If you are on a weight loss journey and are considering signing up for the Optavia as a weight loss program, read below to learn the what this meal plan is all about. Or maybe you already tried the 5 and 1 program and are thinking “Optavia ruined my life!”. You will find the content below helpful for discovering why you feel this way.
Below is my honest review of the program based on information found directly on the Optavia website, science, and experience from my own nutrition clients who have tried (and regretted) signing up for the program.
Those that promote the program only highlight the before and after photos to prove that “it works”. Yet they are silent about the hidden dangers, side effects, and long term problems that come along with this diet both physically and mentally.
If you have friends or family who are on this program, and wondered “what is this diet all about?” You are definitely going to want to read all the juicy details below because I do not want you to be another victim of this diet program.
Table of Contents
What is the Optavia 5 and 1 plan?
The Optavia 5 and 1 plan consists of eating 5 “fuelings” a day which are pre-portioned meal replacements of prepackaged protein foods. The website showcases over 60 options ranging from soups, bars, muffins, and bars. Each “fueling” contains 9-12 grams of protein and 110-190 calories per product.
In addition to the 5 fuelings, you can eat one “lean and green meal”. This meal includes 5-7oz protein and 3 servings of non starchy vegetables.
This way of eating is very straight forward. There is no guess work and minimal planning in advance. This plan works well for people who are busy or tend to be on the go often. It also is appealing to people who are overwhelmed for what to do for weight loss as it is a super simple low calorie diet to follow.
The Optavia website says that eating a meal every 2-3 hours if the first “healthy habit”, but the last time I checked, a 110 calorie protein bar is not a meal at all. From a nutrition standpoint, you have to eat every 2 hours on this plan not because its “healthy” but because 110 calories is not enough for your body to survive without passing out.
In total, you are eating around 800-1000 calories. This might sound like a high number, but is a very low calorie intake which makes it challenging to stay on long term.
How Much Does Optavia 5 and 1 Cost?
A seven (7) count box of a peanut butter chocolate chip bars cost $23.25, which is about 3.30/bar. I eat protein bars, and buy them from the grocery store. Protein bars with 10-20grams of protein for $1.00-2.50 each. The “fuelings” are two to three times more expensive than something comparable off the store shelf.
If you eat 5 Optavia fuelings a day, then the program will cost you $16.50/day, or about $495 for a month. Maybe a little more or less depending on which fuelings you purchase.
However, the cost above does not include your “lean and green” meal. So in addition to $495/month in “fuelings”, you are going to need to buy meat and non starchy vegetables for 7 dinners a week. Don’t forget your kids, partner, or anyone else in the home that might also need to eat 3 normal meals or snacks.
In short, the diet plan will cost you alone at least $600/month. This does not including other family members groceries for meals and snacks. This I would categorize closer to an expensive starvation plan.
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. Your BMR is the bare minimum calories your body needs to just survive and function.You can calculate your unique BMR here . You will notice that the calories needed are always more than the 800-1000 calories that the Optavia 5 and 1 plan provides.
So to put it nicely, the Optavia 5 and 1 plan is an expensive way to ruin your metabolism in the process.
With a calorie restriction of 800-1000 calories a day, your metabolism adapts and becomes efficient to using fewer calories so you don’t starve to death (literally)!
Let’s say before starting Optavia 5 and 1 weight loss plan, your body used 1800 calories a day. Now that you are feeding it about 50% of that, your body uses less energy because it knows it isn’t eating enough calories. It gradually adapts to now only use 1000 calories to prevent further weight loss.
Once you begin eating 10% or more of your restricted calorie amount, that is when weight gain sets in. If your metabolism is working with 800 calories,then once you start eating more calories than that, your body stores those calories for later energy usage (aka weight gain). This is why you are GUARANTEED to regain the weight you once lost.
It has nothing to do with willpower or because you ate 1 cookie. Its because your metabolism will become SO slow. The weight management clients I work with who have lost weight on the Optavia 5 and 1 plan regained more than they initially lost. That 40 lb weight loss now turns into a 65 lb regain.
Loss of Lean Muscle Mass
Your body needs more than 800 calories a day just for its internal organs to survive. In order to get energy it WILL break down lean muscle mass for energy. The tricky part is that it is your lean muscle that is needed to keep a fast metabolism. Im not denying you will lose weight on Optavia 5 and 1. But it will come at the cost of your body breaking down your valuable lean muscle alongside of some fat loss.
So now we have a grand slam equation with your adapted metabolism to be a quick as a sloth and your lean muscle mass withering away. Yet the program loves to boast of how their “program works”.
You know what, it does work. Works for screwing over your metabolism.
What happens when you stop Optavia?
The ONLY way to prevent weight regain is to continue to eat 800-1000 calories per day. As shared earlier, we know that’s not healthy for anyone and it is not sustainable. You will gain the weight back unless you want to follow the 5 and 1 plan or under eat for forever.
