“Optavia Ruined My Life”: A Dietitian’s Review of Why

Wondering if the Optavia diet is too good to be true? Are people really saying “Optavia ruined my life”?

This weight loss program offers some compelling before and after photos that might make you want to sign up…but what is it actually like to be on this diet program?

In this article, I’ll give you a full Optavia review. Hi, I’m Jamie, a Registered Dietitian and nutrition expert. This article discusses what you might expect if you were to try this restrictive diet program and experience.

Let’s start this blog post with a quick overview of what Optavia is and then we’ll dive into the details about what research backs up this program.

A single strawberry on a white ceramic plate. 

What is Optavia?

Optavia is a weight loss program that promises to help people achieve their health goals through a combination of purchased, small pre-packaged meals and homemade “lean and green” meals.

Optavia is a meal kit plan with the goal of helping you to lose weight – fast! I know how tempting that sounds when you’re on a weight loss journey.

The program has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many proponents claiming dramatic results. 

Following this diet plan, you’ll eat 5 small meals a day, every two to three hours, mostly from the products in your subscription box. 

And then, you’ll have what Optavia calls a “lean and green” meal. A lean and green meal is something that you prepare (vs. eating the meals that came in the mail). The app provides recipes and you’ll make a low-carb meal that is protein-rich. 

But what are the unspoken consequences of following Optavia’s strict dieting protocols?

How does Optavia work?

Optavia is a very low-calorie program that will easily put most people into a calorie deficit. So, chances are you’ll lose weight if you stick with it. That’s because calorie restriction does work.

But will the weight loss last? The unfortunate truth: rapid weight loss through highly restrictive and ultra low calorie intake isn’t sustainable, and will usually result in weight gain over time, not weight loss. Let’s get into the details of the program.

Low calorie; higher protein

The signature program that Optavia offers is a low-calorie program with only 800-1000 calories per day to kick off your rapid weight loss. The portion-controlled meals (called “fuelings” in Optavia-speak) are relatively higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates and fat. 

Optavia Fuelings

In their most popular Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan, you’re allowed six small meals per day (and calling them meals is a stretch), five of those being “fuelings” that are expected to be eaten every 2-3 hours.

Optavia meals, aka “fuelings” are pre-packaged portion-controlled meal replacements that you purchase directly from Optavia. Examples include:

  • Bars
  • Shakes
  • Soup
  • Pancakes and cereal
  • Mashed potatoes and mac and cheese
  • Hot chocolate

Using these “fuelings” likely means that you will be eating much, much different from the rest of your family. 

“Lean and Green” meals

On the 5 & 1 Optavia plan, you’re allowed one “lean and green” meal each day. This is a meal that you’re expected to prepare yourself that includes 5 to 7 ounces of lean protein, three ½ cup servings of non-starchy vegetables and up to two servings of healthy fats.

For example, 5 ounces of chicken breast with 1.5 cups of broccoli would be considered a “lean and green meal”. 

Optavia coaches

Optavia is proud of their coaches, touting on their website that they know what you’re going through, because 90% of them are Optavia clients themselves.

The red flag here: Anyone can become an Optavia coach. You don’t need any education, background, or experience in nutrition or health.

On the Optavia site, they mention how study after study says that coaching helps you to lose weight. The study that the site talks about backs up the power of working with Registered  Dietitians like me, aka, actual health professionals. However, their coaches are NOT licensed medical professionals by any stretch of the imagination – ugh (1, 2)! 

And PS- Optavia coaches make money when they get more people to sign up for Optavia, because it’s a multilevel marketing company. The red flags are waving.

Hydration

In addition to the above meals, the Optavia system recommends 64 ounces of water each day (3).

A mixed leaf salad with cucumbers, salmon, red onions on a blue plate.

Optavia side effects 

Because Optavia is so low in calories, you may actually become malnourished. It’s pretty difficult to get the essential nutrients you need on a daily basis like vitamins, minerals, and protein when you’re on such a low calorie diet.

To give you an example of just how low Optavia calories are, a 40 year old female who’s 5’7”, weighs 200 lbs and lightly active needs over 2200 calories per day to maintain their weight. Optavia’s program allows you 800-1000 calories per day. 

Following a diet program that’s so low in calories can lead to unwanted side effects. Many of these side effects include (4):

  • Low energy levels due to malnutrition
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Hair loss
  • Low-energy
  • Gallstones

Unfortunately, these side effects don’t seem to be super uncommon. If you do some internet sleuthing you can easily find anecdotal accounts from a lot of people who experienced major side effects from following Optavia.

