Optavia Scam: Pyramid Scheme or MLM? [Review]

If you’re on the lookout for a new source of income, you may have heard of Optavia. They’re an MLM company that sells healthcare products, and it’s likely that you learned about them through a friend or family member.

That being said, while joining Optavia as an independent distributor may seem like a promising opportunity to work from home and earn some extra cash, it’s important to keep your expectations realistic. In this review, we’ll delve into why success with Optavia may be unlikely for the average person.

As an online entrepreneur, I have reviewed many similar online opportunities over the years. So I can tell you what you need to know.

Just to be clear, I want to state that I’m not affiliated with Optavia in any way. That means you can trust that this review is honest and unbiased.

If you’re looking for an alternative to Optavia’s MLM program, I’ll share with you the one that I personally recommend at the end of this review.

What is Optavia?

Optavia is a subsidiary of Medifast, Inc. (NYSE: MED), a company based in Baltimore, Maryland that specializes in nutrition and weight loss products. Optavia’s product line, Optavia Essentials, was launched in July 2017 after the company changed its name from Take Shape For Life.

Optavia’s meal replacement products are promoted and sold by a network of Independent Health Coaches using a Multi-Level Marketing (or Network Marketing) business model. This is one of many online money-making opportunities where you can sell a company’s products or become a distributor to buy or sell products at a discount.

However, since this is a popular business model, there’s a lot of competition. It’s challenging to become a “6 figure network marketer” because so many others are selling the same product.

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What Products Does Optavia Offer?

Optavia offers a variety of plans that combine packaged foods, homemade meals, and personalized coaching to help you achieve your weight loss goals.

One of their most popular plans is the Optavia diet, which is a low-calorie, reduced-carb program that can help you shed those extra pounds. The program includes a combination of Optavia Fuelings and Lean and Green meals, which are home-cooked meals.

Optavia Fuelings are Optavia brand products that are high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and contain probiotics. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that can promote gut health, which is essential for overall wellness.

If cooking isn’t your thing, Optavia also offers Flavors of Home, a line of pre-made low-carb meals that can replace the Lean and Green meals.

To become an Optavia client, you’ll need to meet with a coach first. You can enter the coach’s name on the website, or you can enter your contact information to be connected with a coach in your area.

Once you sign up, you’ll meet with your coach daily for the first four days. After that, you and your coach will determine the best way to stay in touch (call, text, email, etc.) and the best time to meet in person.

It’s worth noting that Optavia coaches are compensated on a commission basis, so you’ll need to order all Optavia products through a link provided by your coach.

Is Optavia An MLM?

Yes, Optavia is an MLM. But don’t worry, Optavia is a legit multi-level marketing company. They operate as a direct sales company, and their sales representatives are called coaches. Some coaches are former Optavia customers, but anyone can become a coach.

Becoming an Optavia coach doesn’t require you to be a certified nutrition expert, and you won’t receive a regular salary. Instead, you’ll be running your own business as an independent distributor of Optavia products. However, it’s important to note that making a significant income by selling their products alone can be challenging.

Like many MLM programs, Optavia’s business model relies on recruiting new members to work under you. As an upline, you’ll earn commissions on the sales and new recruits generated by the people you hire once they start producing results.

To help you understand this complex business model, let’s imagine a triangle. Everyone in the triangle is in your direct downline, and you’ll earn commissions from everyone in the triangle if the person at the top recruits ten people, and each of these ten recruits ten more.

If you can bring in just ten people, you’ll make $1,100. That said, most people in MLMs would rather earn a lifetime passive income from recruiting others than a one-time commission from selling products, even if the MLM offers a wide range of products.

It’s also worth noting that the people at the top of the triangle tend to have the most financial success, while those at the base have the least. Therefore, having a large number of people in your downline is crucial for success in Optavia and other multi-level marketing companies.

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Is Optavia A Pyramid Scheme?

No, Optavia is not a pyramid scheme. It is actually a direct sales company that offers health and wellness products, and members can make money by selling these products.

However, it’s worth noting that Optavia coaches may make more money from recruiting new members than from selling products. This has led some people to question the legitimacy of the company and whether it operates like a pyramid scheme.

