Last Updated: January 14, 2021
How Medifast Works
Medifast is a weight loss program designed to help dieters by severely restricting calorie intake. On a Medifast plan, you will get much of your nutrition from Medifast meal replacements such as shakes, snacks, cereals, and bars.
This arrangement means you will eat frequently—six times per day—but many of those “meals” will be Medifast products that look more like big snacks. The guiding principle of a Medifast diet plan is to reduce hunger through periodic shakes and other meal replacements while reducing the overall calories you consume each day.
The Medifast diet allows you to cook one meal each day, though the weight loss plan requires you to include certain food types. You may also choose among some different snacks between your meal replacements. We’ll discuss those restrictions and allowances more below.
Medifast offers two weight loss programs. One option is Medifast GO!, which can help you lose weight quickly by following a strict, prescribed low-calorie diet. Medifast Achieve diet plans are more suitable for dieters who want to lose weight consistently over time.
Once dieters have met their goal weight, they may decide to transition to the Medifast Thrive plan, which provides meals and other products to help individuals keep the pounds off and foster healthy eating habits in the long term.
Medifast is essentially a service that provides the framework for a ketogenic diet. Following a keto diet centers on eating food high in protein and fiber. Meals include three servings of vegetables (though not starchy food like potatoes) and several grams of protein, especially the lean protein found in food like fish and poultry.
These types of meals encourage the body to enter ketosis. During ketosis, you will burn fat rather than carbohydrates for energy. Proponents say that in addition to promoting weight loss, a ketogenic diet helps adherents feel full while consuming fewer calories and dropping pounds.
Medifast offers structure to pursue a very-low-calorie ketogenic food plan while providing supplements to make sure customers consume adequate nutrition. Having meals and snacks shipped to your door makes the program easy, but the challenging part deals with food cravings. Some participants develop hankerings for more food or for specific meals that are forbidden under the plan, making their diets fail or causing them to regain the pounds that they had lost.
However, for those who can stick it out and stand up to temptation, Medifast can be part of a healthy, successful weight loss strategy.
Here’s a quick look at what Medifast has to offer:
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In this Medifast review, we will look at the meal replacement plans in more depth as you consider whether one of their services might help you meet your weight loss goals.
Foods To Eat, Foods To Avoid
Most of the food you will eat on a Medifast diet program will come from products shipped to your home by the company. These meals and meal replacements can include:
- Oatmeal bars
- Ziti marinara
- Chicken soup
Meal replacement snacks are designed to provide about 100 calories and include protein supplements, which provide the bulk of the calories in each meal replacement.
You will also prepare one or two low-calorie meals per day using Medifast-approved ingredients. Medifast refers to these as your “lean and green” meals.
You may buy a microwaveable lean and green meal from Medifast or cook your own. If you decide to prepare a lean and green meal yourself, it must include 5-7 ounces of lean protein, three servings of vegetables, and one or two servings of healthy fats.
You may also prepare one of your own snacks each day, choosing from a list of Medifast-approved foods low in calories such as gelatin, ice pops, small amounts of nuts, and celery.
Some foods and drinks—including all alcohol—are taboo as you try to cut calories and lose weight with Medifast. The focus on lean and green meals precludes starchy vegetables like mashed potatoes, squash, and even peas. The same goes for sweet fruits.
Dieters also need to watch their calcium and vitamin D intake because Medifast weight loss programs exclude dairy products.
Is It Easy To Follow?
Yes and no.
Medifast makes grocery shopping and meal planning a breeze. On the Medifast GO! plan, people eat five Medifast meal replacements per day. If you choose to order lean and green meals from the company, it provides your entire daily meal plan.
Medifast Achieve meal programs swap out one of the meal replacements for one additional low-calorie meal, which may be a microwaveable meal provided by the company.
By following a high-protein, low-fat, low-calorie diet, customers lose weight quickly, especially on the Medifast GO! plan. This result can encourage dieters to stick to the plan as they realize their weight loss goals.
