What is the MediFast Diet?

The Medifast diet plan is popular.
It sits on the Forbes 200 best small companies list, and has done for 3 years.
But what is Medifast all about? One clue is the name - it contains the word fast...

The Basics
The Medifast brand has been around for a number of decades, and at one time was only available via physicians. Nowadays the products can be ordered on-line and through a number of distributors.
Medifast offer a stable of meal replacement products - all generally formulated to be low-calorie and low-fat, and containing the optimum levels of vitamins. The formula will generally take users into a mild state of ketosis.
The most popular plan is called 5 and 1. This plan (800-1000 calories daily) comprises 5 meal replacements and one "real" meal containing a lean protein and vegetables and salad. Medifast claim a weight loss of 2-5 pounds per week on this plan.

What many people don't realize is that very few commercial weight loss programs have ever undergone any clinical studies. Medifast heavily promote the fact that a Johns Hopkins university study has shown that Medifast results in significant weight loss (67 pound average loss in males and 57 pound average loss in females). It's worth pointing out that this study looked at patients who attended Medifast clinics.

There is also an additional study that compared the Medifast program with diabetes medication. The study found Medifast more effective at controlling type 2 diabetes than an ADA-recommended program (see PR).

A newer study has shown that Medifast meal replacement programs were better than "those typically reported for obesity pharmacotherapy [i.e. drug treatment], and that retention of customers was "better than most commercial programs reported".
Both studies were led by Associate Professor Lawrence Cheskin of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and were funded by Medifast.

Protein fasts and low-calorie meal replacements are a drastic solution, and in my opinion appropriate for drastic situations. Given the choice between gastric bypass surgery or Medifast, then Medifast must surely be a better answer.

The biggest test of a program such as Medifast is the long-term consequences - and in particular weaning off a program based around shakes and soups. The transition phase should be four to six weeks, and often starts off by introducing some oatmeal at breakfast, and some fruit for snacks. Also exercise must become a part of life (5 days a week). Exercise must be fairly low-key during the restrictive part of Medifast - but once transitioning - it becomes increasingly important.

Due to the level of energy intake and exercise levels - it is likely that some muscle loss will occur during the weight loss phase. Once again, the best course of action would be to gradually include strength training during the transition phase - and begin to build up muscle tone.
The Medifast 5 and 1 plan cost $299.50 for 4 weeks. However - that's the cost of the "5" - you will still need to buy your daily "lean and green" meal (lean protein plus salad/vegetables).
VIP membership gives a 5% discounted price as well as access to an online program (forums, meal plans etc.), free shipping. Customers can get up to 2 weeks free meals (provided they purchase two consecutive monthly orders).

Men & Women
Different formulations are used for men and women. Some shakes are called Medifast 55 or Medifast 70. The latter has a higher soy protein content and is more suitable for men (or women who prefer higher protein).
A diabetic program is also offered - with considerable success rates: "after 34 weeks, 24 percent of the Medifast users decreased or eliminated their diabetes medication, compared to 0 (zero) percent on the standard food diet".

Behavior Change Required
Behavioral changes are critical to the long-term success of Medifast. Unless these lifestyle changes are applied, then the weight could easily swing back on like a yo-yo. It's worth taking a look at the post 10 Questions To Ask Before Changing Your Diet.

I don't believe Medifast is for the person who wants to lose a few pounds. This is a serious program for serious situations, and it may be advisable to follow the program while receiving regular support from a clinic, and even under medical advisement. //Jim F.