So, what exactly is a pyramid scheme? It’s a scam where members are promised rewards or services for recruiting new members. The main source of income for the scheme is from recruiting new members and soliciting more money from current members. Unlike Optavia, pyramid schemes often don’t offer valuable goods or services.

In a pyramid scheme, members have to pay a membership fee to the company, and the company rewards them by sharing a portion of the funds raised from each additional member they recruit. However, the only people who truly profit from this scheme are the directors at the top of the pyramid, as they can receive a portion of the payments from every newly recruited member.

The problem with pyramid schemes is that they’re unsustainable and often lead to members losing money. Most participants are at the bottom of the pyramid and have no way of making their money back.

Optavia, on the other hand, operates differently from a pyramid scheme. It offers valuable health and wellness products and pays members based on sales, not recruitment. While some coaches may earn more money from recruiting, it’s not the company’s main focus.

In contrast, Vemma, a producer of energy and weight loss drinks, was accused of operating a pyramid scheme in 2015. The company paid more to recruit new members than to sell products, and the majority of participants ended up losing money.

You may read our article on the difference between MLM and pyramid schemes here.

Is Optavia a Scam?

No, Optavia is not a scam. It is a legit MLM company that sells health and nutritional supplements. It’s owned by Medifast, a well-established company known for its health products. When you join Optavia, you’ll get access to training from other coaches who can help you with everything from marketing to sales plans.

One benefit of Optavia is its 30-day return policy. If you’re not happy with your business kit within the first month of purchase, you can get a refund. This policy can also attract more customers, as they’ll feel more confident in trying Optavia products.

Now, let’s talk about the controversy around Optavia. Some people claim that it resembles a pyramid scheme. While Optavia is not a scam, it’s true that only a few people at the top of the pyramid earn significant amounts of money, while those at the bottom are likely to lose money. Coaches have to pay to participate, and statistically, they’re unlikely to earn a living wage.

According to Optavia’s 2021 income statement, around 20% of coaches earned nothing, and only about 12% earned more than $10,000. The starter package costs $199, and to earn significant amounts of money, you’ll need to recruit aggressively. This can be a challenge for many people, and it’s important to be aware of the risks involved.

Some people consider Optavia predatory towards job seekers, and the company’s marketing claims can be disingenuous and irresponsible. For these reasons, some people do consider Optavia a scam.

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Optavia Compensation Plan

If you’re interested in making some extra cash, Optavia has three ways for you to do so. You can become a Health Coach and earn commissions by selling their products. You can also become a Business Coach and support other coaches while building your own team. Lastly, as a Business Leader, you can build and lead your own organization.

Let’s look at each option more closely:

Health Coach Income

As a Health Coach, you’ll earn a commission on every sale you make to someone else. You can earn between 18 to 31 percent on each product sold. Additionally, if you make a certain number of sales, you may qualify for a “startup” or “consistency” bonus.

Business Coach Income

If you become a Business Coach, you can advance in rank as your team and income grow. As you climb the ranks, you can earn more money from the products and services sold by your “downline,” which refers to the people you recruit into the program.

Business Leader Income

Once you reach the rank of “Regional Director,” you’ll start earning “Business Leader Income.” This income increases as your downline reaches the rank of “Executive Director.” It may sound confusing, but Optavia’s system does a great job of keeping track of everything.

One thing to keep in mind is that the key to making significant money with Optavia is by recruiting a large number of people to your downline.

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How Much Does It Cost To Join Optavia MLM?

If you’re interested in joining Optavia MLM, there are a few costs to keep in mind. While MLMs aren’t as pricey as starting a storefront business, Optavia isn’t exactly cheap. Let’s break down the costs.

Firstly, there’s the Health Coach Business Kit, which will set you back $199. This kit provides you with the necessary information on how to sell Optavia products. It’s not the most exciting training, but it’s an essential cost to keep in mind if you’re looking to get personal discounts.

Next up, there’s the yearly business renewal fee of $99. This fee is necessary to keep your business running, and it doesn’t come with any additional perks or benefits. With over 20,000 coaches, that’s an extra $2 million if everyone pays the fee.

Finally, there are the monthly orders. To receive your commissions, you’ll need to order one of the product packs each month. Optavia sets itself apart from most MLMs by offering product bundles instead of individual products. However, these expenses can add up quickly, and after a year, you may have spent around $5,000 without making any profit.

