Across this site, one area that I strongly focus on is weight loss.
Being at a healthy weight is absolutely critical for health and wellbeing. Yet, this goal is often incredibly difficult to achieve.
To make matters worse, there are so many different diets and products out there that are supposed to make the process simpler.
This would be great if such claims were true but often diets are just filled with hype and aren’t realistic.
This post takes a look at one specific approach, which is called Take Shape for Life. To do this, I’m going to go through the various claims that the site makes along with Take Shape for Life reviews and whether the weight loss method is even realistic.
What is Take Shape for Life?
Take Shape for Life promotes itself as a community-based weight loss program. The idea is that you take advantage of the different products that the company offers, along with support from health coaches.
Those coaches are supposed to guide individuals towards good health and weight loss.
In concept, Take Shape for Life seems like it should work and the support component alone is certainly appealing. But, what do Take Shape for Life reviews have to say?
More importantly, does the diet actually work? Or, is this yet another company that is simply trying to sell products by manipulating customers?
Take Shape for Life is a weight loss program that offers support and a range of different products
How does Take Shape for Life Work?
Take Shape for Life basically breaks down into two distinct plans. These are called:
- The Optimal Weight 5&1 Plan
- The Optimal Weight 3&3 Plan
The first of these is designed for weight loss, while the second focuses on maintaining your current weight. As such, the idea is to lose weight by following the first plan and then keep it off using the second.
The first of these plans is shown on the right.
The first key component is that you’re eating many small meals per day.
I’m going to come back to the implications of this later – but the pattern is supposed to boost metabolism.
Additionally, the plan heavily relies on meal replacement products.
In fact, you end up consuming 5 products from the company along with one meal (which just includes a protein source and a vegetable).
This is where the name 5&1 comes from.
The products that you consume are designed to offer the nutrition that you need, while also helping to reduce your calorie intake.
Now, in theory, the system can work. But, as I’ll discuss later, there are some major limitations too.
The second plan is shown on the left and there are some similarities between the two.
Again, the emphasis here is on eating frequently. Specifically, you’re eating every 2-3 hours.
In this case, you’re still relying on the Take Shape for Life products but only 3 per day instead of 5.
This plan has the benefit of including more actual food. As a result, it’s also more flexible.
However, the emphasis of this plan is on sustaining weight rather than losing it, so most people would start out on the first option.
Take Shape for Life has two different plans, one for weight loss and one for maintenance. Both involve eating frequently and relying on the company's products
Positive Elements of the Program
There are many encouraging things about the Take Shape for Life program and these are areas that could easily play a role in health and in weight loss.
Meal Replacement Products
One element of the Take Shape for Life approach is the use of meal replacement products, including protein shakes.
Replacing meals this way isn’t for everybody but it can work well for weight loss. This concept typically means that you’re drinking a high protein shake instead of one of your meals in a given day.
This practice can be a fairly easy way to cut down your calorie consumption and many people find that it does work. For example, Shakeology and Isagenix both produce meal replacement shakes and there are many similar examples on the market.
Additionally, some people find products a good way to lose weight, simply because it means you don’t have to think about your food as much or cook. This might be great for anybody short on time or energy.
Likewise, there are also products that are designed to keep you going or make you feel full, rather than completely acting as a meal replacement.
Meal replacement products can work well for weight loss and Take Shape for Life has no shortage of such products
For the most part, weight loss simply comes down to calorie balance. This means that you need to be consuming fewer calories that you’re burning.
To some degree, all weight loss products and programs try to make this process as simple as possible. That’s also why you’ll find that most programs work to some extent.
Take Shape for Life is no different. The reliance on products and on some healthy meals does mean that your calorie intake is fairly low. This seems to range from 850 to 1,550 calories per day, depending on the specifics of the plan you’re doing, your current weight and your goals.
So, you are cutting down on calories and this alone would contribute to weight loss.
Weight loss is mostly about reducing calorie intake and the Take Shape for Life approach does achieve this
Take Shape for Life does heavily rely on products but there are some healthy foods in the mix as well. In particular, participants are supposed to have ‘lean & green’ meals.
These involve selecting from a list of different options, which include the following:
These are healthy choices and the plan does also include some red meat as well. So, there are certainly some healthy aspects to the diet and it’s good that the plan focuses on protein intake somewhat.