Which if you can’t catch my tone, this is something I 100% would not recommend as a long term plan. There are also a few things that you might experience:
-Feeling confused around what to eat because you’ve been treating 1 protein bar as a meal.
-Have obsessive thoughts or preoccupation with avoiding carbohydrates and calories.
-Experience feelings of guilt or anxiety when eating something that once was “off plan”, such as a banana.
This is why you might think, “Optavia ruined my life!” Not only are you stressed about what to eat, but also may still struggle with preoccupation around food and weight loss.
The brand website shares a “maintenance plan” which is a whopping total of an extra 200 calories a day, so you are now eating only 1200 calories. Again, most people’s basil metabolic rate (BMR), which is how much energy your body needs just to support your organs and muscles is generally much more than that.
You are much better off working with a Registered Dietitian and personal trainer to help you build muscle and understand how to eat balanced using real food.
Why is Optavia bad for you?
In the sections below I’ll dive more into why this program is bad for your health. The insufficient calories is just one piece of the problem.These are things to be aware of before signing up for the 5 and 1 plan.
Why is Optavia unhealthy?
- Limited in nutrients
While the fuelings are fortified with vitamins, minerals, and probiotics that is not the same as eating vitamins and minerals from real whole foods.
If you put Vitamin A inside of a packaged food product, yes you might absorb some of those vitamins, but you aren’t getting the full range of antioxidants and fiber that you would get from eating Vitamin A from a steamed carrot, spinach, or sweet potato.
This is the equivalent of eating a bunch of junk food and then saying, “I’m still healthy because I take a multivitamin.”
- Ruins your relationship with food– When a coach tells you “carbs turn into fat” and “carrots have too much sugar”, you lose sight of what normal healthy eating actually is.
Normal eating involves eating VARIETY with plenty of fruits and vegetables of all colors, not picking out carrots from your coleslaw at a family reunion. You do not need to eating the lowest carbohydrate vegetables. You need to just eat a variety of vegetables.
- Promotes disordered Eating– take a look at the snack list on page 18. Would you tell your child that if they are hungry to have a stick of gum? Or a 0 calorie food like plain celery, pickle or a sugar-free popsicle. Consuming 0 calorie foods to mask hunger is a red flag of disorderly eating.
If you are a parent who joins this program with young kids in the house consider how it might impact your children. As the parent you are to mirror healthy habits, but instead of displaying moderation, balance and variety to your children you are modeling to them that a protein bar is sufficient for lunch.
Additionally, the Optavia 5 and 1 plan is very black and white with what foods you can or cannot eat with so many food rules. There is no flexibility in eating the occasional treat or having the type of fruit you want. If you want to have a social life or eat out with friends you are going to need to request to cucumbers and salsa instead of chips. It is no surprise when people tell me, “Optavia ruined my life.”
I would 110% never put this plan in front of anyone who has a history of an eating disorder, or disordered eating. However, the sad truth is that the “coaches” are not screening for this type of information nor do they recognize that eating below basic human calorie needs could develop into orthorexia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder.
- It discourages exercise-Any program that says “you don’t need to exercise” is a huge red flag.
This is a very clear indicator that you are not eating enough calories to survive and would most likely pass out or develop medical complications from the stress put on your heart from under eating.
- “Fuelings” are very processed + filled with lead. Of the 6 times you eat in a day, only 1 of the times you are eating includes real and whole foods. Eating large amounts of soy protein isolate can cause stomach upset. For a program that boasts about being a “lifestyle change” I’m not too sure eating a lot of packaged processed foods exactly is a measure of improved eating habits.
According to Gotham Research LLC, the majority of Optavia fuelings contain high dosages of lead and cadmium than what is recognized as being safe.
- There is NO customization– Anyone looking to lose weight has unique energy needs based on their age, height, sex, and activity level.
It is scary that a 300 lb 6’4″male is put on the same calorie plan as a 150 lb 5’4″ female. What about those who are extremely active? A one size fits all diet is not realiable or something to trust.
- Inadequate levels of protein and fats – Remember how weight loss also leads to reduced lean muscle mass? Lean muscle is preserved during weight loss by getting enough protein which is calculated on ideal body weight. The other piece to help reduce lost muscle is to engage in resistance/weight training.
Because a 6 ft 4″ male and a 5’2″ female both have different ideal body weights, why are they eating the same amount of protein?
A single fueling has anywhere from 9-12g of protein. You will get at most 60g of protein from “fuelings” and 30-47oz of protein from a lean and green. Depending on your current size, age, and gender you will need more than 100g of protein to preserve lean muscle mass during weight loss.
The Optavia 5 and 1 plan does not have enough calories to even live off of. How are you going to exercise regularly on top of that to be able to keep lean muscle tissue?
