Is Optavia MLM Weight Loss a Safe Program or Dangerous to Your Health and Wealth?

A dinner plate setting on a table with a blue and white checked table cloth, with 2 slices of cucumber, one cherry tomato, and one grape on the plate. Used in the article, Is Optavia MLM Weight Loss a Safe Program?

Optavia is a subsidiary of Medifast, a company that has been offering weight loss and wellness programs since the early 1980s. Many respected dieticians and medical practitioners have serious doubts about the efficacy of this expensive diet program, which has led to more than a little controversy.

Some background on Optavia.

Medifast was established by Dr. William Vitale who sold his products to other medical professionals to help those who had strict dietary restrictions prepare for bariatric surgery. 

Take Shape for Life” (the basis for Optavia) was created by clinical specialist Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen in 2002.

Optavia was founded in 2017, replacing Take Shape for Life, with a new range of formulations which are sold through “coaches” via a MLM system.

Note: Medifast subsidiary Jason Pharmaceuticals paid a $3.7 million penalty for false advertising.

In April 2022 Optavia/Medifast had a lawsuit filed against them, for violating the California Automatic Renewal Law, when adding customers to their auto-ship program.

Daniel R Chard. Ceo of Optavia.
Daniel R. Chard.
Logos of Medifast and Optavia used in the article "Is Optavia MLM weight loss a safe program"

Optavia Business Details.

Head Office: _100 International Drive, 18th Floor,
Baltimore, MD 21202. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer :- Daniel R. Chard. Appointed in 2020, replacing long serving CEO, Michael MacDonald.

Other Important points include:-

  • Optavia is a subsidiary of Medifast, a publicly listed company that posted revenue of $1.6 billion in 2022, a 4.8% increase over 2021.
  • Medifast is a multinational with offices in Mexico (where it has partnered with Medix), Hong Kong, and Singapore.
  • It has also been featured in Forbes list of 100 most trusted companies in the USA.
  • While not a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Optavia has a rating of A+
  • UPDATE: Optavia exited the Hong Kong and Singapore Markets as of 1st July 2023, due to lack of sales.

Typical of MLMs, Optavia, has all the glossy pages, the smiling faces with positive stories, and how they have invested in science to develop products for human consumption.

They even have a coaching course for wanna’ be Coaches (who want to build an income source).

Read on to unravel what exactly Optavia is offering and how their MLM plan works.

A Review of the Optavia Diet Plan

Their diet program is not for children under 13.

They recommend that you do not participate in any OPTAVIA Program until you are cleared by your healthcare provider if you have, or have had-a-serious-illness.

Optavia’s weight loss program essentially revolves around a system of portion-controlled, pre-packaged meals, snacks, and shakes.

These products are designed to be low in calories and carbohydrates while being rich in protein, help people lose weight by controlling their calorie intake and promoting a state of ketosis. (Optavia is not to be confused with the Keto diet- they are nothing alike).

The program also includes a support system through “certified health coaches” who guide and mentor clients throughout their weight loss journey (more on this below).

There are 3 programs in their system.

Programs one and two are weight loss methods and program 3 is supposed to be a weight maintenance method.

  1. Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan. 5 “Fuelings” + 1 “Lean and Green” meal. You have six small meals per day. On the Optimal Weight 5 & 1 plan you can choose from more than 60 convenient, nutritionally interchangeable, scientifically-designed Fuelings. The cost:- $395 for a container of 119 “servings”
  2. The Optimal Weight 4 & 2 & 1 Plan. 4 Fuelings +2 “lean and Green” meals + 1 snack. This is for you if you want to continue eating all food groups or want a flexible meal plan to help you achieve a healthy weight. Four of your meals are OPTAVIA Fuelings and every day you will also prepare two lean and green meals, and one healthy snack. The cost:- $442 for a container of 140 servings, plus an optional meal planner for $2.50.
  3. Optimal Health 3 & 3 Plan. 3 Fuelings +3 “Lean and Green meals” This plan is easy to follow and consists of three balanced meals and three Optimal Health Fuelings each day. Eat one meal or Fueling every two to three hours. The cost:- $21.75 for 7 servings.