It’s important to remember that less than 10% of Optavia users earn $5,000 or more per year, and it can take years to reach that level of income. So, while Optavia may be a tempting business opportunity, make sure to factor in all the costs before jumping in.

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Can You Really Make Money With Optavia?

If you’re thinking of joining a multi-level marketing (MLM) company like Optavia to make some extra cash, you should know that it’s not as easy as it sounds. While MLMs can offer an opportunity to work from home and be your own boss, success often depends on your ability to sell products and recruit new members.

Optavia specializes in health and wellness products, which can be a tough sell since some people might be able to find similar products for less elsewhere. Plus, health and fitness is a niche market that not everyone is interested in, so you may have a limited pool of potential customers.

Your target market is mainly adults between the ages of 18 and 65, so you’ll have to work harder to find customers if you exclude children and teenagers. This means that your chances of making money with Optavia are lower than you might expect.

While there are success stories out there, the reality is that most people who join MLMs like Optavia will struggle to make a substantial income. Your earnings will depend heavily on your downline, which means that how well your recruits perform will directly impact your income and rank within the company.

That said, if you’re a skilled networker and have a large circle of friends and acquaintances who are interested in health and wellness products, you may be able to succeed with Optavia. Just be aware that you’ll never have complete control over your income, and success is far from guaranteed.

Pros and Cons of Joining Optavia MLM Program 


  • The Better Business Bureau has given Optavia an A+ rating.
  • Refunds are available for 30 days.
  • Optavia embraces modern technology and uses webinars to spread the word about the company.
  • Client Support commissions are paid out on a weekly basis.


  • According to income disclosures, 21 percent of Coaches earn no money after a year in business.
  • Due to the competitive market and high prices, selling Optavia products may be difficult.
  • The compensation plan is extensive and can be confusing, with a 22-page compensation plan.
  • Since the company’s compensation plan does not include override commissions, there is a focus on recruiting Coaches when building an organization.
  • Some members have reported disliking the taste of the products.

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Why I Don’t Recommend Joining Optavia MLM Program

The Optavia diet is not healthy

One of the main drawbacks of the Optavia diet is that it relies heavily on packaged foods. Under the 5&1 plan, you would consume 150 packaged meals each month. While this may seem convenient, it is not a healthy way to lose weight.

Packaged foods are often heavily processed and contain fewer nutrients than whole foods like fruits and vegetables. The Optavia products are also loaded with food additives, sugar substitutes, and processed vegetable oils that can negatively impact your gut health and lead to chronic inflammation.

In addition, many of the fuelings contain maltodextrin, a thickening agent that can spike blood sugar levels and alter gut bacteria composition. While these ingredients are generally safe in small amounts, their frequent consumption as part of the Optavia diet may increase the risk of side effects.

Very few people can make money with Optavia

If you’re considering becoming a sales representative for Optavia, it’s important to understand that success is difficult to achieve with MLM companies like this. In fact, statistics show that between 72.5% to 99.9% of MLM members actually lose money.

One of the main reasons for this is that MLMs require their members to meet sales quotas in order to remain active and eligible for commissions. If a member fails to meet these quotas, they won’t get paid.

Losses as Investments: The Reality

Many uplines in the Optavia MLM program try to justify financial losses as investments in the business, promising future financial freedom. However, in reality, these losses are unlikely to be recouped, and the return on investment is often negative. Claiming that these are investments is deceptive and dishonest.

Optavia is Like a Cult

One of the main reasons people remain in Optavia is due to the company culture that fosters a cult-like atmosphere. Critical thinking is actively discouraged, and MLM reps are shamed or isolated if they question the company’s practices. This isolation makes it difficult for them to seek support outside of the company. Leaving Optavia can result in being labeled a failure, and reps are often prohibited from contacting former colleagues who have left.

Neglecting Personal Lives for Business

Optavia frequently expects reps to prioritize their business events and activities over their personal lives, further embedding them into the company while distancing them from family and friends. This pressure can lead to a loss of important relationships and social support outside of the company.

Optavia’s MLM Business Model Has a Bad Reputation

Finally, Optavia’s MLM business model has a bad reputation. While some people have found financial success with MLMs, the reality is that most people don’t. The distribution of commissions is often skewed toward those at the top of the pyramid, leaving those at the bottom struggling to make ends meet. As a result, many people don’t view Optavia as a legitimate business opportunity.