Per Optavia’s website, you can eat 0-2 servings of unsaturated fats on the 5 and 1 plan. Optavia counts 1 serving of fats to be only 5g of fat. This means you get anywhere from 0-10g of added fats a day. For reference, my weight loss clients can eat anywhere from 65-80g of fat a day and are still losing weight.
- Excluding fruits and vegetables– Vegetables high in sugar such as carrots, tomato, or onions are not “on plan” as they have too much sugar. Fruits like bananas, oranges, or grapes are also not allowed on the 5 and 1 plan for the same reason.
As a Registered Dietitian, people who want to lose weight 99% of the time are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. The last thing you need is someone telling you to only eat blueberries and never an orange.
There is no hierarchy of fruits and vegetables. They are all good for you. Period. The more variety of fruits and vegetables you have in your diet, the wider range of nutrients you will consume. By limiting your fruit and vegetable intake, you are eating fewer antioxidants and vitamins that are beneficial for your health.
There is NO scientific evidence that shows that limiting fruits and vegetables due to their sugar content leads to weight loss.
In fact, the opposite is true. A diet higher in fiber, less processed foods and more servings of fruits and vegetables is correlated with improved health status such as lowered cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight loss.
- You’re not learning healthy habits
The biggest draw people have for this program is that it is so convenient. I couldn’t agree more! Eating a single bar for breakfast is not helping you develop the skills to be eating healthy at home. The prepackaged foods are a crutch and are preventing you from actually developing healthy habits.
After you hit you stop the program, you may feel lost and confused on what or how much to eat. This is because the entire Optavia 5 and 1 plan is based around consuming products, not learning about nutrition or behavior change.
All the “tools” that your “coach” provides such as chewing gum when you are hungry or eating sugar free popsicles as a snack are only focused on shrinking your body and NOTHING to do with your actual health.
Is the Optavia diet safe?
No it is not safe. You might be able to shrink your body fast. However, the internal damage from eating significantly less than what your body needs and rapid weight loss can lead to:
- Lowered metabolism– when you intentionally cut your calories, your metabolism is lowered. Once you eat more than what you were restricted to by more than 10% you will gain it back. This is why if you do Noom, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig or just calorie counting you can lose weight. However the weight comes back on. It rarely has nothing to do with “going back to eating horribly”. It is because you are eating at a normal amount, but your metabolism has adapted to survive on less.
In my experience working with clients who have done Optavia, their body is much slower to lose weight. It takes them months to relearn everything about nutrition. Even after doing the 5 and 1 program from years ago, they still mentally struggle with food.
- Increased risk of gallstones- Per Johns Hopkins Medicine ultra rapid weight loss (i.e losing 3-5 lbs each week) your gallbladder secrets more cholesterol in your bile. This is what creates gallstones, and will land you in the ER.
- Stomach + digestive problems
When Optavia was branded as Medifast, it was nicknamed “Medi-farts” because people have such bad gas on this plan. You are consuming so much soy protein + sugar substitutes it can cause a LOT of stomach and gas problems. If you chose to start this diet, at least be sure you’re working from home.
- Hormonal Imbalances– Your thyroid is impacted by undereating as well as your sex hormones. This can lead to low sex drive and depression.
- Hair loss– a sign of not getting enough protein and undeating. Your coach may just tell you though its because “your body is detoxing” from all the weight loss.
- Risk of Recruitment into a Pyramid Scheme– Your “coach” is going to pitch to you to become a coach. This program is a Multi-Level-Marketing buisness which means the more people you recruit under you, the more money you make. I’ve also heard that coaches are encouraged to tell their customers they are more likely to “keep the weight off” if you become a coach.
Is it just me, or is your skin crawling too? *Shudder*
Oh but wait, I have a lot more cringe!
Is Optavia 5 and 1 Plan Bad For Your Health?
Between the inadequate calorie amounts, limited nutrients, and overall metabolic damage it will do to your health. I can confidently and objectively say “yes” this is not good for your health and it could ruin your life.
I am not denying it can help you lose weight. This is what the program boasts about and how “our program works”. However, it is not a healthy way to lose weight or sustainable for keeping it off permanently.
I know you are probably looking for a simple weight loss solution. One that doesn’t involve a lot of work or decisions. For the love of mercy, please get connected with myself or another Registered Dietitian!
You deserve more than starving yourself on protein bars. You need someone who can guide you into SUSTAINABLE habits and patterns of eating you can actually follow.
The Problem with Coaches
People who sell the product call themselves “health coaches” which couldn’t be further from the truth. I refuse to acknowledge they are coaches, because they are not. They are sales people in a multi-level-marketing business. Period.
Optavia sales reps are COPE certified– however, it consists of a 30 minute multiple choice questionnaire.
Shut the front door.