In addition to these costs you still need to buy the ingredients for the Lean and Green meals. The costs above are only for the fuelings and snacks.

What is Included in a Lean/Green Meal

There are 3 levels of protein. 7ounces, 6 ounces, and 5 ounces. An example of the 7oz (the most generous),

LEANEST: 7 oz of protein + 2 servings of healthy fats.

  • Fish: cod, flounder, haddock, orange roughy, grouper, tilapia, mahi mahi, tuna (yellowfin steak or canned in water), wild catfish Shellfish: crab, scallops, shrimp, lobster
  • Game meat: buffalo, elk, deer
  • Ground turkey or other meat: ≥ 98% lean Turkey:
  • Meatless options: 14 egg whites, 2 cups of liquid egg substitute or liquid egg whites, 5 oz. seitan, 12 oz. (1 ½ cups) 1% cottage cheese, 12 oz. non–fat (0%) plain Greek yogurt (≤ 15g carb per 12 oz.)

For the Green part of the meal you have:- Choose 3 servings from the Green Options List:

Optavia's green list showing all the vegetables you are allowed to have. Used in the article,  Is Optavia MLM Weight Loss a Safe Program
The Green part of the diet.

1 serving = ½ cup vegetables (unless otherwise specified)

All vegetables promote healthful eating. But on the Optimal Weight 5 & 2 & 2 Plan, we eliminate the highest–carbohydrate vegetables (such as carrots, corn, peas, potatoes, onions, edamame and Brussels sprouts) to enhance your results. Example: 1 cup of lettuce + ½ cup of broccoli + ½ cup mushrooms

Optavia. See more here.

Are Optavia Products FDA Approved?

The short answer is NO. The FDA does not evaluate the effectiveness of weight loss programs. However, Optavia manufacture most of their powder products at their facilities in Owings Mills, and uses subcontractors for many of their other products. All food manufacturing facilities are regulated and inspected by the FDA, USDA, and the Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene also inspects facilities in that state.

Optavia is also certified by the Safe Qualified Food Institute as a Safe Quality Food Program Level 2 facility, compliant with the Global Food Safety Initiative.

So, while Optavia’s products are obligated to follow FDA labelling guidelines the FDA, do not evaluate the effectiveness or otherwise of the ingredients with regards to weight loss.

Criticisms of Optavia’s Meals.

The 5&1 plan is the most popular, and also the most extreme.

The plan is to maintain a calorie intake of between 800 to 1000 calories a day. This is less than half of the daily recommended calorie intake for adults.

In fact many studies say, If you eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day, you are unlikely to get all of the nutrients you need to stay healthy, and such restrictive diets may lead to serious nutrient deficiencies.

Health Professionals say the recommended calorie intake for an adult woman should be between 1600 to 2400 calories.

For Men the intake is higher at 2200 to 3000 calories per day. Source.

If you eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day, it’s tough to get all of the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Cleveland Clinic.

There are many dieticians who say an 800 calorie daily limit should be medically supervised.

What is a Fueling.

A fueling is that snack you have between meals: Optavia have around 60 choices including:-

  • Shakes.
  • Soups
  • Health Bars
  • Hot beverages
  • Biscuits
  • Pudding and brownies.

Each Fueling made by Optavia has a nearly identical nutritional profile containing around 100 calories. They are premade, pre-packaged and whether or not they taste any good is dependant on who is eating it.

However all the usual complaints arise. “It has no taste” or “Tastes awful,” for instance.

An Example of a Snack.

In addition to five Fuelings and one Lean & Green Meal™, you may choose ONE of these optional snacks daily.

OPTAVIA Puffed Snacks or OPTAVIA Popcorn

  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 fruit-flavored sugar-free Popsicle®
  • ½ cup serving sugar-free gelatin, such as Jell-O®
  • Up to 3 pieces of sugar-free gum or mints
  • 2 dill pickles spears
  • ½ oz of nuts: almonds (10 whole), walnuts (7 halves), or pistachios (20 kernels).

