After doing the Optavia diet for over 6 months, I’ve decided to quit.
Despite seeing dozens of jaw-dropping before and after pictures, social media posts, and success stories, I believe this weight loss program has some disadvantages that I want to discuss.
This article is not intended to bash Optavia. It’s just my personal experience and it may be different for others who did this program.
As a whole, I quit the Optavia diet for a number of reasons. Firstly, after losing over 20 lb of weight, I gained it all back. Secondly, eating not enough calories led to significant muscle loss, poor performance, and lower libido. On top of that, I was sick and tired of being pressured by the coaches to start selling their products to my friends and family members.
These are just a handful of motives why I stopped their weight loss program. Today I want to share with you my personal experience of why I quit the Optavia diet, and most importantly, what I’m doing now instead.
Optavia ruined my life
It’s fair to say that Optavia ruined my life becasue, after 6 months of doing their weight loss program, I stopped doing things that I love, and started to hate how I feel.
- Optavia made me sick. I started to feel lethargic and constipated. Most of the time I had stomach problems, cramps, constipation, and irregular bowel movements.
- In the gym, everything felt heavy and difficult. I wasn’t able to lift the weights that used to be easy during my training.
- I started to crave foods that were prohibited in their program. I craved sweets, pasta, rice, and bread.
- My endurance was crap. I wasn’t able to run or walk for longer distances because I felt tired and lethargic.
- I started to have occasional sleeping problems. According to the internet, it was because of the extreme calorie deficit (as far as I know, I haven’t studied this a ton).
- I also wasn’t able to perform at work during high-pressure tasks like sales presentations and important meetings.
- Plus, I love to socialize with friends around food, and with Optavia, I felt like I’m not myself anymore.
Of course, initially, I was extremely pleased with my results.
With Optavia 5&1 plan, I’ve managed to lose 20 lb within the first 10 weeks. However, the longer I stayed on the program, the less and less weight I was losing.
I gain the weight back after the Optavia diet
It all started when one of my coworkers lost over 40 lb in just under 5 months. She said that she did a 5 and 1 Optavia plan and explained everything about calories in meals and the gentle fat-burning state.
She also lost quite a significant amount of weight. After doing online research and seeing heaps of success stories, I decided to give it a try.
My goal was not only to lose 20 lb but also to maintain my results. In the beginning, I was very pleased.
- I lost over 20 lbs within the first 10 weeks (I went from 210 lb down to 190 lb).
- According to my skinfold calipers, my skinfold measurements went from 40 mm to 35 mm.
So, yes, it worked (but only temporarily).
However, I started to feel weak. According to my wearable fitness tracker that measures body fat percentage and lean muscle mass, I lost more muscle than fat.
As you can imagine, after my initial weight loss, I gained all the weight back (plus more).
I lost 11 lb of muscle mass on Optavia
One of the biggest problems I have with Optavia is that it’s not suitable for people who want to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.
Out of the 20 lbs I lost, 8 lbs was from fat mass and over 11 lbs of muscle, according to my InBody BAND 2.
After scrolling through the Pubmed publications I find out that one of the downsides of rapid weight loss and low-calorie diets is the loss of lean body mass.
This happens because of metabolic adaptations.
Let me explain.
If you’re in a calorie deficit (without sufficient protein intake), natural compensatory physiological responses include increased muscle protein breakdown and lower muscle protein synthesis.
For example, one study by Stefan Pasiakos, Ph.D., has shown that during the energy deficit (10 days), on average, muscle protein synthesis was reduced by 19%.
However, with higher protein intake, the protein synthesis was elevated (higher than breakdown) despite eating fewer calories.
Needless to say, it took me months of hard work, consistent resistance training, and sufficient protein intake to balance the muscle loss and reverse the weight gain after stopping Optavia.
Optavia does not have enough proteins
One of the reasons why I quit Optavia is because it has too many carbs and not enough proteins.
Multiple studies have shown that one of the most important things during the hypocaloric diet is high protein intake.
- More protein means you can maintain muscle protein synthesis.
- With more protein, you can preserve lean body mass.
- More protein increases daily energy expenditure.
- And most importantly, more protein prevents weight regain after weight loss.
How much protein you should eat on the Optavia diet depends on your body weight and physical activity. Most studies recommend that a high-protein diet equals to eating between 1.2 – 1.6 g of protein per kg.
Here are some of the key takeaways from studies I managed to find on Pubmed.
- A study done by Dr. Margriet S. Westerterp-Plantenga from Maastricht University in the Netherlands showed that people who consumed 18% of their daily total energy as protein experienced 50% less weight regain compared with controls.
- In another study, Dr. Manuela P G M Lejeune (also from Maastricht University) documented that people who consumed 18% of their daily total energy as protein showed significantly lower weight regain, even after 6 months follow-up.
Unfortunately, Optavia does not work like that. On average, the Optavia 5&1 plan delivers 70-75 grams of protein and over 100 grams of carbohydrates.
(For me, 75 grams of protein equals to 0.7 grams per kg).
- One Optavia snack aka “fueling” has 11 grams of protein.
- A person who weighs 190 lb needs between 140 – 160 grams of protein to meet daily protein requirements.
That means I needed to consume over 100 grams of protein with my one “lean and green” meal. A better solution was to eat 3 protein-rich meals and drink 1-2 protein shakes per day.
NOTE: I’ve already written an article where I go into detail about eating proteins during calorie deficit, which I recommend you read.
Optavia is not a safe way to lose weight
One of the reasons why Optavia is not a safe way to lose weight is because they promote eating mainly highly-processed food, also called “fuelings”. Fuelings are pre-packaged snacks that provide 100-120 kcal per serving.