You can take a 30 minute open book multiple choice quiz and now magically be a coach? You can know everything about metabolism, nutrients in food, motivational interviewing, behavior change, and metabolic needs?! Clearly not, because you are providing the same cookie cutter program to everyone who signs up.
Between following “coaches” on social media, listening to podcast episodes (Life After MLM) I have seen A LOT. Even my own nutrition clients who have completed the program share that coaches would answer their concerns with responses that did not make sense.
Inaccurate Claims from Coaches
Based on posts from Optavia sales reps on facebook, instagram, reddit posts, podcast interviews, and within facebook groups, I have heard so many claims from “coaches” to try to convince people this program is worth $400-500/month. These are all the exact same sayings I see from all coaches, which means its coming directly to them from Optavia corporate.
Hearing and seeing these is truly cringe-worthy. Yet it’s the way that those who sell the product can keep the truth out of the light.
- “We are a cost neutral program”
Coaches love to claim that “its really not that much more expensive than what you are spending on food anyway.” But is it really?
From earlier in the post I quoted the program costs roughly $16.50/day, or about $495 for a month. And then the “lean and green” meal which is something you have to buy yourself. Don’t forget your kids, partner, or anyone else in the home. They also need to eat 3 normal meals and snacks.
For reference, my husband and I spend anywhere from $450-650/month on groceries for a family of 3.
If I were join this program, the cost of the program would be over $650 just myself. It will cost you significantly less if you decided to buy just real foods such fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains.
However, if you are eating out 2-3x a day, then this program could save them a handful of dollars a day. In short, you can eating healthfully without using overpriced fuelings from Optavia.
- “Your body is just adjusting to eating healthy”
This is what you are told when your stomach is cramping and have uncontrollable gas. While eating more fiber in your diet could cause you to have more gas initially, this is not what happens when you start eating 5 “fuelings” a day.
- ” Losing a lot of hair is just a sign of your body detoxing”– Yikes! More like a sign of malnutrition and under eating.
- ” We don’t know why your breastmilk supply is going down“
Optavia is trying to cover up the elephant in the room by making it their #1 facebook group rule page. You cannot talk about milk supply. Clearly new moms are losing their milk supply and everyone started asking the exact same question of “why has my milk supply dropped?”
The fact that Optavia says you can’t ask questions is insidious. Blaming it only on a lack of sleep or stress just shows they do not know anything about nutrition. Or they know its calorie related, but want to keep it covered.
It makes me sad that many new moms desperate to lose weight are harming their own babies health because they are not eating enough.
Someone with legitimate nutrition knowledge would be able to help you understand how much you need to eat for breastfeeding. Instead of silencing your concerns and telling you to not talk about it.
If you are nursing or post partum and are experiencing a drop in milk supply, nutrition is SO important, and if you are not eating enough than you will not be able to keep your milk supply. Period. This program is terribly dangerous for nursing mothers. If breastfeeding is something you want for your baby, don’t let Optavia ruin that for you!
- “Gas is a sign you are losing fat“
Wow– I didn’t know I could fart my way down to my goal weight- what a novel idea!
Maybe more like your gut can’t handle all the soy protein and non-nutritive sweeteners.
- “This isn’t a diet, its a lifestyle change”
Eating 5 protein bars a day is not a lifestyle change. A lifestyle change involves changing your habits and taking actions on things you can do for the rest of your life. Eating diet foods for 5 out of the 6 times you eat in a day is far from changing your lifestyle.
Can someone also explain how is 800 calories not a diet? You might be eating 50-75% fewer calories than you currently are. The last time I checked, intentionally restricting calories is a diet.
- Its recommended by 20,000 doctors since 1980.
A claim directly from the Optavia website.
What they are not sharing, is when the parent company Medifast was in business, it had doctors offices selling the products. So when it says “doctor recommended” it literally just means that doctors were selling it for another source of revenue and recommending it.
- Eating every 2 hours keeps you in “fat burning mode”
No, eating every 2 hours on this program prevents you from passing out because its too low in calories.
In summary, the Optavia 5 and 1 plan is an overpriced program that is based on undereating and can lead to a whole host of other health problems. It is not sustainable long term and you are going to gain the weight back to due metabolic adaptation and loss of lean muscle mass. You can be successful with weight loss by changing your habits and eating real foods while following a small calorie deficit.
If you struggle with your weight and have been on every diet under the sun, you don’t need another diet. You are going to need to improve your metabolism by building up lean muscle and eating adequate amounts of calories. If you have regained weight after stopping the Optavia 5 and 1 program and need help with healthy balanced eating, lets talk here
What’s your experience with the Optavia 5 and 1 plan? Let me know in the comments below!
Laurie is a Registered Dietitian passionate about helping others improve their eating habits and behaviors so that they can thrive in their life, family, and career.