However, it can be difficult for many people to cut their calorie intake so sharply. While dieters eat every two to three hours, the number of calories can still leave participants hungry. In one study of 1,351 dieters, only one-quarter of participants could stick with Medifast for a full year.
All participants lost weight by eating Medifast meals and meal replacements, but only those who were able to stick it out for the full year could claim the most substantial weight loss results.
How Fast Can You Lose Weight on Medifast?
The programs work fast, especially the Medifast Go! plan in which dieters eat five Medifast meal replacements and one lean and green meal each day. This program works out to 800 to 1,000 calories each day.
In one study, 77 overweight adults lost approximately ten percent of their total weight in the first three months on a Medifast GO! diet. In another Medifast GO! study, dieters lost an average of 16.5 pounds over six months. A large study of 1,351 people on a Medifast diet found that participants lost an average of 26 pounds over the course of a year.
Dieters who can stick with a Medifast plan have been shown to lose more weight than people trying to drop pounds with their own self-imposed diets.
As happens with many diets, folks often put some weight back on after losing it. However, studies have shown that Medifast dieters generally lost more weight than people following their own diets and that Medifast participants were more likely to keep more weight off.
While many studies have focused on Medifast GO! or its predecessor, known as the 5 & 1 plan, dieters can also lose weight on the Medifast Achieve plan.
The Achieve plan (formerly the 4 & 2 & 1) allows for two lean and green meals plus four meal replacements daily. On this plan, users consume 1,100 to 1,300 calories daily. This can encourage more gradual weight loss and could be an easier diet for many to maintain over time, but results are not as swift as on the Medifast GO! plan.
Are Medifast and Optavia the Same Thing?
The Optavia diet is one of Medifast’s weight loss plans and follows many of the same principles. Both ship small-portion meal replacement products to take the place of full meals to keep users feeling full while restricting calories. Optavia also focuses on a high-protein, low-fat diet.
Both programs grant users access to health coaches. Your health coach will usually be someone who has successfully used the plan for weight loss and can offer help and encouragement.
Medifast’s coaching program is known as “Take Shape for Life” and provides access to nutrition guides, chat rooms, food journals, and a weight-loss blog in addition to personal health coaching.
However, both programs’ coaches are not necessarily dietitians and cannot provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Before you begin any meal replacement program, weight loss products, or diet, talk to your doctor. A physician can help make sure your eating habits provide your body with adequate nutrition, vitamins, and minerals so you can pursue weight loss safely and healthily.
Pros and Cons
Medifast’s meal replacement plans have helped many dieters achieve phenomenal weight loss results, but they are not for everyone.
One primary consideration is the price, which we will discuss in more depth next. First, let’s consider some other Medifast pros and cons.
- Meals and meal replacements delivered to your door simplify food planning
- Studies show that Medifast’s low-calorie foods support weight loss
- Meals provide similar nutrition, which means you can swap them out
- Frequent eating can make you feel full and satisfied
- Meals and meal replacement snacks are tasty
- You may still prepare one lean and green meal for yourself (and for the rest of your family) every day, provided you stick to specific ingredient and portion restrictions
- Medifast offers free shipping
- Medifast backs their products with a money-back guarantee
- Snacks and shakes may not satisfy everyone’s hunger for more substantial meals
- Weight loss results occur more slowly on the Achieve diet
- Some drinks and snacks have substantial added sugar
- You must cut many starches, fruits, dairy products, and alcohol from your meals
- A diet of consistently low-calorie meals can be challenging to maintain long term
- You will mostly be eating pre-packaged food prepared by Medifast
- Medifast plans solely focus on providing healthier meals—they do not include exercise regimens
Special Considerations for People With Health Conditions and Dietary Restrictions
Vegetarians may participate in Medifast diets, though they should be careful not to overeat high-carb legumes such as lentils until they have reached their target weight.
A few dozen Medifast meals and meal replacements are gluten-free. The company lists gluten-free foods on its website, which means people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance may preview their options to determine whether a Medifast diet would be realistic for them, considering their tastes.
Medifast may not be appropriate for vegans because many meal replacement options include animal products such as eggs.