Of course, I don’t think there is anything wrong with an occasional meal replacement, especially when you’re busy.
Drinking low-calorie shakes and eating meal replacement bars, cereals, and preprepared entrees is definitively an easy and convenient way to lower your food intake.
According to Lawrence J. Cheskin, M.D., an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, portion-controlled meal replacements have shown greater initial weight loss compared to a standard, food-based diet.
However, that is not an ideal approach for long-term results.
NOTE: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey report that only 1 in 6 overweight and obese adults reported maintaining weight loss for the first year.
Optavia does not promote healthy eating habits
Optavia dies does not create long-term habits that build a healthy relationship with food (which is what helps to maintain the results for longer).
David B. Sarwer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist from Chicago, said that “approximately 30%–35% of lost weight is regained one year following treatment and 50% of patients will return to their baseline weight by the fifth year out from weight loss”.
According to Dr. Sarwer, one of the main reasons why people regain weight after the initial weight loss is the lack of behavior and lifestyle changes.
- Optavia diet does not educate how to build resilience and mental strength.
- They also don’t teach how to be able to confront daily environments that encourage over-eating and discourage physical activity.
Instead, they encourage you to eat 1,000 calories per day where your body enters a gentle but efficient fat-burning state.
Optavia have not enough calories
I stopped doing Optavia because I was eating around 1000 kcal per day (I will explain why this is not enough in a moment). The Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan that I was on worked by eating 5 Optavia fuelings and 1 “Lean and Green” meal each day.
(Lean and Green is one regular meal of your own choice, ideally packed with protein and veggies).
Eating 6 “meals” per day, every 2-3 hours (total 1000 kcal) can be an effective way to torch excess fat in the short-term, or when done intermittently.
For example, you can eat 1000 kcal per day for 3 days per week, and for the rest of the days, you eat normally.
However, Optavia recommends sticking to their program every day for weeks and months. This not only made me feel hungry but also led to performance drops.
It felt boring to eat the same foods
One thing I hate during weight loss is the monotony in my diet. I can eat less for a long period of time, but eating the same foods over and over is not sustainable.
The first few weeks were fine becasue I was keen to try all their fuelings and wanted to find my favorites.
However, as the program continued, I started to hate stuffing my face with the same brownies and meal replacement shakes.
It got so tedious and boring that I started to reach out to the normal foods that I was craving. It almost felt like I’m obsessed with food and all I can think of was something tasty.
Optavia is not a real diet but an MLM scheme
I think the biggest factor that put me off from doing Optavia for longer was the fact that my “coach” didn’t know much about nutrition. She had no nutrition or counseling background.
This was her “side gig” which means she was doing this purely for the money. This is a problem becasue I don’t want to listen to unqualified people “coaching” me on how to eat or what to eat.
According to Optavia’s motto, Optavia coaches deliver guidance and inspiration. However, the reality is different. This company relies on people selling their product for a cut of the profit.
Not only that.
At some point, my “coach” tried to persuade me to become a coach myself (surprise, surprise) and to start promoting the products to my circle of friends and family.
She talked about profit margin, client support commissions, bonuses, team growth bonuses, and other perks (so yeah, it was time to go).
Optavia has many complaints and was hit by the lawsuit
In the past, the multilevel marketing company settled a lawsuit over claims regardless of their weight loss products.
In April 2022, Optavia and its parent company, Medifast, were hit with a consumer class action alleging that the company enroll customers in an automatic renewal plan, without their consent, according to the law firm Dovel & Luner.
“Optavia systematically enrolls consumers in its Optavia Premier [subscription] program” using misleading methods designed to “cause reasonable consumers to miss the fact that they are being auto-enrolled.”Dovel & Luner
In the lawsuit, we can read that “Company dodges and delays requests to cancel subscriptions“.
Personally, I hate companies like that. In the past, I’ve been charged many times for subscriptions that were supposed to be canceled and I feel disgusted when I hear stories like that.
So I quit. I don’t want to contribute to their business and definitively I don’t want to become of the “coaches”.
What do I do after I quit Optavia?
Upon leaving Optavia, I transitioned to the New Mayo Clinic Diet with the aim of fostering a healthier relationship with food. In case you don’t know, New Mayo Clinic Diet is a medically-backed approach and is trusted worldwide.
This diet includes a 12-week course to help you learn the principles of healthy weight loss, including exclusive content and videos from Mayo Clinic Doctors and Experts. Calorie counting is not required and their Food tracker has over 1 million foods.
I’ve learned how to stay connected to my physical cues and be able to differentiate when I feel hungry, bored, or sad.
How to listen to the body’s needs and not feel guilty when eating more than I should. And how to track my food intake in a way that increases my body and self-awareness.
My goal was to focus on eating less food in total, not eliminate foods that I like. I still enjoy eating pasta, bread, and sweets, but now I just eat less.
When it comes to workouts, I love to train in the gym, and with Optavia I was feeling progressively worse, not better.
Since I’ve made the switch to the New Mayo Clinic Diet, I’ve experienced reduced stress levels, increased muscle mass, and according to my wife, a boosted libido.
- I quit Optavia because I was feeling sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. This program works, but only for the short term. If you’re looking for a long-term solution, I recommend the New Mayo Clinic Diet.
- I needed a long-term solution and something that is more sustainable. I didn’t like the idea of having to choose foods from the “allowed” list and saying no to foods that were “not allowed”.
- I felt weaker and less able to do things that I enjoy like going to the gym, hiking, and surfing.
- I didn’t like the sales pressure and the idea of profiting from selling something to others that is questionable.