had to go off of the most basic definition of it (being that something is promoting good health), I would argue that no, Optavia products are not healthy.
Weight cycling, gastrointestinal distress, a limited variety of nutrients, carbohydrate deprivation, and not to mention the mental anguish that a restrictive diet can cause do not strike me as being very health promoting.
How Much Does Optavia Cost?
Average cost is $500/month for the Optavia.
Will I Lose Weight on Optavia?
Here’s the thing about this program. They are selling you a weight-loss method… and that’s exactly what you’re going to get. You will most likely lose weight following Optavia’s plans. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a good or healthy thing.
Optavia – Why Am I Hungry?
If someone is feeling hunger while Optavia, it’s not something to be concerned about. It’s actually a good sign that your metabolism and your body have not entered starvation mode yet.
Can You Eat Out on Optavia
According to the Optavia Dining Out Guide, dieters should not eat out more than twice a week. But Optavia is so very gracious in understanding that you have a life and want to experience it, so they will guide you through how to make ‘lean and green’ choices while at the restaurant (cue eyeroll).
In my research on this diet, I think the dining out guide might actually be what has upset me the most... which is saying a lot. The guide includes all kinds of tips on how to be ‘assertive’ when someone pressures you to eat something ‘not within your health goals’. Mind you, they are recommending no more than 400 calories while dining out and less than 15 g of carbohydrates (that the equivalent of 1 small apple).
There are pages and pages guiding the dieter how to mentally rehearse for when others question your choices, and how to breathe through an ‘unhealthy eating urge’.
How is this experiencing the joys of life? Ordering something completely absurd at a restaurant, mentally preparing to defend your choices, and having to white knuckle through the urge to have a d*mn breadstick!?
Here is a direct quote from the guide on how to handle being a host/hostess:
“Focus on your non-favorites. If you’re preparing a party dessert, make it something that’s easier for you to resist. For example, if your weakness is chocolate, go with a fruit-based treat. Keep your favorite sweet Fueling within reach for when your sweet tooth strikes!”
Is this a joke? This is literally a guide on how to have an eating disorder.
Why Optavia Works
Starving the body of carbohydrates releases water weight almost instantly. Eventually, your body will start to break down muscle/organ/adipose tissue as well to feed itself.
It’s important to realize that weight lost on Optavia is not automatically adipose tissue (fat). Starvation diets such as Optavia can lead to serious health concerns because of the muscle and organ tissue being used for energy when carbohydrates are not available.
It’s also important to know that the tissue pulled from lean tissue in the body will be replenished the minute your body has the chance to (thank goodness!). Water will also re-enter the cells when carbohydrates are introduced. This is why women so often regain the weight back.
After the body goes through starvation for a period of time, it will also become more efficient in utilizing calories, meaning that the metabolism slows down. Therefore, not only do women typically gain the weight back – the gain it all black plus more.
Will Optavia Work for Me?
If you ask anyone affiliated with the Optavia system, they will shout from the rooftops that “YES, it will work and change your life!!” (they want that money, honey). However, if you listen to people who are not involved with the system, or were but are not any longer, you’ll hear some very interesting and concerning stories.
I have spoken up about Optavia on social media a few times, and every time I do I hear new stories of how horrific it was for the woman telling the story, or for her friend/mother/colleague/etc.
If I had to estimate, for every 1 person that tells me how great Optavia was for them, there are 8 others right behind her saying it was an awful experience.
Is the Optavia Diet Worth It?
Let me answer this question with another question: Is it worth spending $500/month, obsessing over food, saying no to your favorite foods every day, arguing with family/friends about your food choices, and the risk of developing stomach pains, gallstones, and/or an eating disorder to lose weight for a short amount of time, only to gain it back plus more?
If you read that and still said ‘yes’, I would advise visiting the nearest hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
Overall Dietitian Review of the Optavia Diet:
· Can probably help you fit into a dress that you need to lose weight for in the next month. But don’t count on being able to fit back into it later.
· Brainless: requires very little energy to follow.
· You aren’t required to exercise (some find this to be a pro).
· Long term weight loss unlikely.
· Eventual weight gain likely.
· Will cause hunger, or worse silence hunger cues
· Slowed metabolism
· Limited options of food
· Heavy emphasis on weight rather than overall health
· May lead to binge eating
· May lead to weight/food obsession
· Risk of gallstones
· Risk of gastrointestinal discomfort
· Coaches are not qualified health professionals