The most dangerous weight loss diet! This fad diet has become popular in mainstream media and diet culture, despite being extreme and having consequences to metabolism.
Signing up for this fad diet is signing up for an eating disorder in my professional opinion.
That is an extreme statement, but I do not say this lightly that you are signing up for an eating disorder when you sign up for this fad diet.
Most Dangerous Weight Loss Program Popular Now
In this Dish On Ditching Diets podcast episode, I explain what the most dangerous diet is for losing weight right now, the false claims made by this fad diet, how this company has re-branded due to its false claims and what the research says about this diet.
Interestingly, this company has funded many of its own studies that proclaim this diet works. Companies that fund their own studies should be highly scrutinized and it should be understood that this introduces a ton of bias into the study when it is not performed by a neutral party.
There are other problems with these studies funded by this company too. One being that the participants struggle to maintain weight loss beyond 12 months.
While you will lose weight in a short timeframe, it's short lived and not maintained.
I've shared over and over on the podcast how the real problem is not that people cannot lose weight, it's that people can't maintain weight loss.
Fad Diets Don't Teach Habit Change
Extreme fad diets like this one do not teach people how to put healthy habits into practice.
Rather, they simply give people a list of food rules, good and bad foods which down the road leads to disordered eating patterns, disordered behavior with food, the scale, body and self-worth.
The most dangerous aspect of doing an extreme diet like the one I'm sharing in this podcast episode is the down-regulation of resting energy expenditure by 28%.
If your maintenance was 2000 calories and now you do an extreme diet like this one that puts you at a calorie deficit of 800-1200 calories, the problem is if you stop doing that diet and you start eating like you did before you lost weight you will gain weight very easily and rapidly.
Often individuals gain more weight back than they originally lost.
Now your maintenance is no longer 2000 calories, it's 1440 calories. This is why women often feel frustrated and don't understand what is going on with their bodies.
The sad truth is women will go back to extreme diet programs like the most dangerous weight loss diet. They go BACK TO THE DIET THAT DID THE DAMAGE IN THE FIRST PLACE TO THEIR BODY!
Resting Energy Expenditure Down-Regulates 28% With Extreme Diets
An approximate 28% down-regulation of resting energy expenditure is well established in research studies like those done in the Biggest Loser.
Companies like the one I'm talking about in this podcast, know this research. They are knowingly preying on people's emotions to get them to lose weight rapidly and are causing harm to people.
They are unethical and causing harm to people in my opinion.
I'm sharing this episode with you because I personally believe women (and men too) need to be aware of these diets and the negative consequences of doing them.
It's only going to make your weight loss harder, longer and there are psychological problems that come with severe food restriction too.
The metabolic damage caused by these diets can be reversed, but the real barrier to healing the metabolism and getting it to adapt up for the majority of individuals is psychological.
They are obsessed with the scale now. Scared of eating certain foods. They fear eating more food.
That psychological damage makes it more difficult for individuals to do what is needed to get their resting energy expenditure up which usually means eating more calories of nutrient-dense foods.
Dangerous Diets Like This Are Looked At As A Jumpstart
Many women will look at dangerous diets like this as a jumpstart to their weight loss journey. They fully realize that it is not a lifestyle.
They think they'll just lose some weight and then figure out how to eat healthy, but the diet causes this down-regulation in resting energy expenditure making it nearly impossible for anyone to do that.
And now you have more problems to dig yourself out of vs. if you just had made slow gradual habit changes over time.
While it can be attractive to lose weight rapidly, it should be something that scares the hell out of you!
I hope this episode helps you see the dangerous of weight loss programs like this one and that slow habit changes are the way to losing weight for good.
In this Dish on Ditching Diets Podcast Episode, You Will Hear:
- The Most Dangerous Diet Program Popular Now
- The False Claims Made By This Dangerous Weight Loss Program
- How This Diet Program Works
- Why It's Extreme (hint - you only eat 1 meal a day and 800-1200 calories)
- What Research Shows About This Diet
- The Problem With Who Funded This Research
- Research Doesn't Show Weight Maintenance Beyond 12 Months and Why That Is A Problem
- Down-Regulation Of Resting Energy Expenditure and Why It Should Scare You
- Psychological Consequences Of Extreme Dieting
- What To Watch Out For If Your Doctor Recommends A Fad Diet
- Why Rapid Weight Loss Should Scare The Hell Out Of You
Related Dish On Ditching Diets Podcast Episodes
The Most Dangerous Weight Loss Diet Podcast Show Notes
Hello friends today we’re talking about one of the most dangerous fad diets. But first, I want to ask you if you’ve been enjoying the podcast to please take a moment to leave it a 5-star review in Apple podcast or Spotify.
