Optifast is a serious weight loss program for individuals who need to lose 50 pounds or more.Developed by Sandoz Nutrition (now Novartis Nutrition), it is a medically-based, liquid diet that has proven results, with over 80 clinical studies and 1+ million participants since its inception in 1974.
Optifast is not just a food-replacement diet, it encompasses lifestyle changes, counseling, and exercise. The success of the program not only shows an average weight loss (52 pounds in 22 weeks), but a decrease in cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure. Success rates vary but a five-year follow-up study showed that over 50 percent of participants who completed the Optifast Program kept enough weight off to improve their long-term health.
Optifast is administered through clinics staffed with physicians trained in obesity management and is intended for use in patients that need to lose 50 or more pounds. Clinics can be found across the United States and in Canada and Australia, oftentimes in hospitals, clinics and within doctor’s practices. Patients receive a comprehensive consultation with a physician to determine an individual treatment plan, including blood tests and EKG (if necessary). Ongoing support from the clinics includes counseling sessions, group discussions, and a customized activity plan suited to your fitness level.
Optifast users receive ongoing medical monitoring during the initial phase to assess progress, primarily due to the quick loss of a significant amount of weight. They also receive guidance and support in nutrition, behavior and exercise. Upon completion of the program, weight management assistance is offered when needed.
This is a three-phase program. During the Active Weight Loss Phase, which is portion controlled, calorically precise, and nutritionally complete, patients consume only meal replacements supplied by Optifast, five times per day. These come in the form of shakes, nutritional bars and soups. This is an 800-calorie per day program that contains all the vitamins and minerals as recommended by the USDA. This phase continues until weight loss goals are achieved.
The Transition Period following Active Weight Loss will last about 4-6 weeks, where meal replacements are gradually replaced by self-prepared meals. Menus and food recommendations are supplied to help you during this transitional phase.
Once the Transition is complete, Long Term Weight Management Program kicks in. This will be the basis of a healthy lifestyle, utilizing a diet rich in produce, grains and low-fat proteins.
Exercise and fitness are part of the Optifast program and are considered to be essential to successful weight loss management. Customized activity plans appropriate to your fitness level and schedule and provided and monitored. They recommend a balanced fitness program that covers 3 components: aerobic, or cardiovascular exercise; flexibility, or stretching; and muscle strength and endurance.
There is little available on the site on fitness. No fitness demos, videos, or the ability to chart progress.
During the first phase you will rely only on Optifast products: shakes, soups and nutrition bars. Optifast Shakes come in both ready-to-drink boxes or in powder form in French Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry flavors, 160 calories per serving. Optifast Soups come in both Chicken and Garden Tomato flavors and can be used as a substitute for a shake up to twice per day. These are powdered soups which are added to hot water. They weigh in a about 160-170 calories For those who need to chew on occasion, Optifast makes nutrition bars in three flavors: chocolate, peanut butter-chocolate, and berry with yogurt, all 160-170 calories. Costs vary, but prepared shakes and bars run about $4 per serving x 5 per day = $20/day or $600/month.
During the Transition phase, you will start preparing meals and replace shakes several t times per day, weaning off of them by the end of the stage. This will require meal planning, shopping and cooking. In the final phase, all food is planned and prepared by you.
There are recipes on the site in a variety of categories: beverages, smoothies, main dishes, soups, snacks. There is also a referral section for additional food choices, recipes and how to eat out.
For the most part this is an easy weight loss plan, as it is monitored by a physician, you participate in groups, and food is supplied (in the form of shakes) during the long initial phase allowing you to remain outside the kitchen and away from temptation. That can also be the downside of this program however, as the shakes can become repetitious over such a long period of time. Physical activity is required, but personalized fitness plans are provided to you.
Membership: No “membership” per se
Food: During the first phase, $400-600/month, tapering off during the second phase
Other: This must be medically supervised in an Optifast clinic. Cost of the clinic and medical tests vary due to length of program, but typically run into the thousands of dollars. You can check with your insurance provider to see if some or all of the treatment is covered under your policy.