5 Eye-opening Health Risks of the Optavia Diet.

  1. Dangerously Low Calorie count:– The drastic shift in calories can lead to some serious and unwanted side effects. Gallstones, hormone imbalances, fatigue, diminished metabolism, and depression are just a few of the side effects found to be associated with following very low calorie diets.
  2. Heart Disease Risks:– the OPTAVIA diet may help improve blood lipids and blood pressure due to weight loss, the absence of fruit, certain vegetables, legumes and whole grains, combined with a reliance on heavily processed foods makes it unlikely that the OPTAVIA diet will help to prevent heart disease.
  3. Mental Cognitivity: The stabilization of blood sugar which promotes energy and productivity, is encouraged by the protein offered by this plan, it contains highly processed fiber that was created in a laboratory, which may not be as beneficial for health as the intact fiber found in whole foods, like beans, berries and whole grains. Source.
  4. It Can Cause Gallstones: Gallstones can form when bile contains too much cholesterol or waste products and hardens into stones. Rapid weight loss, which can occur on restrictive diets like Optavia, may increase the risk of developing gallstones. Source.
  5. Stomach Problems: The sugar alcohols used in their products can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhoea, especially when consumed in high quantities (such as 5 times a day). Optavia Fuelings have also been scrutinized as having more lead contamination than nearly all other protein powders, which can cause gastrointestinal distress. Source.

The other problems associated with this diet are also common with most other diets as well.

  • Long term weight loss unlikely
  • Eventual weight gain likely

How does Optavia Sell their Diet Plans.

There are two methods they employ.

One is by using medical professionals who will recommend a Optavia’s diet plan to you.

The Second way is a network of independent coaches who have been trained and certified by Optavia to sell to the general public. The coaches also act as distributors, and are basically cheerleaders for their clients on a weight loss mission.

Many of the coaches are themselves on the Optavia diet, and becoming a coach can be a way to minimize the financial impact of buying your Optavia products.

As anyone with some knowledge of MLMs knows, the real money in a MLM program comes from recruiting people to sell under you.

Coaches earn money from personal sales and recruit sales. The process repeats, and the base of the structure grows wide, looking like a pyramid.

Becoming an Optavia Coach.

A questionnaire to become an Optavia coach. Used in the article Is OptaviaMLM a safe Program?
Questionnaire to become an Optavia coach.

It will cost you $200 to go through their certified training which includes a test.

Before you can begin you are required to complete a questionnaire as to why you would like to be a Optavia coach.

OPTAVIA’s Certification Exam is not an accredited or unaccredited “Health Coach” certification. 

It is only to show that you understand Optavia’s products and the Habits of Health Transformational System, and is also proof that you are officially affiliated with the OPTAVIA program.

What Help and other Materials do Coaches receive?

For your $200 you will receive a Kit that is created to convert to a desktop organizer to keep your resources handy as you grow your business.

The kit includes:

  • OPTAVIA Success System Binder, containing a Health Assessment paper pad, instruction sheet and 3 file folders
  • 1 New Coach Steps to Success Brochure
  • 1 Coaching Guide for the Habits of Health® Transformational System
  • 1 Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan® Client Introduction Pack (pack includes 10)
  • OPTAVIA Guide
  • 1 Optimal Weight 4 & 2 & 1 Plan® Guide

 Business Accessories include:

  • Pen Set with four (4) OPTAVIA pens
  • OPTAVIA Journal
  • Independent OPTAVIA Coach Bottle
  • OPTAVIA Pop Socket
  • OPTAVIA Blank Notecard Set (pack of 10)
  • OPTAVIA Slinky Notepad
  • OPTAVIA Tech Decals for use on your electronic devices

The Coach Business Kit also includes, free access to a personalized OPTAVIA website for 12 months where your Clients can shop. Additionally, you will receive access to OPTAVIA CONNECT for 12 months to help put you in control of your business as well as access to branded materials like weekly newsletters, social media graphics and videos to help build your OPTAVIA Coach business.

Also, There is a yearly renewal fee of $99.00 to remain a coach.

Optavia Payment Schedules for Coaches.

It is an MLM, so it can get complicated with lots of moving parts, and terms like:-

A screenshot of Optavia's Client support compensation payout, used in the article Is Optavia MLM a Safe Program.
Looks lucrative.
  • Qualifying Volume
  • Accelerator Assist Bonus
  • Bonus qualified
  • Compensation volume
  • National elite bonus
  • Client support commissions and bonuses.
  • Coach accelerator bonus (for newbies)… And more.

