If you’re looking to lose a lot of weight, you may be considering a commercial weight loss plan. One option in that area is Medi-Weightloss, a program founded in 2005 by entrepreneur Edward Kaloust. He spent 40 years in the financial services industry before establishing Medi-Weightloss as a franchise company with the assistance of physicians, dietitians and fitness experts.
Medi-Weightloss is a commercial weight management program with 97 franchise locations in 27 states and several more locations opening soon. Collectively, the company says it has helped 300,000 people lose more than 7.9 million pounds since its founding.
A Review of the Medi-Weightloss Diet
Candace Pumper, a staff dietitian with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, notes that when you start the Medi-Weightloss program, you’ll first go through a consultation that includes a complete medical exam and a body composition analysis, which determines your fat to lean mass ratio.
Clients are then provided a personalized nutrition plan and exercise education that can help you lose up to 20 pounds per month. (It’s worth noting that many dietitians and health care providers recommend losing less than half that amount per month — about 1 to 2 pounds per week — as being a safer and more sustainable pace of weight loss.)
3 Phases of the Medi-Weightloss Diet
There are three phases to the Medi-Weightloss approach:
In the “Acute Phase,” patients follow an individualized, low-calorie and low-carbohydrate diet. The diet features lean protein, vegetables and healthy fats that support weight loss and induce ketosis, Pumper says. Ketosis is a metabolic state when the body shifts to burning fat because there aren’t enough carbs — the body’s preferred fuel — available. A keto diet can also induce ketosis.
While the plan is low-carb, with between 5% and 20% of your caloric intake coming from carbohydrates, “Medi-Weightloss does not specifically count calories or discuss carbohydrates consumed,” Pumper says. Nevertheless, when patients follow the plan as directed, “the program would typically generate a caloric deficit on the order of 500 to 1,000 calories per day.”
How long a patient stays in that lower-calorie state is individually driven based on a range of factors, including how much weight you have to lose.
Once you’re on the plan, you’ll have weekly consultations with a physician. Medications that can support weight loss may also be part of the program for some people who are medically eligible.
Short-Term Maintenance Phase
As you approach your target weight, you’ll transition to the “Short-Term Maintenance Phase” of the program.
“In this phase, patients gradually increase daily calorie and carbohydrate intake and are provided the tools necessary to achieve sustainable lifestyle and behavioral change to support long-term weight maintenance of lost weight,” Pumper says. You’ll continue receiving weekly consultations and individualized guidance.
During the final “Wellness Phase,” which occurs after you’ve hit your goal weight, you’ll move to monthly consultations that have a “strong focus on continued accountability, support, education and guidance to achieve overall health and wellness,” Pumper says.
During this phase, you’ll also have the opportunity to undergo advanced testing and metabolic analysis, and your body composition will be remeasured. During this phase, you’ll adopt a 40:30:30 eating plan. Also sometimes referred to as the Zone diet, this approach means 40% of your calories will come from carbohydrates, 30% will come from protein and 30% will come from fat. The total overall number of calories is tailored to each individual based on height, weight, age, activity level and other factors.
In addition to supervised weight loss support and nutritional education, Medi-Weightloss franchises offer pre-packaged meals and supplements for an additional charge. The company also offers vitamin injections as an additional service.
Throughout the program, patients are encouraged to exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
[READ: Healthy Carbs to Eat.]
What Can I Eat on Medi-Weightloss?
While on the Medi-Weightloss program, you’ll be able to shop and cook for yourself. Because the approach is low-calorie and low-carb, you’ll be focusing on eating:
— High-quality proteins, such as lean red meat, skinless white-meat poultry, eggs, fish, tempeh and tofu.
— Fresh fruit and non-starchy vegetables.
You should limit your intake of several foods (because of their calorie or carb content), including:
— Dairy products: butter, cheese, cottage cheese, milk and yogurt.
— Legumes: beans, chickpeas and lentils.
— Starchy vegetables: beets, corn, peas, parsnips, potatoes and yams.
— Whole grains: amaranth, brown rice, oats and quinoa.
Foods to Avoid on the Medi-Weighloss Diet
“Avoiding foods that are processed or ultra-processed is central to the Medi-Weightloss diet plan,” Pumper says. Instead, select minimally processed or unprocessed, whole foods.
Specific foods to avoid include:
— Processed foods: canned fruits and vegetables, cured or smoked meats and plain potato chips.
— Processed culinary ingredients: honey, salt, sugar, syrup and white flour.
— Refined carbohydrates: crackers, some cereals, white bread and white rice.
— Ultra-processed foods and drinks: baked goods, candy, fast food, fried foods, frozen desserts, flavored potato chips, pre-prepared convenience meals, pretzels and sugar-sweetened beverages.
How Is Medi-Weightloss Different From Other Supervised Programs?
When considering whether Medi-Weightloss might be right for you, it’s wise to review the other commercial weight-loss programs available that involve one-to-one counseling and education, such as the Profile Plan diet, Optifast and Health Management Resources, or the HMR program.
The key difference, Pumper says, is that Optifast and HMR are shorter-term commitment programs, while Medi-Weightloss aims to support patients over the long term.
Medi-Weightloss caters to patients with obesity as well as those who have less weight to lose. By contrast, to participate in Optifast, a patient’s body mass index must be at or above 30, or at or above 27 with weight-related medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or hypertension. HMR does not have specific criteria for who should enroll.