Exaggerated Claims Of Income

Like many other MLM companies, Optavia tends to make exaggerated income claims. However, in reality, very few people make a good living by promoting Optavia. The company’s low retention rate can also be discouraging, as less than 41% of its distributors are active. According to Optavia’s payouts to distributors, over 99 percent of Optavia distributors never make a profit.

Recruiting is Required to Succeed

MLMs like Optavia put a lot of effort into recruiting. Eight out of ten ways to earn money with Optavia require recruiting. If you don’t recruit, you are destined to lose money at the end of the day. This is why I don’t recommend MLMs to people. My #1 recommended platform is different. You can make a 4-figure, 5-figure or even 6-figure passive income by promoting and selling products you truly like. You don’t have to recruit people but recommend useful and great products. I will tell you more at the end of this Optavia review.

Optavia MLM Has a Complex Ranking System

In most MLMs, there is a ranking system that determines how much commission you can earn. Optavia’s system is more complicated than those of some other companies, though. There are many different ranks at the company, and each rank has its own requirements to reach it. If you want to keep growing, you will need more and more people under you.

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What is Optavia’s BBB official standing?

Optavia has a rating of 1.53 stars out of 5 based on 80 customer reviews on the Better Business Bureau website. Over the past three years, they have resolved 517 complaints, with 270 of those resolved in the last 12 months.

What are Optavia’s most popular products?

The Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan is one of Optavia’s most popular products. It recommends eating six small, 800- to 1,000-calorie meals per day to promote fat loss while maintaining lean muscle mass. The plan aims to help people make healthy eating a habit.

How long has Optavia been in business?

Optavia has been in business since 2002.

What is Optavia’s revenue?

Optavia doesn’t often release financial information, but its parent company Medifast reports strong earnings that are steadily growing. In the second quarter of 2018, Optavia had its most profitable quarter to date with $117.3 million in revenue and profit.

How many Optavia distributors are there?

Optavia has around 19,700 distributors.

What lawsuits have been filed against Optavia MLM?

Medifast, Optavia’s parent company, was sued in 2013 for lying about its revenue to deceive investors. The case was dropped. In 2012, Jason Pharmaceuticals, a Medifast subsidiary that manufactures Fuelings meals, settled a deceptive advertising case for $3.7 million. The Federal Trade Commission also found that Optavia made unsubstantiated claims about its weight-loss program.

Does Optavia pay its coaches?

Optavia coaches can earn varying salaries, as each business opportunity is unique. However, according to the company’s income disclosure from 2019, the majority of coaches (21%) earned nothing after a year in the business.

Final Verdict

After conducting a thorough review, I’ve come to the conclusion that Optavia MLM may not be the best way to earn money. The truth is, the beginning can be tough as you search for potential recruits to add to your Optavia commission. What’s worse, you may find yourself practically begging your family and friends to join your business, which is not a very fun experience.

Additionally, your upline will constantly follow up with you, urging you to buy more Business Support Material even as you struggle to recruit more people. Unfortunately, statistics also show that 99% of people who join an MLM end up breaking even or losing money, as reported by a case study on the FTC’s website. The pressure to succeed in these types of businesses can also lead to people leaving.

If you’re looking for a way to earn money and have a flexible schedule without feeling the pressure of an MLM, why not consider starting your own online business? This way, you can promote whatever you want, without being told what to do.

In the next section, I’ll share how you can legitimately build an online business that generates passive income. This method has allowed me to earn a full-time income within a year, and it’s completely sustainable and legitimate.

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Is There a Better Way to Make Money Online?

Starting an online business can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure where to begin. That’s why I recommend Wealthy Affiliate as the ultimate platform to help you build your affiliate marketing business from scratch. Unlike Optavia MLM program, Wealthy Affiliate offers all the tools and support you need to succeed.

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If you like the platform, you can upgrade to the premium membership to get access to everything Wealthy Affiliate has to offer. And unlike other platforms, Wealthy Affiliate has no upsells afterwards.

You may read our article about the difference between MLM and affiliate marketing.

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You can read our full review of Wealthy Affiliate here.

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