Emily Sicinski, MS, RDN, CDN
5 Reasons Why We Would Never Recommend Optavia
In the beginning months of the new year, it is common to develop a “resolution” mindset where we create a list of all the habits we want to change for the new year. Oftentimes, diet and health find their way to the top of that list. It is important to make sure that while setting your goals for the new year that you don’t fall into the trap of fad dieting. In this article, I plan to write about one of the most popular fad diets out there, Optavia, and 5 reasons why us dietitians would never recommend following it.
Optavia is a low-calorie, low-carb fad diet marketed for weight loss. The program consists of Optavia “fuelings” which are pre-prepared items purchased from the company. The diet also consists of 1-2 home-prepared meals, which include about 3 servings of green vegetables and 5-7 ounces of protein. Although Optavia might sound appealing, easy, and effective for weight loss, there are many reasons why us dietitians feel it is not destined for success. Here's why:
1. Hello, Hunger! Optavia allows for consistent feeding times throughout the day, but the portion sizes the company actually provides are rather small. Each fueling weighs approximately 32-35 grams, which is less weight than a standard granola bar. Optavia is hypocaloric, or low-calorie, and the serving sizes provided are much smaller than what our eyes and stomach are used to. This could lead to increased feelings of hunger throughout the day and staring at the clock just waiting for your next opportunity to eat. We all know what being “hangry” feels like, and there’s a good chance you’ll be feeling it throughout your time trying to follow Optavia. No, thanks!
2. Dangerously Low Calorie. The optavia diet can be far lower in calories than what most people are used to eating. And in some cases, the drastic shift in calories can lead to some serious and unwanted side effects. Gallstones, hormone imbalances, fatigue, diminished metabolism, and depression are just a few of the side effects found to be associated with following very low calorie diets. Most Optavia plans fall within the 800-1300 calorie range, which can be less than half of some adults’ basal energy needs.
3. Easy… but expensive. Optavia makes it easy to follow their program because all you really have to do is buy their food products. The program itself relies very little on actual cooking. Although you may not be spending as much on groceries, the fuelings provided by the company do not come cheap. Optavia fuelings can cost hundreds of dollars - on average, a whopping $425 per month. When you decide it’s time to transition off the diet, Optavia recommends continuously purchasing their fuelings for success. Sounds like a sure way for a company to continue making money while bleeding your wallet dry!
4. Lacks Long Term Success. Did you know there’s actually very little research behind Optavia and its effects on long-term weight loss? Only a handful of studies have taken place which look at the effectiveness of low-calorie, low-carb diets on diet on long-term weight loss. Most studies don’t look beyond one year after diet completion, and unfortunately, most of these studies showed most participants regain their weight back.
5. Harms your Relationship with Food. One of the biggest reasons why dietitians don’t like Optavia is because its restrictive nature can harm your overall relationship with food. When so many food items become forbidden, it is a natural response to crave these items later on, which can lead to binge eating and feelings of guilt and shame. It is important to remember that all foods fit in moderation, and with a combination of good nutrition habits, exercise and lifestyle change, it is more likely for you to achieve a realistic weight goal without tarnishing your relationship with food.
If you’re thinking of shaping up your nutrition this year, remember that fad diets like Optavia are restrictive, expensive, unsustainable, and very unlikely to give you the results you’re looking to achieve long-term. It is important to take a wide-lens approach to determine what factors might be influencing your health overall - diet, genetics, physical activity, sleep, stress, and hydration are just a few. Instead of pouring hundreds of dollars into a program that has little actual success rates, consider consulting with a local dietitian to assess your current health and nutrition patterns to achieve more sustainable, long-term success.
Until Next Time,
Emily Sicinski, MS, RDN, CDN