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Unlike a lot of traditional diets, with Medifast you actually eat six meals AND still lose weight. Known as the “5 & 1 Plan” on this weight-loss journey followers eat five Medifast meal replacements and one meal you cook yourself. According to William Vitale – the doctor behind the diet – you can lose 2-5 pounds during the first 2 weeks. After that, you can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.
Once you hit your target weight, you slowly add extra calories over a 6-week period. Vitale then recommends moving from the strict “5 & 1 Plan” to the “3 & 3 Plan”, which is simply three normal meals plus three Medifast meal replacements. This plan allows you to maintain your target weight for good.
What Can I Eat? What Can’t I Eat?
With more than 70 Medifast meal replacements to choose from dieters have plenty of options. The meal you cook at home should include 5-7 ounces of lean protein, up to two servings of healthy fats and three servings of vegetables.
Unlike other diets you can enjoy salad dressings, sauces, condiments and one snack per day. Again, with plenty of snack options to choose from you can eat a Popsicle, Jell-O, pickles, mints, gum or half an ounce of either walnuts, almonds of pistachios.
However, alcohol is off-limits and so is everything else that’s not on the approved Medifast food list.
Difficulty Level: Medium
It doesn’t take much effort, but you do need Medifast’s meal replacements for the majority of the eating plan. The pro? You don’t need to cook as much. The con? You need to buy the meals which requires a little more organisation.
Can I Break The Rules?
In short: no. You need to stick to the meal replacements and while there are over 70 meal replacement options to choose from, you can’t replace them with homemade versions. These options include bars, shakes, cereals and tasty snacks like pretzel sticks. Remember starches, fruit and dairy products are not allowed in the “5 & 1 Plan”.
Food Shopping & Cooking
You won’t need to cook as much when following Medifast which saves lots of time. Plus, you won’t need to take as many trips to the grocery store saving time, effort and money.
Can I Buy Packaged Meals?
Yes. The Medifast replacement meals are a required part of the healthy eating plan.
Do I Need To Attend Meetings?
You don’t need to, but you can if you’d like to. As Medifast is a well known diet there are over 100 nationwide Medifast Weight Control Centers to choose from for in-person support.
Do I Need To Exercise?
Yes, daily exercise is heavily encouraged. However the program doesn’t offer a specific workout or routine to follow. Just remember to either partake in light exercise – like long brisk walks – or make sure your workouts aren’t intense while your body adjusts to eating fewer calories.
What happens if I am A Vegan or Gluten Intolerant?
The plan is trickier for vegans as many of the meal replacements are made with dairy or eggs. While it isn’t impossible to follow as a vegan, it won’t be straightforward. Vegetarians however should avoid legumes (like lentils, peas and beans) until they reach their goal weight at the end of the “5 & 1 Plan”.
Followers with a gluten intolerance can choose from more than 40 Medifast meal replacements. The official website even lists the most popular certified gluten-free items.
How Much Does It Cost? What Support Do I Get?
The cost depends on how long you follow the eating plan. A 4-week supply of Medifast meal replacements costs around $300 plus shipping. A seven-pack of any meal replacement (shakes, oatmeal bars and smoothies etc) costs $16.95.
It’s also worth noting Medifast offer a “Take Shape for Life” program which gives free access to a personal health coach. It also comes with free online access to nutrition guides, food journals, chat rooms and a weight-loss blog.
What Does The Expert Say?
If you’d like a medical doctor’s opinion, then it’s worth reading MD Michael Smith’s thoughts as he sheds some light on the Medifast diet.
Does It Work?
The initial “5 & 1 Plan” consists of 800 to 1,000 calories per day. This is a severe calorie restriction, so followers will lose weight quickly but it’s worth noting it’s tough to stick with.
Countless years of research show us meal replacement diets do work and are safe. Also, further studies have shown followers do maintain their target weight if they change their lifestyle accordingly.
However, fueling your body with enough nutrients is tough on such a low-calorie diet but Medifast’s meal replacements are enriched with nutrients to balance this out. That being said, you need to remember you can’t eat certain food groups like dairy, which means you need to ensure you’re getting calcium and vitamin D from other foods.
Finally, be aware of the fact a low-calorie diet often creates lower energy levels. You might find exercise a challenge, but it isn’t impossible provided you undertake light exercise.
Can Medifast Help Medical Conditions?
Yes. Medical research shows that meal replacement plans can help control blood sugar levels in diabetes patients. However, cutting calories so drastically can also lead to dangerously low blood sugar if you take diabetes medicine. Like always, you should check with your doctor before starting a new diet.
Weight loss also helps people suffering from high cholesterol, heart disease and high blood pressure. If you follow the Medifast plan you may even reduce any need for medicine. Again, check with your doctor before changing what medicine you take.
The Final Verdict
Medifast without a doubt can deliver results. Such extreme results come with the challenge of sticking to a low-calorie program. However, it definitely works.
Like most restrictive diets, you’ll need to move into the transition phase successfully in order to maintain your goal weight. Provided you can adapt to some restrictions in your eating habits, you can definitely make Medifast a long-term way of life.
As always, please talk to your doctor first. This is an extreme diet, so it’s best to double-check with a healthcare professional.