On average, about 20-25% of people have said that they tried at least one diet program sometime in 2012. With such a high percentage of the population trying to lose weight, it is interesting to see what diet plans most are trying and which are the most successful.
One of the more popular diet plans on the market is Medifast. Medifast is so widely popular because it was developed by a physician to help patients lose weight prior to having surgery. Dr. William Vitale from John Hopkins University developed Medifast because of the serious risks that excessive weight can pose when patients undergo a variety of surgeries. After several patients were successful with the program and lost the weight necessary to undergo surgery, Medifast gained popularity with the general public and the plan became available to all of Dr. Vitale’s patients. Not long after Medifast became popular with Dr. Vitale’s general practice patients, other physicians around the globe implemented Medifast into their own practices. Since Medifast was first created by Dr. Vitale, it has undergone some changes, but the majority of the plan still remains the same today. One of the factors that helped Medifast continue to grow in popularity is that it has repeatedly been proven to be a safe and effective weight loss method for most individuals. While it does reduce caloric intake below the recommended 1,200 calorie daily limit, it does so in the healthiest way possible and with the approval of most physicians. The plan also teaches individuals how to eat a balanced diet after finishing the initial weight loss phase of the plan and helps keeping caloric intake at an optimal rate to keep unwanted pounds at bay.
In order to prove the validity of the program, Medifast has been studied several times by institutes across the globe. In order to evaluate the long term effects of Medifast between obese individuals with diabetes, a study was conducted splitting up the population studied into two groups. The group on Medifast lost twice as much weight and was more successful in keeping the weigh t off than the group on a standard diet.
Another study was conducted comparing Medifast to a conventional USDA food based diet incorporating equal amounts of calories. After approximately 4 months on the plan, results showed that the Medifast group was more effective in faster, initial weight loss and improved achievements in weight maintenance.
How the Plan Works
The basis behind the program is the Medifast 5 & 1 Plan. It is designed to deliver fast and effective weight loss in a safe way. It incorporates five pre-made, delivered meals and one Lean & Green Meal of your own. The plan promises that you can lose between 2 to 5 pounds in the first two weeks and 1 to 2 pounds each week thereafter. If you have less than 15 pounds to lose, you can opt for the 3 & 3 Plan. This is more of a maintenance plan but is also geared for those that have less weight to lose or want to lose at a slower pace.
On the Medifast plan, you will eat a meal every 2 to 3 hours, so you will not feel hungry or deprived throughout the day. Each Medifast meal replacement is nutrient dense and fortified with 24 vitamins and minerals. The meals are all designed to be well-balanced, low in fat, high in fiber and with have plenty of protein to help keep hunger at bay. The key to losing weight with Medifast is the fat-burning phase that your body will achieve after a few days on the plan. The Medifast plan has been proven effective in various clinical studies and has been continuously touted as one of the safest and most effective weight loss programs to date.
The main plan promoted by Medifast is the 5 & 1 Plan. This is the plan that produces weight loss and will help you achieve your desired weight loss goals. The 5 & 1 plan is considered the first phase of the plan and the one that will produce the greatest amount of weight loss. After completing phase one and meeting your weight loss goals, you move onto Phase two, the Transition Phase. This six week phase is designed to help transition you from the weight loss phase to the maintenance phase. The final phase to help with maintenance is the 3 & 3 Maintenance plan.
Phase 1: Medifast 5 & 1 Weight Loss Plan
On the 5 & 1 Plan, you are allowed a total of 6 meals a day. You will choose from more than 70 meal replacement options for five of the meals. All meal replacements are low-glycemic foods, low in calories and low in fat. They are also interchangeable so you can eat any combination of 5 per day and take the guesswork of what you need to eat next. When you order your meal replacement foods, you will choose 20 boxes from over 70 meal replacement options. Some examples of Medifast replacement options are:
- Peanut Butter Crunch Bar
- Dutch Chocolate Shake
- Brownies and Soft Bake Cookies
- Pretzels and Puffs
- Puddings and Soft Serve
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Soups and Chilis
- Dry Cereals
If you have specific dietary needs that must be met, Medifast also offers gluten-free options. If you are a chocolate lover, Medifast can help curb your chocolate cravings with plenty of chocolate options as well.