“While individual results vary, Medi-Weightloss claims to provide greater weight loss when compared to Optifast and HMR, presumably because it provides resources for individualized counseling in a medically-supervised environment and because the gradual, phased, low-carbohydrate dietary approach may promote greater satiety due to higher protein and fat intake,” Pumper explains. This increase in satiety reduces hunger and overall food intake and creates a calorie deficit.
Medi-Weightloss reports that, on average, patients lose 20 pounds in four weeks. By contrast, Optifast’s average reported loss is 50 pounds in 26 weeks, while HMR’s at-home program reports an average weight loss of 23 pounds in 12 weeks. HMR’s in-clinic program reports losses of between 28 and 43 pounds in 12 weeks.
Pumper says that registered dietitians do not appear to be part of the Medi-Weightloss program. “The website is vague on this detail, but it does indicate that all their physicians are members of the American Board of Bariatric Physicians and are trained in bariatric medicine, general medicine, endocrinology, family medicine, general surgery and obstetrics and gynecology.”
Medi-Weightloss did not respond to interview requests.
How Much Is the Medi-Weightloss Program?
Program fees vary from location to location and depending on which services you’re selecting. The cost of the initial consultation, which includes taking baseline weight measurements and drawing up an initial plan, typically ranges between $275 and $300.
Each weekly session typically costs between $75 and $100. During those weekly follow-up sessions, your provider will check your weight, other health metrics such as blood pressure and administer any supplements or prescriptions you may get as part of the program. If any adjustments to your individualized plan are needed, they can be made during these meetings.
“Treatments may be covered by most health insurance plans,” Pumper says, but be sure to check with your insurance provider to understand what’s covered. For example, vitamin injections may be a covered benefit if they’re deemed medically necessary, but food and dietary supplements are rarely covered.
Health Risks of the Medi-Weightloss Program
Pumper notes that she has some concerns about the Medi-Weightloss program, specifically related to:
— Effectiveness and sustainability.
— Nutritional adequacy.
The long-range nature of the program and the high price of each visit can add up quickly. If the program is not covered by your health insurance plan, that may make the program financially inaccessible.
Effectiveness and Sustainability
“Hypocaloric, low-carbohydrate diets, and specifically ketogenic approaches, have shown to be effective in producing rapid initial weight loss,” Pumper says. “However, these dietary patterns are not an effective solution for long-term weight management.”
In other words, you may lose a lot of weight using Medi-Weightloss, and you may be able to maintain that weight loss as long as you’re in the program. But it’s common for people to regain lost weight if they deviate from the plan, as most people eventually do because it’s very difficult to stay on restrictive diet long term.
“The strictest diet is not always the best diet,” says Shaun Carrillo, lead wellness coach for Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California. He also notes that “what works for one person may not work well for another.”
Medi-Weightloss does take this into account with its individualized, one-on-one counseling. However, all patients in this program are put into a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate plan, which may not be sustainable for everyone.
“At present, there is limited data on the long-term efficacy of the Medi-Weightloss program,” Pumper says. A recent study reported an average weight loss of 21% at 39 weeks in adults with overweight and obesity who were enrolled in the Medi-Weightloss program. There were also demonstrated benefits in metabolic markers, such as increases in HDL (good cholesterol) and lowering blood pressure.
However, the study has some limitations, including a low retention rate among participants over a period of one year and some missing data that may have skewed the results somewhat, the authors noted. The study was also funded by Medi-Weightloss, which could influence results. More investigation is needed to confirm the findings.
For a sustainable alternative, consider intuitive eating, says Jessie Fragoso, a registered dietitian at CalOptima, a community-based health plan that serves vulnerable residents in Orange County, California. Intuitive eating means “eating when you’re hungry and stopping you when begin to feel full.”
Making sure most of what you put on your plate is whole, fresh veggies, whole grains and lean proteins can help support overall health goals.
“In the short-term, this diet is not inherently harmful, but the long-term continuation imposes increased risk of nutrient deficiency,” Pumper says. “Low-carbohydrate diets may displace other nutrients, including dietary fiber, B vitamins, calcium and vitamin D,” which may “contribute to an increased prevalence of gut diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease or contribute to subsequent bone breakdown and increased risk of metabolic bone disease and fractures.”
During the final phase, which is intended to be a lifelong maintenance phase, consumption of carbs from whole, unprocessed fruits and nonstarchy vegetables is encouraged, but dairy, grains, legumes and starchy vegetables are “demonized,” Pumper says.
Pumper notes that Medi-Weightloss is not appropriate for people with an eating disorder or those who are at risk of developing an eating disorder. “The rigid diet may lead to a dichotomous or ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to eating, dieting and weight. Keeping a food journal may also encourage this thinking as well as trigger negative eating disorder behaviors and worsen one’s relationship with food.”
Pumper adds: “I’m a proponent of making your eating strategy fit your life, not the other way around. No dietary pattern is worth following if it disrupts your peace of mind.”
Athletes and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid this plan. “A healthy, varied diet providing sufficient calories remains the preferred means of meeting nutritional requirements in pregnancy, while breastfeeding and in athletes. These individuals are discouraged from participating in this program because it does not support them in meeting their increased nutritional demands,” Pumper says.
Another note of caution: The program claims an average weight loss of 20 pounds per month, or 5 pounds per week. That’s significantly higher than “most national health organizations recommend,” Pumper notes. One to 2 pounds per week is considered safe and sustainable weight loss.
Pumper adds that some of the ingredients in the dietary supplements offered for sale by the company could cause adverse effects or interact negatively with medications. Be sure to check with your primary care provider before starting any new dietary supplement. The same goes for starting the Medi-Weightloss plan: Talk with your primary care provider first to discuss risks and benefits of this diet plan.
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