How Fast Can You Lose Weight on Medifast?

To lose weight quickly, you need to cut back on your caloric intake severely. However, at the same time you need to make certain you're still getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy. Medifast, a diet program developed by a physician and used by some medical centers as part of weight loss programs, can help you lose significant weight fast -- potentially as much as 5 lbs. in a week, depending on what options you choose. However, you should follow the Medifast program only under medical supervision, since rapid weight loss can raise your risks of several serious health problems.

Feet on a scale (Image: Fred Goldstein/Hemera/Getty Images)

Options

Most people on the Medifast program choose the "5 & 1" meal plan, which means they consume five prepared Medifast foods per day, plus one low-calorie, low-fat meal. Prepared Medifast foods include protein shakes, protein bars, puddings, brownies and other snack items. Taken together with the meal you prepare yourself, the meals provided in Medifast's 5 & 1 program total about 800 to 1,000 calories and contain about 80 to 100 g of carbs, depending on the options you choose.

Calculations

In order to lose a pound, you have to create a "calorie deficit" of 3,500 calories. Creating a calorie deficit means you need to burn more calories than you consume. Most women need about 2,000 calories per day, whereas men need close to 2,700 calories. While on the Medifast 5 & 1 program, you consume less than half that total, which means you have a calorie deficit of around 1,000 to 1,900 calories per day. That's enough to lose a pound every second or third day.

Effects

Most people, however, don't see the same fast results after they've followed the program for more than a few weeks. That's because your metabolism tends to slow down as you restrict calories; in response to starvation, your body conserves its resources to make up for the lack of calories. To counter this effect, Medifast recommends including exercise in your weight loss program; increasing your activity levels can burn more calories and potentially may offset the effects of your slowing metabolism.

Considerations

Generally, based on calorie counts, you're more likely to lose closer to 2 lbs. per week on Medifast than the 5 lbs. advertised by the company as its best-case scenario. That amounts to about 8 lbs. per month or around 25 lbs. if you follow Medifast for three months. You might lose more weight when you first start the program, but then see your progress taper off over time. Even a little bit of weight loss can help you to lower your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes. However, the Medifast program is expensive -- a basic four-week meal package for women costs more than $300.00. If you're debating whether to try the Medifast program, talk to your doctor about your weight-loss options.

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