One other positive aspect is that the information can help people to learn more about healthy eating, especially if many of the practices are new to them.
Some of the recommendations within Take Shape for Life do focus on healthy food, which is a plus for weight loss and health
Concerning Aspects of Take Shape for Life
As the previous section shows, there are some good things about Take Shape for Life. These areas are an indication of how the system could potentially contribute to weight loss.
Yet, there are also some pretty major issues and limitations.
Eating Healthy Fats
For one thing, the company includes canola oil and margarine in their list of healthy fats.
Defining a healthy fat can be a little tricky but most people don’t consider those oils especially healthy. For one thing, they involve a concerning amount of processing (particularly margarine) and can contain too much omega-6 fatty acid.
In fact, both of those options made it into my list of deceptive foods, which focuses on ingredients that seem healthy but really aren’t.
Additionally, the diet tends to steer away from fat wherever possible. This is somewhat concerning, as there is a growing body of evidence illustrating that fat is not the villain that we’ve always assumed. Instead, fat can play a powerful role in weight loss.
So, in the case of Take Shape for Life, you basically end up eating a range of food that sounds like it should be healthy but isn’t nearly as good as you might assume.
Even though the company promotes healthy fats, their choices for healthy fats are somewhat concerning, as is their focus on minimizing fat intake
The Problem of Meal Frequency
Additionally, both of the programs focus on the idea of eating many small meals per day. The plans include eating every 2 to 3 hours – based on the idea that doing so keeps your metabolism high.
This concept is a nutrition myth, even though it continues to be widely believed. Experimental research has simply failed to find scientific evidence to support the idea that eating often speeds up the metabolism (1).
Realistically, if such effects did exist, they would probably be too small to affect weight loss.
Another argument is that eating more frequently helps to reduce hunger. But, that’s debatable too. For example, one study actually found that 3 normal meals is a more effective technique than 6 meals at reducing hunger (2). In many cases, people also find that eating many small meals has no effect on their hunger at all (3).
Eating many small meals also assumes that being hungry is a bad thing.
But, is it?
Hunger might be hard to cope with for some but biologically it does actually serve a purpose. For one thing, hunger is associated with a process called autophagy, which may offer a range of health benefits.
This is why many people follow a completely different approach where they reduce how often they eat, instead of increasing it. The overall idea is sometimes called an autophagy diet and the most common example of this is intermittent fasting.
There are multiple different versions of intermittent fasting, including the idea of 16:8 intermittent fasting, where you fast for 16 hours each and eat for 8.
But, the general principle is that short-term fasting can help improve health while also contributing to weight loss.
It’s easy to see how this could be powerful. After all, fasting would mean that you’re eating less food overall. The technique can also be surprisingly easy to follow because the emphasis is on when you eat rather than what.
Despite common belief, there is relatively little evidence that intermittent fasting slows metabolism.
Instead, it seems likely that eating frequency has relatively little overall impact on metabolism. For that matter, any metabolic impact of eating frequency is going to be outweighed by other things, such as how much food you’re eating and your exercise.
With this in mind, eating more often isn’t going to do much for weight loss – unless the method benefits you personally in other ways.
Now, to a degree, the impact of eating frequency depends on the individual.
For example, some people hate being hungry and will tend to overeat if they skip a meal. For these people, having healthy snacks can be an important aspect of weight loss and those snacks will help to reduce cravings (particularly high protein snacks).
People who struggle with hunger may also find that eating many small meals helps them to curb their appetite and reduce the likelihood of overeating.
However, many other people will find that they end up eating more food when they increase their eating frequency. For people in this situation, intermittent fasting can be a more valuable technique and can contribute to weight loss much more.
So, while eating more often may help some people, it isn’t a mystical approach that makes your body more effective at burning energy. Instead, you’re likely to find that the impact of doing so is relatively little.
Despite what many people believe, there is little evidence that increasing meal frequency helps with metabolism. Additionally, the practice can make weight loss harder by promoting overeating
Health Coaches and Support
Lack of support is one challenge that many people face with weight loss. Take Shape for Life claims to have a way around this, offering health coaches to members of the program.