Those reviews really help this podcast reach more women who need help. So, I thank you for doing that and now let’s dive in!
Optavia is the most dangerous fad diet. I almost did not want to do this episode because I don’t like bringing attention to diets that I find to be unethical, that I believe are harmful and damaging and are basically a paid version of an eating disorder.
Yes, I said that. Optavia is a paid version of an eating disorder. There are certain diets like this one, that we are talking about today, that are nothing more than you signing up for an eating disorder.
Yes, I said that. I truly believe this is one of the most dangerous diets you can do, and it’s become very popular.
I get a lot of questions about it and I see a lot of clients in my practice who have done this diet and it’s done a lot of psychological damage, damage to their hormones and damage to their metabolism.
So, today I am going to share with you some of the science behind this diet and share with you what the research really tells us, how this diet is damaging to your metabolism and to your psychology long-term.
The false claims that this diet makes, yes, false claims we’re going to circle back to this. But this way, you can make your own informed decision on what to do.
I can’t prevent anyone from doing fad diets like this.
Sometimes you have to experience many bad diets and the consequences of doing bad diets in order to realize it is not what works long-term. Long-term being the key here.
If you only care about losing weight as quickly as possible and you do not care what the consequences are to your mental health, emotional health or what it does to your hormones, metabolism or health of your body I can’t help you. I can’t convince people who don’t want to change.
That’s why sometimes we have to keep doing bad diets to learn what doesn’t work ourselves.
What I can do is keep preaching the truth, show you how diets like Optavia prey on your desperation to lose weight and what the long-term consequences are of doing them.
Medifast was actually the company Optavia used to be. Medifast had to pay $4M in a false-claim lawsuit because they were making false claims and promises about how much weight people could lose and it wasn’t true.
Rationally, most of you understand when you hear a company say quick weight loss or lose 2-5 pounds a week you rationally know that’s too good to be true.
But there’s the emotional side of your brain that then comes in and says well, if I just did this for the next 2 months, I could drop 20 pounds and then I can go back to a normal way of eating.
And then you begin fantasizing about dropping those 20 pounds.
Here’s the thing – individuals purchase things from an emotional point of view. You see a cute dress; you see a fun pair of shoes.
You may know logically you don’t have the money to buy them, but you emotionally talk yourself into buying them and putting them on a credit card because that emotional part of your brain talks you into it.
This is where people get into trouble with these fad diets. They are not recognizing where their brain is sensualizing those results and talking them into something that sounds too good to be true.
The two questions you always must ask yourself to bring yourself back to reality is number one is this realistic and number two is it even sustainable? Is it something I can continue doing until I’m 85 years old?
So, I wanted to point out that Medifast was sued for making false claims and has since been rebranded as Optavia.
The first thing you need to understand is that all these mainstream fad diets are ways of controlling quantity and quality of food.
We know that in order to lose weight and keep it off we need to have a calorie deficit to lose weight and we need quality foods.
Every diet you see controls quantity to varying levels of precision. So, when I say quantity, I mean calories or macronutrients. Remember those two things are inseparable.
If you eat macronutrients (proteins/fats/carbs) those things have calories associated with them and the reverse calories are made up of macronutrients.
If you have one, you have the other. How we measure quantity of food is via calories and macronutrients.
Mainstream diets give people rules to manipulate food choices that change the macronutrients and calories that you eat. Sometimes it’s very precise and sometimes it’s very loose.
Counting calories and weighing and measuring all the food you eat is highly precise.
I will say a lot of people “count calories” I’m saying that with air quotes because a lot of individuals use apps to input how much food they think they ate, however, they are not weighing and measuring their food, so their calories are not accurate.
If you are weighing and measuring your food and tracking calories or macronutrients, that is the most precise.