Lean & Green Meal
The sixth meal each day will be a meal you choose and make at home. This is the Lean & Green meal and it includes lean protein and a variety of vegetables. If you are not sure what constitutes lean protein and low carbohydrate vegetables, you can choose ingredients for your meal from the shopping list provided online. Some examples of Lean meal ingredients for your Lean & Green meal include:
- 7 ounces of shellfish
- 6 ounces of 95-97% lean ground turkey
- 14 egg whites
- 2 cups of Egg Beaters
- 2 Morning Star or Boca Burger Veggie Burgers
- 5 ounces of white meat chicken
- 15 ounces of extra firm tofu
All Lean foods should be grilled, baked, broiled or poached. No frying is allowed due to the high fat content that oil adds.
Green food options include most vegetables, although high carbohydrate vegetables such as carrots, peas, corn, edamame and brussel sprouts are not allowed. Some of the Green foods allowed are:
- 1 cup of collards, romaine lettuce or spring mix
- 1/2 cup of celery, cucumbers, white mushrooms, sprouts, arugula, asparagus, broccoli, jicama or bell peppers
Sauces, Condiments, Herbs, Spices & Other Meal Additives
When consuming your Lean & Green Meal, you should select any combination of three choices from the Lean & Green Meal options. For healthy fats and added flavor, you can cook your meals in:
- 1 teaspoon of canola, flaxseed, walnut or olive oil
- 5-6 black or green olives
- Up to 2 tablespoons of low carbohydrate salad dressing
- 1 tablespoon of trans fat-free margarine
In addition to Leans & Greens, you are also allowed a small amount of dairy, cheese and milk substitutes. Some of the suggested items and serving sizes are:
- 1 tablespoon of low fat cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon of cow’s milk or soy milk
- ½ cup of almond milk
- 1 teaspoon of sour cream
- 1 tablespoon of parmesan cheese
When adding condiments to your diet, Medifast has a specified list of allowed sauces and syrups available on line. Some of the options allowed are:
- ½ teaspoon of barbecue sauce, catsup, cocktail sauce or honey mustard
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, horseradish, salsa, steak sauce or teriyaki sauce
- 2 teaspoons of low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of sugar free syrups or flavorings
In addition to your five Medifast meals and the Lean & Green Meal, you can also choose one snack each day. Medifast approved snacks include:
- 3 celery stalks
- 1 fruit flavored sugar free Popsicle
- ½ cup of sugar free gelatin
- Up to 3 pieces of sugar free gum or mints
- 2 dill pickle spears
- ½ an ounce of nuts, such as almonds (10), walnuts (7 halves) or pistachios (20 kernels)
In addition to snacks and condiments, fresh herbs and dried spices and herbs are also allowed on the plan. For a full list of all herbs, spices, condiments, salad dressings, healthy fat options and snacks, you can visit the Medifast website. There you will find a detailed list, broken down by item and suggested serving size. The list is also broken down between lean, leaner and leanest choices. This helps you choose options that will help you optimize your weight loss results.
If you have not yet noticed, you may be surprised to find out that all fruits are forbidden during the first phase of the program. The 5 & 1 Plan eliminates fruits because of their high sugar content. Although fruits have natural sugars, they will create insulin spikes and increase hunger throughout the day. Fruits are reintroduced in the second phase and allowed throughout the rest of the time on the Maintenance Plan.
Phase 2: Transition Phase
The Transition phase is six weeks long and will help instill key concepts to assist you in leading a lifetime of healthier eating. During the Transition Phase, you will slowly increase your daily caloric intake by reintroducing foods and food groups back into your diet.
In the first week of the Transition Phase, you will consume 850 to 1050 calories. Your meals will consist of five Medifast meals, one Lean & Green meal and 1 additional cup of vegetables.
In the second week, caloric intake is increased to approximately 900 to 1,150 calories per day. In addition to your five Medifast meals and Lean & Green Meal, you will add a cup of vegetables and 2 medium size pieces of fruit.
The third week in the Transition phase, you will increase caloric intake to 1,000 to 1,300 calories daily. You will eat all that is allowed the week before and also add 1 cup of low fat or fat free dairy.
