Medifast is one of the most extreme diets out there, used by over 1 million dieters and recommended by 20,000 doctors since introduction in 1980 for the extremely overweight, and it works very well if you can follow it to the letter. In many ways it is the perfect diet for swift weight loss (2-5 pounds per week), but it can have unpleasant side effects.
Medifast is one of the few diets backed by seven clinical studies--one Johns Hopkins trial found males lost 67 pounds on average and females 57 pounds. For years you could only sign up for this diet through a doctor, but dieters are now able to sign up online. You can choose from online only support via forums and a free one-on-one coach.
The food is simple--soups, shakes, bars, puddings and oatmeals, which you have five times per day (one every 2-3 hours), plus a small dinner of lean protein and salad or vegetables. You'll also need to drink 64 ounces of water per day to keep hydrated and feel full, and may also drink non-caloric drinks like decaf coffee, tea, and diet soda.
Within a few days of starting you'll go into a state of mild ketosis (when the liver starts converting fats into ketone bodies which can be burned for fuel), which should reduce hunger pangs from a physiological standpoint, but a lot of "hunger" is emotional and a habit, so you'll need the willpower to resist these psychological tendencies. Medifast is also difficult to stick with because food is so integral to many social situations--temptations especially abound when you're out. And even at home you can face major temptations if your spouse or children are eating normally
Again, this is a serious diet, and the side effects should not be underestimated--these may include headaches, weakness, mood swings and perhaps nausea among others, though most of these pass if you drink plenty of water and as your body gets used to the new calorie intake level and concentrated nutrients. Nonetheless, as this is a drastic diet, it's a good idea to discuss it with your doctor first, especially if you have specific health concerns or issues.
Transitioning off the diet after you've lost the weight is key, as all too many people pile the pounds back on after coming off very low calorie diets like Medifast. You should have a 4-6 week transition period where you slowly reintroduce solid foods, starting with a bit of oatmeal or fruit for breakfast, and then progressing. You'll also want to weigh yourself frequently so you can spot any weight rebounds and nip them in the bud. Unfortunately, while you may lose a lot of weight on this diet, it won't teach you the skills to eat well and keep it from coming back, so you may want to move to a less restrictive diet for a few months for maintenance. You'll likely have suffered some muscle loss along with the fat loss on this extreme diet, so exercise after you come off (ideally while on the diet as well) is a good idea to rebuild as well as boost metabolism.
Menu: Medifast is a Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) of some 800-1000 calories per day. All programs are based around a nutritionally complete food formula which offers 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.
The main plan is called 5 and 1--you have five meal replacements over the day, plus one "real" meal with a lean protein, vegetables, and salad. The foods are formulated in men's, women's, and diabetic varieties. A typical one-month package may include the following:
- 49 Shakes (Dutch Chocolate, French Vanilla, Strawberry Creme, Banana Creme, Orange Creme)
- 42 Bars (Chocolate Mint Crunch, Peanut Butter Crunch, Oatmeal Raisin Crunch, Lemon Meringue Crunch, Strawberry Crunch, Fruit & Nut Crunch)
- 14 Oatmeals (Apple Cinnamon, Maple & Brown Sugar)
- 7 Scrambled Eggs
- 14 Soups (Chicken Noodle, Chicken & Wild Rice)
- 7 Chocolate Puddings
- 7 Cappuccinos
Prices: For an average person, it will cost $299 per month (though they usually have a 2 week free offer), and this includes the support services of a coach, so at $11 per day it's really quite reasonable, considering the average American spends $16 per day on food. Or, thinking of it another way, this is the same price as Nutrisystem per month, but your weight loss on this program will almost certainly be larger.
We reiterate, we would only consider Medifast as a last resort only for those with continuing weight lose issues.