Now there are diets like the Zone diet and WW’s where they have a block system or a point system. They’re come up basically with another measurement system that approximates calories and macronutrients.
So, it’s certainly closer than not measuring at all but it’s not as precise as weighing and measuring food like is done with calorie counting.
Then there are things like Paleo and Whole30 which focuses on eating more whole foods, less processed foods which generally, contain less calories.
So, you have a loose structure and totally quantity or calories can be all over the map especially like with Paleo and the popularity of Paleo brownies and treats which tend to be quite high in calories.
With Optavia, like other diets, they give you a rule structure to manipulate the quantity of food you eat, aka the calories.
But like I always say to you, whatever structure or rules you use to manipulate your diet and lose weight you have to be willing to do that until you’re 85 years old or the weight comes back.
Optavia’s approach is by controlling quantity. They put people in an extremely large caloric deficit usually somewhere around 800-1200 calories which eating that few calories are never
recommended due to the damage it does to metabolism.
Optavia has all these different systems of spreading out your “meals.”
And I say meals in air quotes here because what you’re eating is not a meal, it’s a pre-packaged processed snack and I say that because these foods only have 100-200 calories. That’s not a meal, that’s a snack.
So, you’re not eating real food. You’re eating processed foods and they’re insanely low calorie. Then you’re going to have one lean and green meal that focuses on protein and veggies. So, low calorie and extremely low carb.
Essentially, you are eating 5 tiny snacks with 1 meal. Optavia also doesn’t call these meals, they call them fuelings.
When I was looking at these foods on their website some of the options include things like and these are their names – decadent chocolate brownie mix with Greek yogurt chips, red berry crunchy oats cereal, cinnamon sugar sticks and creamy double pb crisp bar.
I just read those off so you can understand that you are eating processed foods in small portions. You order these from them every month and it looks to be something like $500 a month for this stuff.
To me that seems very expensive to buy pre-portioned processed cinnamon sticks and not learning how to eat real food in real life situations like when you travel or go out to eat with friends but that’s just me. Ha!
Also, this whole notion of “fuelings” that they promote is exactly what is called a marketing gimmick. Just call it a snack. That is a prime exactly of a gimmick.
Because psychologically when you read that term fuelings on their website, it may make you believe there is some health benefit like it’s going to fuel your metabolism or burn fat or something magical.
So, to me this is a prime example of a marketing gimmick but that’s not the worst part of this diet. I’ll get to that in a minute.
So, the first thing is you are eating a lot of processed food on this diet.
If your objective is to be healthier, does it make sense that the entire foundation of your nutrition is on pre-packaged processed snacks? I say that is a major red flag.
Only being allowed to eat 1 real meal is another red flag. And the fact that meal is limited to vegetables and protein is another red flag.
So, right off the bat we know you’re going to lose weight because it’s extremely low calorie. We know it’s not promoting health because eating so few calories which is a chronic stress on your body and metabolism.
We also know you’re not going to get enough vitamins and minerals and amino acids, which means you’re going to have nutritional deficiencies as you are not eating actual food - you’re eating processed foods.
None of that is health promoting and should be a huge red flag to you.
The second thing are their coaches and I say “coaches” with air quotes because their coaches do not have degrees in nutrition.
They are not certified in any way. They are part of an MLM – a multi-level marketing group.
So, these coaches do Optavia and then after they do the program, they have an opportunity to make money by promoting their weight loss on social media and getting other people to sign up.
I had an ex-colleague of mine do Optavia years ago and she lost a lot of weight in a few months, and she was doing all these FB lives and posts about her weight loss and how amazing she felt – preying on people’s emotions, and people would respond asking how she did it and she would say let me message you.
Well, eventually I began commenting on some of her posts and correcting things she was telling people because she has no nutrition education, she’s not properly trained in proper nutrition. She only knew the Optavia system.
She was mis-guiding people and in many cases telling them inaccurate things. In my opinion she was preying on them. Eventually, she blocked me.
I mean these “coaches” have not taken nutrition through the lifecycle, or nutrition for metabolism, nutrition for cardiovascular health, biochemistry, anatomy.
Those are just a few of the courses I had to take and yet these “coaches” haven’t done that and are selling people this program and making money off of it.
That is another huge red flag. You are trusting your livelihood with someone who’s untrained and part of an MLM.