All up there are 12 ways to earn income with Optavia. The three primary ways are:-

  1. Client support income to reward OPTAVIA Coach Competency.
  2. Team building income to reward Business Coach Competency.
  3. Leadership Development income to reward Business Leader Competency.
A screenshot of the Optavia 2022 income disclosure for independent coaches. Used in the article, Is Optavia MLM a Safe Program.
Optavia Income DisclosureNot so lucrative.

The other Nine are based around the 3 above. See list below.

  1. Client Support Commissions
  2. Client Support Bonus
  3. Coach Consistency Bonus
  4. Coach Accelerator Bonus
  5. Accelerator Assist Bonus
  6. Team Growth Bonus
  7. Fully Integrated Business Coach Bonus
  8. Executive Director Generation Bonus
  9. Elite Leadership Bonus.

  The income disclosure opposite doesn’t tell a good story.

 The complete compensation structure can be seen here. You will need Google chrome and Abode Acrobat to open it.

Optavia Complaints.

A 2 star Optavia rating on the Better Business Bureau. Used in the article Is Optavia MLM a Safe Program.
Star rating on the BBB

Although it is not BBB accredited, consumers will still lodge complaints on the BBB.

The majority of the complaints relate to incorrect orders, orders sent when not ordered, refunds and of health issues.

Consumer ratings on the Better Business Bureau have it at 2 stars from 121 reviews.

See more Here.

This guy from the forums, “… doesn’t want to die because of a shitty tasting snack bar.”

 “….what concerns me most, is that today I got the worst stomach cramp of my life. Like a runners cramp not the feminine sort. It completely winded me. I was just drilling a few screws. Hardly what I would consider exercise. Then suddenly it hit me and I could barely walk across the yard to the house, and I struggled just to carry a power drill with me.” Reddit

Trust Pilot Rating.

2.5 star rating of Optavia on trust pilot. Used in the article Is Optavia MLM a safe Program.
63% are 1 start ratings !

Trust Pilot is not much better 2.5 star rating although there are only 8 reviews.

You can see them Here.

The Optavia Facebook and Reddit pages are a closed shop and you won’t see any discontent within those.


Do doctors recommend Optavia?

According to Google: This diet claims to provide convenience while taking the guesswork out of weight loss. The diet focuses on lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables and highly discourages sweets and higher calorie foods. Experts do not recommend the diet.

Is Optavia worth the money?

As far as weight loss goes, experts say that while Optavia can help because it’s lower in calories, it’s unlikely to alter your eating habits permanently for the better. It’s likely you’ll regain weight once you stop the diet.

What ingredients are in Optavia bars?

Soy protein isolate, sugar, polydextrose, soluble corn fiber, cocoa (processed with alkali), brown rice syrup, palm kernel oil, glycerine, allulose, chocolate liquor, milk protein isolate, erythritol, nonfat milk, rice starch, natural flavor, soy lecithin, salt, guar gum, steviol glycosides. More detail Here.

What is the truth about Optavia?

 The program relies on creating a calorie deficit in your dietary routine for initial weight loss results, which requires long-term maintenance. However, the processed, powdered variety of protein that’s featured in programs like Optavia can lead to some less-than-pleasant side effects.


While it maintains a reputation as a short-term solution for rapid weight loss, the methods used in Optavia programs aren’t always well received. For example, it’s currently ranked #27 for Best Diets Overall (FYI: that’s pretty low!) by U.S. News & World Report, which reports, “Though you might lose weight quickly with Optavia, the meal plan scored particularly low for healthy eating.”

Yahoo Finance.

As an MLM opportunity it is in a very saturated market. I believe Optavia has around 3-4% of the weight loss market, which is considerable when you consider the number of companies vying for business.

Although it has a high trust rating by the likes of Forbes and other rating organisations, there are also so many reports of adverse reactions to the diet.

As a coach you are going to need a very thick skin handling the rejections and complaints.

There are lots of better options out there for earning a dollar, and 5,000 steps a day will go a long way to keeping you healthy.

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