Optavia is a food coaching and meal guidance company that encourages weight loss and an overall healthy lifestyle. The brand does this through various meal plans which are low-calorie and low-carb. The company offers expert guidance throughout their clients’ journey and personalizes meal plans for each client.
The Optavia diet has two main meal categories - the Fuelings and the Lean and Green Meals.
Their meal plans can be broken down as follows:
They sell the 5&1 Fueling kit for $378.25 for a 30-day supply of meal replacements and offer customizable Fuelings. For the Lean and Green Meals, you supply the foods yourself. These meals are supposed to be high in lean protein and full of non-starchy vegetables.
The Fuelings are a variety of different foods. They have options for every standard meal, along with dessert options. For breakfast foods, they offer cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, and even coffee options. They have several drink options, like strawberry shakes and berry blast smoothies.
They also have lunch and dinner meals. The Octavia diet offers savory options such as mac and cheese, different soups, chili, pasta, and more. Their desserts include soft serves, cookies, and brownies.
Finally, they offer several snack-type foods like bars, chip-like options, and jalepeño poppers.
You get to choose 17 Fuelings. These can be 17 completely different Fuelings or you can opt for less variety and more repeats.
The calorie breakdown for each plan is as follows:
Your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is the best way to choose a plan. Your TDEE is the number of calories you need to eat per day to maintain your current weight.
For optimal weight loss, your meal plan should achieve
Your TDEE minus 500 calories
You can restrict further than this, and you will likely still see weight loss, but make sure to consult your Optavia guide before choosing this route.
The Optavia diet offers numerous benefits. Fuelings are pre-packaged and delivered straight to your door. They offer a diverse variety of foods for Fuelings, which include over 24 vitamins and minerals. Fuelings are also highly customizable with over 60 options to choose from.
Despite their unique approaches, all three meal plans provide clients with several meals throughout the day. This is hugely beneficial to those who want to start dieting but are put off by only eating three meals a day.
Optavia also connects you with a coach and a community of other Optavia users, giving you a support system that is sorely lacking in many competitor diets.
Because of the low-calorie diets, Optavia can help to lose excess weight quickly, giving you instant gratification, which helps keep motivation up. One of the most difficult parts of weight loss is maintaining motivation.
In fact, Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss famously lost weight using Optavia, saying the diet plan helped him slim down. People often praise Optavia for its quick results.
The Optavia website hosts several client testimonies that tell their success stories and how the Optavia community and coaches supported them along the way. These stories are from people who have lost over 100lbs, but under each testimony, Optavia notes that the average amount lost is about 12lbs.
The 4 & 2 & 1 and 3 & 3 diets are more restrictive than the 5 & 1. The higher end of the 4 & 2 & 1 plan is generally the optimal amount to cut back if you have a smaller build and a lower TDEE. The 3 & 3 meal plan is ideal for someone with a higher TDEE.
Quick weight loss can lead to unsustainable habits or not building new habits to help you maintain once you reach your goal weight.
Despite advertising the nutritionally whole Fuelings, the heavily-advertised 5 & 1 meal restricts you to 800-1000 calories per day. Restricting this low is considered a starvation diet. These diets can slow your metabolism.
When you end a starvation diet, you are more than likely to put all the weight back on. You may even gain more than you lost. Starvation diets can cause nutritional deficiency, which may even lead to anemia or hair loss.
Starvation diets don’t teach you the habits and long-term diet changes needed to maintain weight loss because they are short-term solutions. This is not to say that everyone will gain the weight back, or that it is impossible to build new habits to maintain your weight loss, but starvation diets do not make it easy to sustain long-term weight loss.
The ideal calorie restriction for weight loss is 500 calories per day. It leads to a 1lb/week loss. Eating only 800-1000 calories a day cuts back far more than 500 a day for most people. It will result in faster weight loss, but the above problems are more likely to occur.
Optavia is labeled an MLM (multi-level-marketing) business. People heavily criticize MLMs in general for being predatory scams. They are also referred to as pyramid schemes because of their pyramid-shaped hierarchy. The coaches are other users who paid to become coaches and earn more money by recruiting other people to be coaches.
While MLMs can successfully help someone lose weight, people still shy away from them due to the methods used to draw you in. Once you are in, you often lose money until you recruit more people to join. Then those people lose money until they recruit people to join, and so on.
The Bottom Line
Optavia has a lot of mixed reviews, with some saying it worked perfectly for them and others having no success due to the low restriction of the diet. It is a person-by-person case for whether diets like this help build the habits to keep the weight off rather than being a crash diet.
Eating 800-1000 calories a day is dangerously low and unsustainable for long periods. Do not ignore this. Do not start a diet without speaking with your doctor first. Your doctor will help you choose the best weight loss plan for you.
Nicole Turner-Ravana, Starvation Diet, retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/84684-starvation-diet/
Rachael Link, MS, RD, Kris Gunnars, BSc, How Many Calories Should You Eat Per Day to Lose Weight?, retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-many-calories-per-day
Gabrielle Kassel, Metabolism to Mental Health: 7 Ways Losing Weight Too Fast Will Backfire, retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/rapid-weight-loss-dangers
Brandi Vesco, TDEE estimates calories needed to maintain current weight, retrieved from https://www.rgj.com/story/life/wellness/2017/08/22/tdee-estimates-calories-needed-maintain-current-weight/590944001/
Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., RD, What Is the Optavia Diet—And Can It Help You Lose Weight?, retrieved from https://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/nutrition-101/what-is-optavia-diet
What Happens to Your Body Composition When You Starve to Lose Weight, retrieved from https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/what-happens-to-your-body-composition-when-you-starve-to-lose-weight/