Hopefully, you now have some context for how Optavia works and some of the red flags.
Now let’s talk about the research because Optavia likes to market how this is research backed. I see them posting this on their social media all the time.
We have one study on Medifast in pubmed from 2015 that took 300 obese clients and after 12 weeks, 24 weeks and 34 weeks measured weight loss.
The participants definitely lost weight in the study, but nothing was measured after the 34 weeks to see if participants kept the weight off and if you do some digging this study was funded by Medifast. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26245279/
We have another study from 2019, a randomized control study that was published in the journal of obesity science & practice, and it found that Optavia was more effective in 16 wks than the standard nutritional guidelines for Americans.
Basically, one group was following Optavia and the other group was following a self-directed calorie deficit diet. The 16-week study showed an average weight loss of 11 lbs. in the Optavia group.
Now one problem with this study is the group of people who were following a reduced calorie diet. We know that when we just rely on people to self-direct that their accuracy is greatly reduced.
That’s why really good studies will actually weigh and measure food in a lab to control calories in these research studies to be as accurate as possible and that wasn’t done in this study as far as I can see. But the biggest problem I see again is that this study was funded by Optavia.
So, there is a conflict of interest here. Understand that when you read a study or watch a documentary that who funded the study is really important because it introduces a lot of bias into the results of the study.
Because I have gone to nutrition school and have taken courses on how to read research studies, I know this but most of you would not know to watch out for this.
Now I have no doubt that in either of these studies that these people lost weight. In both studies, they highly controlled people’s calories.
Good research studies, like I stated earlier, measure and weigh food in a lab to control calories. Anytime we see that, we know that accuracy is going to yield results.
But the real question isn’t whether or not this diet can yield weight loss, it’s whether or not these you can sustain this weight loss.
There is a 2015 study from John’s Hopkins Medicine that found little reliable evidence that most commercial weight loss programs which included Medifast results in people maintaining weight loss.
Essentially it said that the people lost a lot of weight in a short period of time, but the researchers found the long-term effects found no additional benefits at 12 months and this is the key.
Meaning you will not maintain the results from commercial weight loss programs.
Ironically, there was another study funded by Medifast that was a 16-week study that had two groups one was following Optavia and the other was a calorie-restricted group following general nutritional guidelines.
At 16 weeks the Optavia group lost an average of 30 lbs compared to 14 lbs for the other group.
After 24 weeks, 15% of the Optavia group had dropped out and regained 10 lbs and after 40 weeks 55% of the Optavia dropped out and had gained their weight back.
So, again this highlights that long-term is the problem. People do not keep weight off long-term following these fad diets. In the first 16 weeks yes, we see weight loss in these studies but after that things go downhill.
People are going to get hungrier – we know physiologically that the hormone leptin in particular causes us to get hungrier when we have been severely restricting calories and we know people just get bored of eating the same foods and move on.
Once you get to that 9 months, 12 months mark you’re going to be back at square one.
But here is the main thing I want you to truly understand – resting metabolism and this is truly the worst part of Optavia and their methodology.
We know from research studies that there are long-term consequences to your resting energy expenditure when you are in extreme calorie deficits.
Now most of you don’t realize this but your body requires calories just to keep you alive. Keep your heart pumping, lungs breathing, pancreas, kidneys, liver, hormone production, brain function.
All that stuff behind the scenes doesn’t happen without energy and we get energy from calories. Your resting metabolism is the amount of energy your body requires to do all that stuff. Basically, to keep you alive.
What we know is that extreme calorie restricted diets and there have been a lot of studies on this like the biggest loser they followed those contestants for many years and studied them after they extreme dieted. These diets long-term result in a 28% reduction in resting energy expenditure.
That means if your maintenance was 2000 calories that now it is only at 1,440 calories. That is a huge drop and is exactly the reason why you do a diet, and it works, but then the next time it’s painfully slow. It doesn’t work as quickly. Why?
Because your maintenance was 2000 calories and then you did Optavia and they put you on a 1000 calorie diet, but now your maintenance is only 1,440 calories so if you go back and do a 1000 calorie diet it’s not going to work the same way.
Now you don’t have a 1000 calorie deficit. You 440 calorie deficit so the results are going to take way longer.