During the fourth through six weeks, your caloric intake will go to about 1,100 to 1,550 calories. You will consume all that is eaten during the third week on the phase and add another 4 to 6 ounces of lean meat and 1 serving of whole grains as well.
By the end of the Transition phase, you will have introduced all foods back into your daily regimen, and you will be ready to move into the Maintenance Phase.
Phase 3: Medifast 3 & 3 Maintenance Plan
In the Medifast 3 & 3 Plan or third phase of the program, you will learn how to maintain your weight loss with three meals per day and three “feulings” per day. Your daily meal plan will include lean protein, vegetables and three Medifast Meal Replacements. You will continue to eat six times per day in order to keep your metabolism working at an optimal rate and keep hunger at bay.
Prior to beginning the Medifast 3 & 3 Maintenance Plan phase, you will need to figure out your Total Energy Expenditure (TEE). This is the number of calories you burn in a typical day. In order to maintain your weight, you will need to consume the amount of calories equal to your TEE. In order to figure out your TEE, you will need to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and add in your Physical Activity Level (PAL). Do not be afraid of these computations and acronyms. The Medifast site has a free downloadable maintenance guide that includes formulas to figure out the TEE, BMR and PAL.
After estimating what you need to consume each day, Medifast advises that you get rid of trigger foods that may derail you from your maintenance plan. Trigger foods are foods that are in your home and can lead to weakness such as cookies, chips, cakes and other fatty foods. In order to ensure your success, Medifast encourages you to always have pre-packed Medifast meals on hand. If you are in doubt of what you should eat or do not want to take the time to prepare a meal, you can easily reach for a ready-to-go Medifast meal and know that you are getting a healthy, nutrient dense meal.
In addition to formulas to help you figure out your TEE and serving size suggestions for foods that you have reintroduced into your diet, the Maintenance Plan Downloadable information guide also features a meal tracker. This is a page where you can check off each of your meals and all of the servings necessary to be met each day. There are boxes to check off for grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, protein and healthy fueling meals. This will help you keep track of what you have eaten and what you still have room for during the day.
If determining portions is something you need work on, Medifast also provides an easy way to visualize portions that you are eating. Medifast suggests using a 9 inch plate and divide it in half. One half should have your vegetables and the other half should contain one quarter lean protein and one quarter starches. This will help you estimate correct portion sizes for each and every meal without measuring or weight foods.
When it comes to estimating proper portion sizes without a plate, Medifast provides a visual guideline with examples relative to objects you see each day. Some examples are:
- One cup = one baseball
- ½ cup = one light bulb
- ¼ cup = one golf ball
- 2 tablespoons = two poker chips
- 1 ½ ounce of cheese = your thumb
- 3 ounces of meat = a deck of playing cards
- 1 muffin = a hockey puck
Free Online Tools and Support
In addition to the many resources available within the three phase descriptions above, Medifast also provides countless other guides and tools on their website to help guide you through the weight loss process. All of the tools featured on the Medifast website are free of charge and accessible to anyone that visits it. Some of the many available tools are an Medifast Recipes, Exercise Guide, Dining Out Guide, Diabetes Guide, Nursing Mother’s Guide, Plateau Tips, Teens Guide, Event Survival Guide and many more. As you can see, Medifast has tailored its program to fit into any lifestyle, whether you are a teenager or a senior in the middle of your retirement years.
With tools such as the Dining Out Guide and the Event Survival Guide, you will always have help at your finger tips to help guide you through events and challenges that may arise. The Dining Out Guide will help you make smart choices when eating out with family and friends on evenings and weekends. These types of occasions are unavoidable but, unlike what most think, going to a restaurant does not have to mean you will steer off your weight loss plans. There are healthy options available at virtually every fast food chain or restaurant you will visit, and the Medifast Dining Guide will help you find those.
If you are new to exercise, the Exercise Guide will help teach you the different types of exercise to perform and the benefits they provide to your overall health. The Exercise Guide is lengthy, at over 20 pages long, and includes tips and descriptions on virtually any exercise you plan on incorporating into your fitness regimen.