Is weight regain possible?

Another consequence of following Optavia is that it can be extremely difficult to maintain your weight loss long term once you stop following the program.

Many people who try this diet program find that they gain back the weight they lost almost immediately, and some even gain more than what they started with.

This is due to the drastic restrictions imposed by the program. When you’re finally eating enough calories, you’ll have a hard time maintaining your weight loss. Eating too little calories for too long can also impact our metabolism negatively over time.

Following such a low-calorie, regimented diet can also fuel disordered eating and increase your risk of (or exacerbate) an eating disorder (5).

Optavia cost per month 

You might be wondering: what’s the cost of Optavia? It’s quite a price commitment; each month will cost $400 or more, depending on which plan you choose. 

If you have extra money to invest in your health, those $400 each month could be used to support long-term, sustainable habit changes. Things like buying more nutritious whole foods, joining a gym, or buying some home workout equipment to support your overall health.

Is there any research to support Optavia?

Yes, there are some clinical studies that investigate the Optavia weight-loss  program (formerly known as Medifast) (6). 

The studies report how effective the program is for the participants to lose weight, and what other symptoms they experienced. They also looked at things like how much muscle mass was lost (or not) following this very low-calorie program. 

It’s worth noting that these studies are usually funded by the company themselves. Most of the studies were for 12 weeks. And yes, they did show weight loss. 

But – and this is the most important part – that’s about as long as the people were followed. Most of us can follow a restrictive diet program for a few weeks or even months. What matters most is what happens after the “honeymoon” phase of the diet is over.

A 12-week study doesn’t tell us much about the sustainability of a diet program. To show that such a restrictive program is helpful, and not harmful, participants should be followed for several months at a minimum, and years following.

Especially since there are so many anecdotal accounts of people following this program and then regaining weight quickly. And yes, there are many accounts of people claiming Optavia “ruined my life”. 

Anecdotal accounts

You can easily find personal testimonies from former Optavia clients, saying that the program wasn’t a good fit, such as this one and this one

What I appreciate about these two reviews is that they’re written long after starting the diet, after having been on (and then stopped) being on the diet plan. They have a pretty different feel than someone writing about their experiences when they’ve just begun and have more enthusiasm than experience doing the program. 

A dietitian’s thoughts

The Optavia program is highly regimented and highly restrictive; these are both red flags for me. 

If your “healthy” diet interferes with your ability to be flexible, travel, and spend time with your friends and family, it isn’t actually healthy. 

If your “healthy” diet causes you to rapidly lose weight…and then you gain it right back, it isn’t healthy. 

If your “healthy” diet depends on following an expensive program instead of teaching you skills to cultivate true health in a flexible and enjoyable way, it isn’t healthy. 

And if your “healthy” diet puts you at risk of disordered eating, hair falling out, and gallstones, it also isn’t healthy. 

TLDR; Rapid weight loss with a highly restrictive plan like Optavia isn’t what I would recommend for most people; the potential cons far outweigh the benefits. 

More reviews

Ready to hear my thoughts on other diet plans and fad foods? I have a few more for you to check out!

That’s a wrap

If you follow Optavia, you will very likely lose weight. But it will likely be short term. And if you gain all of your lost weight back, what’s the point?

Simply put- I don’t recommend it. It’s highly restrictive and unlikely to result in long-term results for most people.

In my professional opinion, if you have weight loss goals learning how to build healthy, sustainable eating habits and lifestyle change with food and exercise is key for sustained weight management for life.

If you’d like to begin learning how to do just that without rigid diet programs, check out my Balanced Basics HandbookIn this ebook I walk you through exactly what you need to do to stard building healthy habits in a balanced way, step-by-step.

I hope this article helped break down some myths about Optavia and encouraged further research about any dietary supplementation/program before embarking on it.

Is there another diet or healthy eating method you’d like me to review? Comment below!

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One Response

  1. Optavia ruined my metabolism. I became so unhealthy in a few months. It took about 3 years to re adjust. I wish I could warn everyone about this horrible decision I made when I was onbthe optavia plan.

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It's me, Jamie!

I’m a Registered Dietitian dedicated to helping you break free of the all-or-nothing dieting with balanced and realistic healthy eating.

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Meet Jamie

I’m a Registered Dietitian and I’ve been exactly where you are, right now. The all or nothing dieting, the constant food guilt, the scale obsession, absolutely no balance with food…. Sound familiar?