Curious about the Optavia diet? Wondering if it’s as amazing as it seems or if people are really claiming it’s a life-ruiner? The diet showcases impressive before-and-after photos that might tempt you to join, but what’s the real deal when you’re on it?
In this article, I’ll share what you can anticipate if you decide to give this strict diet a shot and share insights based on research. Let’s kick things off with a quick overview of what Optavia is before delving into the details and evidence supporting (or not supporting) the program.
What Exactly is Optavia?
Optavia is a weight loss program designed to help people reach their health goals by combining purchased, small pre-packaged meals with homemade “lean and green” meals.
It’s a meal kit plan aiming for rapid weight loss, which might sound appealing during your weight loss journey. The program has gained popularity, with many supporters boasting about significant results.
When following this diet, you eat five small meals daily, spaced every two to three hours, primarily from the items in your subscription box. Additionally, there’s a daily “lean and green” meal, where you prepare a low-carb, protein-rich dish using recipes provided by the Optavia app.
But what are the potential downsides or hidden consequences of adhering to Optavia’s strict dietary guidelines? Let’s explore.
How does Optavia work?
Optavia operates on a very low-calorie approach that often puts people in a calorie deficit, making weight loss likely if you stick to it. The program starts with a rapid weight loss phase, featuring only 800-1000 calories per day. While this initial calorie restriction can lead to weight loss, there are concerns about its long-term sustainability.
The primary program, called the Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan, involves consuming six small meals daily, referred to as “fuelings,” with five of them spaced every 2-3 hours. These fuelings, purchased directly from Optavia, are portion-controlled and higher in protein while being lower in carbohydrates and fat. Examples include bars, shakes, soups, pancakes, and more. It’s worth noting that relying on these fuelings means your eating pattern may differ significantly from your family.
Additionally, the plan includes one “lean and green” meal each day, prepared by you. This meal typically consists of 5 to 7 ounces of lean protein, three ½ cup servings of non-starchy vegetables, and up to two servings of healthy fats.
Optavia promotes its coaches as a support system, but it’s important to note that anyone can become an Optavia coach without specific education or background in nutrition or health. Furthermore, these coaches are not licensed medical professionals. Optavia operates as a multilevel marketing company, where coaches earn money by recruiting more people to join.
It’s recommended to consume 64 ounces of water daily as part of the Optavia system. While the program may lead to initial weight loss, concerns arise about the sustainability and potential long-term consequences, especially given the highly restrictive nature of the diet.
Potential side effects of Optavia
Optavia is extremely low in calories, so there’s a risk of becoming malnourished. Meeting daily nutritional needs for essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and protein becomes challenging on such a calorie-restricted diet.
To illustrate, consider a 40-year-old female who is 5’7″ and weighs 200 lbs, with light activity. She needs over 2200 calories daily to maintain her weight. In contrast, Optavia allows only 800-1000 calories per day.
Following such a low-calorie diet can lead to various unwanted side effects, including:
- Low energy levels due to malnutrition
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Hair loss
- Formation of gallstones
Unfortunately, these side effects are not uncommon. Many individuals have shared their experiences of major side effects from following Optavia when exploring online accounts. It’s crucial to consider these potential consequences before embarking on such a calorie-restricted program.
A Specialist’s Advice
The Optavia program raises concerns for me because it’s highly regimented and restrictive, which are red flags. A healthy diet should allow flexibility, accommodate travel, and let you spend time with friends and family without interference.
If a so-called “healthy” diet leads to rapid weight loss followed by quick regain, it’s not truly healthy. Moreover, if it relies on an expensive program rather than teaching sustainable health skills, it falls short of promoting genuine well-being in a flexible and enjoyable way.
Importantly, if a “healthy” diet poses risks such as disordered eating, hair loss, and gallstones, it’s not genuinely healthy.
In summary, I don’t recommend rapid weight loss through a highly restrictive plan like Optavia for most people. The potential drawbacks far outweigh the benefits. Opting for a more balanced and sustainable approach to health is generally a better choice.