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Medifast has also designed menus for mature customers and mothers nursing children. Check their offerings for specific information if either case applies to you.
A Medifast program can benefit dieters with heart disease or high cholesterol because losing weight is one way to address those health issues.
However, people with diabetes should be careful because restricting calories could negatively affect blood sugar. That is not to say that Medifast is automatically an inappropriate diet, but you should work with your physician to monitor your blood sugar and achieve a healthy weight safely.
If you are also trying to drop a few pounds through exercise, it is essential to remember that all diets that restrict calories may impact your athletic performance. Specifically, dieters must lessen their workout intensity during the weight-loss stage, but they may increase intensity as they transition into a weight maintenance phase.
Medifast programs do not include exercise regimens, so dieters would be wise to discuss their concerns with a doctor. That way, they can receive proper feedback to suit their bodies’ unique needs.
Remember, administrators for Medifast and similar diet programs cannot provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Before you sign up for any meal replacement service, talk to your physician to ensure the program will provide the nutrients you need with your specific health conditions and dietary restrictions in mind.
Price: How Much Does Medifast Cost?
A 30-day supply of meal replacements starts at $323 for the Achieve Plan and $341 for the Medifast GO! program, which incorporates more meal replacements. Note those prices assume you ask for the Medifast Advantage discount, which knocks a little more than $100 off the cost of your first 30-day bulk purchase.
Keep an eye on the Medifast website to find out about any other kinds of deals, gifts, and ways that dieters may earn discounts. Medifast often provides samples of their own lean and green microwaveable meals in the first kit.
Medifast customers may also shop for smaller amounts of food. If you would prefer to eat all Medifast food instead of preparing your own lean and green plate, you can buy a 12-pack of diet-friendly microwavable dinners for $60. Buying one meal at a time is very expensive. You can also purchase a package of any seven meal replacements for $20.50 if a friend or family member snags some shakes.
Shipping is free on Medifast meals and kits. The company also offers a money-back guarantee; you just pay for shipping and handling.
A Medifast diet works out to cost about $12 every day, so it isn’t a cheap option. However, a review of meal replacement services shows that Medifast was less expensive than competitors like the Health Management Resources (HMR) diet, Optifast, and Jenny Craig.
*Price current at the time of publication – see current Medifast prices at their website.
Medifast Review Summary
So, the bottom line: is Medifast a good weight loss program?
If you are interested in weight loss, Medifast could give you the push you need if you are willing to take the bad with the good and work painstakingly to resist hunger cravings.
If you diligently restrict your caloric intake, your body will have no choice but to drop weight. Medifast meals and snacks provide a structure to reduce your calorie consumption while providing nutritional supplements to keep you healthy.
However, many Medifast customers cannot commit to eating as little as 800 to 1,000 calories each day. Even those who do shed pounds are often unable to keep the weight off in the transition to the weight maintenance phase of their journey.
The Medifast Thrive program can offer long-term support, but it can get expensive like other meal replacement services. A month’s worth of snacks and meals will run into the hundreds of dollars, so dieters must budget the cost.
Furthermore, since you are eating a Medifast meal replacement every few hours, you will quickly sample many of their products, so you have to get used to a routine and be willing to commit to a potentially repetitive diet.
Medifast also demands that you abstain from alcohol and even many fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, potentially leading to cravings for a particular forbidden food and cheating that can derail weight loss efforts. It is also difficult to eat out while strictly adhering to a program such as Medifast.
However, all diets have their challenges, and any program is likely to make dieters crave some off-limits food or drink at one time or another.
While Medifast has its drawbacks, it has helped many folks achieve impressive results. Those who can commit to this strict program can lose more than ten percent of their body weight over a few months and develop healthy eating habits to keep the pounds off for months and years afterward.
If you are trying to eat healthier this year and are considering your options in meal replacement services, Medifast may provide you with the ideal solution. If you feel as though this dieting option isn’t for you, feel free to check out some of our other reviews and diets to see which one is ideal for your situation. We are always here to help!
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