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“Does Medifast Work”; is it effective for fat loss?

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…TSFL-Medifast-Meals-version-2

“… 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.

 

Get_Lean 
'Does Medifast Work': Will it help you get lasting leanness or just set your metabolism up for a toughter battle in the future?

 

‘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:

Pros

  • Easy to follow
  • Nutrition is built into meals
  • Meals are frequent
  • Meals contain low glycemic carbs
  • Lots of support

Drawbacks

  • 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.

Comments

Scott

I'm a fitness professional and I am NEVER impressed by rapid weight loss IF it is unsustainable!


I've seen too many people jump on these weight loss fads, lose a bunch of weight, and end up fatter within about a year, and screw up their metabolism!

It is much smarter to adopt a healthy LIFESTYLE. It may take longer, require patience and effort, but if you can actually keep the weight off long term(of course I mean FAT loss when I refer to weight) then that is real success!

Jon

Hey, thought I'd let you know my thoughts.
I've been on medifast for about 3 months. I HAVE been keeping track of my body fat % during this time. I started at 27% body fat being bod tested. I was 207 pounds.
After 3 months I'm 166 and 13.4% body fat. Now, granted looking at these numbers we can see I didn't just lose fat. I did lose muscle.
But, lets look at how much fat I dropped. I started with roughly 56 pounds of fat in me. That's a lot of fat. But right now I have 22.5 (About) fat in me. That's a lot less.

That's about 33.5 loss of body fat in 3 months. Now, looking at total losses we can see that I lost 41 pounds. So, that means Some odd portion of that was water. Lets say 4 just to get a number. Water+Fat is 37.5 now.
That would imply A 3.5 pound loss of muscle which sucks. But, compared to the body fat I lost. Not that bad. At most 8.5 Pounds if we don't consider water weight. That's a really good drop of body fat.

I also lose about 3-3.5 pounds a week and about a 1% body fat at this point.
I also run 2 miles (At least) a day and 5 miles every other day. (Those days make me dizzy) and do P90X ab ripper every other day. (no point in getting skinny if there aren't sexy abs waiting underneath).

I also do pullups for no real reason. It's just fun that I can do more and more as I lose weight. Seriously, I could do like 7 at 207 and now I can just sit there and just do pullups for what feels like all day. It's awesome.

Anyways, I'm having good results (I add about 30 grams of Protein though)
I'm not saying everyone else would do this well.. but I am. (Granted I Got out of shape in a short period of time and I generally was 170 and about 14% before I got out of shape last year and just fattened up.) So, I already had good exercising habits.

I've lost more body fat then anything else. I do keep track because I care more about my body fat levels then I do my actual weight or BMI.

scott

Hello Nikki,

Thank you for visiting my blog and posting your thoughts.

I even question the "medically approved" aspect of the program. I respect medical doctors for their incredible degree of knowledge about the human body - especially within the context of treating the body when something ails it. But I'm wary of the knowledge many of them have on nutrition and fat loss; some of it's outdated if they don't keep up on it. This is something I've witnessed personally; I come from a family of doctors.

The 'eye-rolling' among your colleagues is interesting. It's possibly a manifestation of many people's addiction to the 'quick-fix'; simultaneously loathing the disciplined and detailed approach that has long-lasting positive effect.

I would love for you to post updates on both your and their progress/ultimate results.

Scott

Nikki

Thanks for an honest analysis of Medifast. Everyone in my office has decided to jump on the Medifast bandwagon and seem to look at me like I'm crazy becasue I don't want to start a plan that has me o 800 calories a day during an initial phase. When I talk about adopting healthy habits, strength training and cardio, I see eyes roll back in their head. Anyone can lose weight when you're eating a very low amount of calories. This isn't a magic bullet. Without a real attitude adjustment, you will gain everything back and possibly wreck your body. Yeah, yeah it's "medically approved," but how can cutting calories so low do anything but hurt your body?

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