So now what was once maintenance to your body, may now be a surplus that causes you to gain weight and immediately you’re going to say what the hell happened to my body.
Why am I gaining weight so easily and you will start going down the path of restricting again.
I cannot tell you how many clients I have seen throughout the years who end up in this exact scenario and their solution is to go back to the thing that caused the damage in the first place.
If you don’t think that can result in stress and frustration, mental and emotional turmoil, a disordered relationship with food and your body, a disordered relationship with the scale and feeling like a failure, it does. It creates substantial damage all the way around!
And I am 100% sure that Optavia is intentionally doing this. They are aware of this research. They are taking people and starving them. It is completely unethical.
Most people will go into a program like Optavia and admit this is not a lifestyle solution. This is not something I’m doing forever. I’m just going to get this weight off and then I’ll figure out how to eat normally.
Except Optavia has now put you in a position where eating normally causes weight gain. So, you gradually gain the weight back, you have a poor relationship with food because you’ve been told all the things that you can’t eat.
You’re afraid of carbs, you’re afraid of pizza, you’re afraid of fruit, pizza, protein, whatever. You’re afraid of calories.
So, then you gain all the weight back and usually, you gain back even more. If you lost 30 pounds, usually you gain more. Let’s say you gained 40 back.
So, you’re 10 lbs. heavier than when you started and a lot of times you will go back to the thing that caused the damage in the first place.
Well, I lost 30 pounds on Optavia it worked so I’ll go back and do it again and you say to yourself I just need to be better afterwards. I need to have more willpower and discipline.
That’s always the thought process people have. Last time I messed up after doing that diet, but it worked so this time I just need to be better after I lose the weight.
Listen to me, you cannot fight your physiology. That is a losing battle. If you go back to Optavia because you thought it worked, it’s not going to work the same way because your resting energy expenditure is a lot lower.
When you were at a 2000 calorie maintenance and Optavia put you at 1000 calories you were losing weight quickly. Now your maintenance is at 1440 calories and the progress is going to be slow.
This is why those of you who keep doing WW over and over and over and over again have the problem of it getting slower and slower. It’s the same thing. You get less progress and you begin to feel frustrated.
With rapid weight loss, comes consequences. If your maintenance is 1500 calories and you go on an 800-calorie diet, you will lose weight quickly because the rate of results will be directly correlated to how aggressive your deficit is.
Meaning if I as your coach put you on a 200-calorie deficit your results are going to be way slower than if you are in a 700-calorie deficit.
But here’s the HUGE CAUTION I have for you. The faster you lose weight, the more muscle you lose.
The more muscle you lose, the more damage you are doing to your resting energy expenditure so; you are damaging your health because you’re losing muscle and you’re damaging your metabolism and you’re setting yourself up for an uphill battle down the road because your metabolism is now at a compromised state where it’s easier for you to gain weight and store body fat.
The rate of your results should not be something that gets you excited. It should be something that scares the hell out of you.
The fact that your metabolism down regulates your resting energy expenditure.
That’s the easy part to fix. It’s not fast, it does take time, but the hard part is your mindset, the hard part is the mental and emotional damage - the hard part is the psychological damage.
I have had a ton of clients working with me who have done these things to their bodies from diets like Optavia and the only way to reverse the metabolic damage is to start eating more food.
More calories over a long period of time to reduce the stress on the system and improve the metabolic rate. It’s a long process but the damage from extreme caloric restriction and the stress on the system can be reversed.
But most women I’ve worked with are so freaked out about the situation that they got themselves into that now they are too scared to eat more food, they fear eating certain foods, they don’t know what to eat because they weren’t taught on other diet programs what to eat, they’re afraid of eating carbs, and they’re afraid of the scale because they rapidly gained weight back.
Now they are so obsessed with the scale that they do things that are incredibly unhealthy with food, they binge and restrict, and they would never think to do to their friends or children, but they do it to themselves and continue to harm themselves more because the psychological damage is so immense from doing diets like Optavia.
This is a major psychological roadblock that has to be overcome.
This is why I say you are signing up for an eating disorder and I’m not saying this lightly and Optavia isn’t the only diet that is doing this, but it is one of the more popular mainstream diets that is well known, so I am using it as an example.
They are knowingly preying on people’s emotional vulnerability to give people rapid weight loss with long-term health and psychological consequences.
