Do you hear ads for a program called ‘Medifast’ and wonder what it is? Do you hear radio commercials for the stuff and find yourself thinking “Oh… not another one… another friggin’ weight loss product?” Are you finding it inevitable that the question just slowly-but-surely seeps into your mind: “Does Medifast Work?”
If so, I’m sure you’re not alone. I’m willing to bet there are thousands of people who carry excess body fat asking the ‘does Medifast work’ question. Many have probably heard (as I have) the plugs by radio personalities who think it’s the greatest thing since… well… since… uh…the last greatest thing they used for losing fat. Of course, that previous method of “weight loss” ceased being the greatest when they gained back the fat pounds they’d lost – a criteria by which the ‘does Medifast work’ question has often not yet been scrutinized.
Here in San Diego CA, I hear Medifast personally advertised by a local AM radio personality. I actually like this guy’s radio show, but find his plugs for the product slightly annoying. It’s not due to any inherent skepticism for Medifast centered on the ‘does Medifast work’ question, but rather my tendency as a bodybuilder to view ‘body composition’ as a factor more important than raw weight loss. As with other fat shedding programs, we’re dished up testimonials of rapid and dramatic weight loss without much (if any) acknowledgment of retained or lost solid body mass. The radio guy I’m referring to raves about the thirty pounds of weight he’s lost with seeming unawareness of the percentages of that weight in terms of water, muscle, and body fat. That’s not good for prospects of retaining long-term leanness.
‘Does Medifast Work?’ Of course it does… but so do other options
First off, asking such a general question in this day and age of countless fitness and fat loss programs is a bit silly. Of course the program can “work”; it starves the friggin’ fat off your body. If you buy the Medifast system, the company’s going to send you a bunch of prepackaged meals with which you are to replace your habitual eating. I guarantee, without even seeing the packages, that exclusive consumption of these meals will have you cutting your daily calories dramatically. The thing that makes a program like this unique (and expensive) is that Medifast will take the “I can’t figure out what and how much to eat” mystery out of the equation. To put the system in simple perspective, Medifast is basically saying…
“… Just eat what we give you… in the amounts we allow you… when we tell you. And when you feel those torturous hunger pangs… well… we’ve got counselors to help you with that.”
This might be just the right formula for some people. But the fact is, you could do this yourself with the right mindset. Eating a healthy and balanced diet is not exactly rocket science in this day and age of fitness information abundance. And eating fewer calories than you’re burning off is a matter of simple arithmetic and self-imposition of a bodily state – namely, feeling a bit hungry throughout the day compared to usual.
‘Does Medifast Work?’ And if so… what are the details?
Medifast claims to work by being a low calorie, low glycemic, and low fat meal plan all rolled into one. This makes sense given that foods comprised of low glycemic carbs and less fat are also typically low in calories. If these inputs are combined with substantially smaller meal sizes, daily calories are going to drop considerably. Since Medifast also asks its users to eat these meals five to six times a day in two-to-three-hour intervals, it’s easy to see how steadier blood sugar and consistent energy levels can contribute to user’s success.
Personally, I’ll give Medifast kudos for most of this basic formula. I’m a firm believer that it’s not only how much we eat, but what we’re eating and the frequency of meals that leads us from obesity to leanness. Replacing starchy carbohydrates with the low glycemic variety is a great way to go. So is eating more often in smaller quantities throughout the day. The prepackaged Medifast meals are reportedly packed with vitamins, minerals, and essential fiber. That’s praiseworthy as well.
The most questionable factor I find when analyzing the “does Medifast work” question, however, is the degree of calorie deficit. The company claims users can lose 2 to 5 pounds per week. That’s a fast reduction. It’s an amount that requires dramatic calorie-cutting, no matter the difference in meal composition. I’ve observed that when people lose weight that quickly, the odds of eventually gaining it back go up drastically. Even if the prospect of dropping fifty pounds in ten weeks sounds initially exciting and motivating, I personally wouldn’t suggest doing it. I’d give it no less than twenty-five weeks. This recommendation is from a guy who’s lost fifty pounds of fat and kept in off for over ten years now.
‘Does Medifast Work’ or is it fat loss too fast?
Just how drastically does the Medifast eating plan cut a dieter’s calories? This is something worth looking at in determining “does Medifast work” for long term success. Losing fat in such a manner that solid body mass is lost along with it is a prescription for long-term struggle in staying lean. That’s why losing more than two pounds per week is usually not advisable; it incinerates calorie-burning muscle tissue along with the cellulite.
Since there are approximately 3,500 calories in each stored pound of body fat, just a drop of 2.5 pounds per week requires quite a sacrifice of daily calories:
3,500 x 2.5 = 8,750
8,750/7 = 1,250
If the average dieter’s required number of daily maintenance calories is around 2,200 per day, this would demand them to cut that by over half – bringing their intake down to around 950 calories each day:
2,200 – 1,250 = 950
Keep in mind: This is an estimate based on only losing 2.5 pounds a week – half the max amount that Medifast claims is doable with their program. If they’ve really got someone shooting for a five-pound weekly weight drop, we’re talking even more calorie reduction.
Now, in fairness to Medifast, I’ll concede that their high end of the weekly weight loss possibility (5 lbs.) might be acknowledgement of a common phenomenon when cutting calories: descriptively, that water weight often drops substantially in the initial weeks of a diet. This can cause five pounds (or even more) to come off body weight in the first week alone. Given that we’re motivated at the prospects of fast weight loss when we’ve got a lot of fat to lose, I can’t blame them for bandying about the ‘5 pounds’ number; it draws people to their offer.
Just remember: If you try the Medifast program and you feel like they’re emaciating you too quickly – don’t say I didn’t warn you about the possible drastic calorie reduction.
‘Does Medifast Work’: The pros and cons
Here are the pros and drawbacks of Medifast as I see them:
- Easy to follow
- Nutrition is built into meals
- Meals are frequent
- Meals contain low glycemic carbs
- Lots of support
- Expensive (compared to alternatives)
- Too drastic of calorie reduction (possibly)
- Not enough protein to preserve muscle (possibly)
- Not enough dietary fat for adequate endocrine secretion (possibly)
- Accelerated fat loss causes rebound (possibly)
As you can see, most of my ‘drawbacks’ list is qualified with the word ‘possibly.’ I’ve never personally tried this meal plan, nor do I see a need to. Therefore, I invite anyone who’s used the Medifast system to post a comment about your experience with the program. Of special value would be feedback from anyone who’s used it and kept the fat-loss over a long period of time.
It’d be a great addition to answering the “does Medifast work” question.