Medifast Cost Breakdown
After seeing all that Medifast has to offer, your next question is likely, “How much will this plan cost me?” When broken down, each Medifast meal will cost you approximately $2.42 each. Per day, you would be spending approximately $12.10 on Medifast meals and an additional $4-5 on your Lean & Green Meal. That is a total of approximately $16-17 per day. Your average monthly cost, for Medifast meals alone, would be about $363. If you include all groceries you have to purchase for the Lean and Green meals, you would be spending about $480 per month on all of your meals combined. When compared to the average American’s grocery bill of about $500, the plan seems reasonable and not overly expensive.
Medifast Coupons & Discounts
If you decide that the standard plan cost is higher than you prefer, you could opt for the Medifast Advantage Plan. The difference between the standard plan and the advantage plan is that you are essentially enrolling in a recurring meal delivery plan. Medifast will continue to send you meals every 4 weeks or 28 days. On the Medifast Advantage plan, you will receive free standard delivery and up to 56 free Medifast meals. In order to receive the free meals, your first order must be over $250 and your second consecutive order must be over $250 as well. You will receive 28 free meals with each of your first two orders, totaling 56 free meals. After your initial two orders, you must continue to order $150 worth of meals or more in order to continue receiving free shipping. If you plan on being on Medifast for a period of 3 months or longer, the Medifast Advantage would be a wiser choice since it will save you money in the long run and continue food delivery without interruption. In addition to the free meals, the Medifast Advantage plan also provides you with a free blender bottle, free online access to the Medifast Nutrition Support Team and the free My Medifast Plan Tracker App. Even if you are hesitant about the plan, Medifast offers a 30 day money back guarantee to help put your mind at ease. If, at any time during the first 30 days of receiving your Medifast meals you are not satisfied, you can return any unopened boxes of Medifast foods for a full refund.
Pros vs. Cons
After reading the review of Medifast so far, it is easy to decide whether the Medifast plan is something that could fit into your lifestyle or not. Below are some pros and cons in summary form to help bring out some of the positive and negative features of the plan.
- Medifast meals are delivered to your door, taking the guess work out of what you need to eat
- There are countless online tools on a variety of topics to help get you through any obstacles you may face while on the diet plan.
- After completing the main weight loss phase of the plan, Medifast eases you back into an average daily meal regimen with the six week transition period.
- By taking the plan seriously and dedicating yourself to it, you can lose up to five pounds per week.
- The plan features foods for three different types of menus. You can opt for the least strict options of all and, if you want to speed up weight loss more or get past a plateau, you can move on to stricter options.
- Medifast meals are all pre-packaged and most do not resemble actual meals. A large number of them are bars, cookies, shakes or cereals that are more like a snack than a regular food.
- The plan cuts out all fruits during its main weight loss phase.
- The plan restricts calories to a range of 800 to 1000 per day. The lowest most physicians recommend is 1,200 per day. Falling below that can leave you hungry, weak and wanting to reach for foods that will cure your hunger.
- The plan eliminates most carbohydrates. This can give some people headaches, mood swings and other negative side effects.
- Although exercise is required, it is difficult to exercise when consuming less than 1,200 calories per day.
“After trying Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the Atkins and a few other fad diets, I decided to give Medifast a try. It was my last option and I need to lose the weight in order to qualify for bariatric surgery. I asked my doctor prior to starting and he gave me the green light to do it. After about four months on the plan, I have lost almost 45 pounds and I am ready for the surgery. It was not easy but it worked!”
“My schedule has me traveling often and my weight began to climb after eating meal after meal on the road. Even though I tried making healthy choices, I regularly opted for the burger and fries. I packed on about 20 pounds in less than six months and was disgusted with myself. After comparing some programs, I decided to go with Medifast since their meals are all pre-packaged and many require little to no preparation. The meals are easy to eat on the road and they kept me out of the drive thru. I added in some exercise in my hotel rooms thanks to videos and some resistance bands and, within two months, I was back to my original weight. It was much easier than expected and I am quite happy it worked.”
“Although I had high hopes for the Medifast plan, I was one of the few that was not very successful on it. I did lose about 10 pounds in a month but, after a few weeks, I began to get very bored with my meal options and craved a hot, home cooked meal. The macaroni and cheese and chili options from Medifast just did not do the trick and I opted to stop the plan. I can see why it would work for some but I need a plan with more variety and more real foods.”