This program is also directly marketing something that is directly opposed to what the program is.
This is something I took directly from their website it says “Today the world is searching for quick fix weight loss solutions, but we know quick fixes don’t work. Optavia’s approach is radically different.”
I mean what? You’re having people eat pre-packaged processed snacks and putting them into 1000 calorie deficit. You’re not teaching them healthy habits they can repeat until they’re 85 years old, you’re not teaching them anything about nutrition or how to live life eating and navigating the real world.
I mean this defines quick fix weight loss solution. For them to state on their website that is some radically different approach from a quick fix is the biggest lie ever.
Remember what I said earlier, if you can’t do it until you’re 85 years old the weight will come back.
Who is going to spend $500 a month the rest of their life to eat pre-portioned processed foods and never eat anything normal? Long-term people are not going to stick to this.
The other thing that really urkes me about Optavia is that people can eat a lot more food and lose weight.
People have a lot more flexibility than I think they believe for wine, chips and pizza. It’s probably not to the degree you’re doing it today if you want to lose body fat, but there’s a lot more flexibility than most women realize.
Optavia is a highly, highly restrictive diet that cuts out a lot of normal foods that most of us don’t want to give up until we’re 85 years old to maintain weight loss.
But I think a lot of women get attracted to these diets because they look at it like a jumpstart. They’re like yeah, I’ll lose some weight and then I’ll figure out long-term what I’m doing but that never happens.
At some point you’re going to get hungrier and you’re going to get sick of those foods. Not to mention all the psychological issues that come with it.
The other thing I feel compelled to mention here are doctors. I’ve had many, many clients tell me that their doctor recommended they do Optavia.
Now it’s always good to have conversations about your weight with your doctor, but keep in mind the level of nutrition education most doctors receive which is 2 classes on average. It’s very little.
There is very little time spent training doctors on nutrition.
But here’s the real thing I want you to consider. Imagine if your doctor told you to eat 4000 calories and to keep eating as much food as possible until you were physically uncomfortable, had to unbutton your pants and felt like you wanted to vomit.
Just keep eating, eat as much as possible for the next 16 weeks. You would look at your doctor like they were a lunatic. You would probably never go back to that doctor again, right? You would think that doctor is crazy.
Yet you think it’s normal that your doctor is telling you to starve yourself and eat 800 calories and to only eat one meal a day? Despite your body being terribly hungry.
Despite you having intense cravings. Even though you can’t stop thinking about food and obsessing about food.
Despite you not sleeping well, not digesting food well and your metabolism tanking and your doctor is like just eat 800 calories and starve yourself.
Why do you think it’s normal for a doctor to tell someone to starve themselves? Yet you would think it’s abnormal for your doctor to tell you to stuff yourself? Both are equally damaging to you.
Why are you making it seem like it’s normal for your doctor to recommend doing a program like this? It’s not normal.
They haven’t done the research and they haven’t looked at the long-term effects if they are recommending it.
I don’t know why a doctor would ever recommend this program if they actually had your health and best interest as their intention.
Optavia is paying for an eating disorder. You are spending $500 a month to gain an eating disorder, damage your metabolism and a bunch of emotional and psychological problems around food. This is like you paying to stay in an abusive relationship.
Maybe it won’t happen right away, but over time and sometimes a year or two later after finishing the diet is when it begins to happen.
Metabolic damage and psychological damage do not happen immediately, it happens over time after dieting.
And I’m sure there are some people who’ve lost weight and kept it off doing Optavia. I have no doubt about that, but I’d be curious to see at 12 months after finishing the diet where they’re at and then 3-5 years after.
I know these type of quick fix diets can be tempting ladies.
You think you’ll just do this thing and then figure it out later, but it never works that way and diets like Optavia come with a lot of negative consequences.
Slow down, work on your basics that I’ve talked about repeatedly on this podcast. Instead of obsessing so much about weight loss, work on your habits first.
Healthy, consistent habits always lead to weight loss.
Get your habits in place first. Get your metabolism healthy and most of all, get your mindset healthy and if you need help with that, invest in quality coaching.
You know where to find me. Use the link in the show notes to schedule a consultation with me. Get help if you truly need it!
I hope this episode was helpful to you and I’ll talk to you soon.