As you might have guessed from the name alone, the Medifast diet is the brainchild of a medical doctor who started peddling his health products to other physicians starting back in 1980. Today, it’s commonly known as one of the most popular means of practicing portion control.
It ends up costing between $2 and $3 (plus shipping) for each meal replacement, totaling about $10-$15 each day. That isn’t much money at all to be spending on the majority of the food you’ll be eating, but remember that the meal replacements aren’t all that substantial.
For many people, the difficult part about dieting, in general, is figuring out what you can eat and then preparing that food in the proper manner. With Medifast, most of the research and heavy lifting is done for you. You just have to order the food and eat it—without cheating! That said, you can up to your effort level by committing to in-person meetings, although they’re not required. But if you’re signing up for a focused diet like Medifast, you might want to consider taking advantage of the online food journals, nutritional guides, and chat rooms where you can gather and share tips and advice.
The Medifast diet takes some of the guesswork out of nutritional weight loss. But its strict rules and low-calorie basis make it a bit of a challenge for some new dieters to swallow. Like many modern-day weight loss plans, Medifast requires that you eat meal replacements that the company itself provides. On the diet, you are instructed to eat a whopping five Medifast replacement meals and then one of your choices. (There are other, more specialized plans on the Medifast program for dieters who want more flexibility, but the “5 & 1” plan is the most popular option.) As soon as you hit your target number on the scale, you’re allowed to slowly add back calories to your daily consumption for the next month and a half. But you’re not expected to go cold turkey at any point.
Most Medifasters are told to transition to a “3 & 3” plan and continue eating three provided meals alongside three of their own to maintain their weight loss. The meal replacements that the company offers range from pretzel sticks and cereals to shakes and bars. There are more than 70 options to choose from, so you shouldn’t get easily bored or tired of the food.
As far as meals that you make in your own kitchen, they should be comprised of 5-7 ounces of lean protein like white meat chicken, three servings of veggies, and as many as two servings of fat (the healthy kind of course). Keep in mind that Medifast doesn’t allow alcohol, dairy, fruit, or starches. Snacks aren’t a big part of the program, but you are instructed to have one per day if you like, whether it be a half-ounce of nuts (almonds, pistachios, or walnuts are encouraged), pickles, celery, Jell-O, or a popsicle. Interestingly, gum and mints are suggested snack options. In terms of exercise, it’s really up to you. The Medifast team encourages daily activity but doesn’t get specific when it comes to how you should work out. As you begin the program, however, you should only exercise about half as intensely and for half as long as you’re used to so you can get accustomed to the reduced-calorie lifestyle.
Medifast claims to help its users lose between two and five pounds during an initial couple of weeks. Thereafter, dieters are expected to lose about one or two pounds each week. If those results are typical then the benefit is clear: quick and sustained weight loss. Plus, eating every two or three hours will help regulate your metabolism and blood sugar.
The “5 & 1” plan is a pretty stringent approach to weight loss, allowing participants a mere 800 to 1,000 calories of food each day. Because that’s much less than most people are used to consuming, it could be a very difficult diet to follow through with. Its simple lack of calories is the biggest drawback to keep in mind when deciding whether it’s the right approach for you. Whether or not there’s a real risk to such calorie restriction depends upon the individual. You should absolutely consult your physician before going on the Medifast diet to make sure you’re in proper health to begin this kind of regimen.
You might also want to show your doctor the types of meal replacements you’re eating to ensure there are enough vitamins and nutrients to meet daily values. For instance, the lack of dairy on this diet means you should double up on other foods high in calcium and vitamin D, like collard greens, broccoli, and tofu.