So, having access to a health coach sounds great. However, this isn’t quite what it seems to be.
In particular, the health coach that you get isn’t going to be qualified in teaching health and nutrition. Instead, this person is a distributor for the company.
This happens because Take Shape for Life operates through a MLM model. With this approach, members act to promote the products and to also recruit other people into the company.
As a result, you end up with a health coach that is earning money by selling products from Take Shape for Life. I don’t know about you but I find that potential bias fairly troubling.
Now, these health coaches will get some training from the company and direction about how to help and support members. Nevertheless, you’re still taking advice from somebody without a lot of background in the field. In many cases, those coaches may be struggling to lose weight or eat healthy themselves.
I’m not saying that the coaches are useless.
Some people may benefit from having support and some of the advice may really help. However, the health coaches through Take Shape for Life are certainly not as powerful as the company suggests.
The concept of health coaches is great but these are just distributors for the company. As such, they will have relatively little background and training and will be biased toward the program and its products
Product Heavy Program
The other concerning pattern with Take Shape for Life is that the program is very product focused. This means that there are a lot of different products that you can buy and a strong focus on doing just that.
Indeed, the presence of health coaches and the direct marketing aspect of the company means that you may get pressured into buying products even if you didn’t really want to.
In fact, both of the plans that the company offers rely on products. For example, the 5&1 Plan involves 5 meal replacements per day and one regular meal.
The 3&3 Plan is less intense, but you’re still eating 3 products per day.
So, the only way to stay on the Take Shape for Life system is to regularly buy the various products.
Now, those products aren’t exactly cheap either. For example, both options in the image below are $22.95 and you only get 7 servings per purchase.
That’s really expensive, even for this type of company.
Plus honestly, if you wanted to rely on meal replacement products, there are cheaper options out there. For example, whey protein shakes offer similar advantages but are often a fraction of the price.
The price alone can be a major issue for diets that rely heavily on products.
At the same time, you’re also dealing with some food that is fairly processed. Now, in fairness, the company does state that their products are free of artificial flavors and sweeteners. However, making food yourself would still tend to be healthier.
For many people, these issues may be relatively minor. But, there is one much more significant problem, which is long-term weight loss.
If you want to lose weight successfully, you need a plan that you can follow in the long-term. Otherwise, you can easily end up in the pattern of losing weight while you are on a diet and gaining it back when you stop.
This issue is a key reason for the recent shift away from diets and towards healthy lifestyles.
Now, Take Shape for Life is designed to be long-term. In particular, the 3&3 plan is supposed to sustain a healthy weight, rather than contribute to weight loss.
Nevertheless, following a product-based plan for years simply isn’t realistic. Even if you loved the products, you could find the cost unsustainable or the company may stop making the products.
And again, you’re much better off making a shift to healthy food that you make yourself.
The Take Shape for Life approach could potentially help you get into some healthy patterns and allow you to lose weight initially but it’s never going to be great in the long-term. As such, you would have to be able to move off the diet and onto healthier patterns with relatively little support from the company.
For that matter, most of your support comes from your health coach – who makes money by promoting products. So, they probably won’t be able to provide much advice about long-term healthy approaches.
The reliance on products makes this an expensive program that is difficult to follow in the long-term
Take Shape for Life Reviews
Pretty much every diet will work for some people and Take Shape for Life is no exception. I have certainly seen some positive Take Shape for Life reviews out there, although many seem to come from distributors.
Yet, the overall balance of Take Shape for Life reviews is pretty negative. For example, the image below comes from the Consumer Affairs site. It is for Medifast but this is another name that the company uses and the Take Shape for Life products tend to be Medifast branded.
Some of the negative Take Shape for Life reviews are focused on the diet itself, while others are based on the underlying system. For example, customer support seems to be minimal, which is never a good sign.
Some other Take Shape for Life reviews mention that the products themselves taste horrible. With the high price of the items and the fact that you have to rely heavily on them – taste would be a deal breaker for many people.
Many of the Take Shape for Life reviews also highlight issues that I’ve mentioned in this review, such as the way the diet is unsustainable and the cost associated with it.
For that matter, some people did lose weight but still found that the negatives from the program outweighed the positives.
There are some positive Take Shape for Life reviews. However, the majority of them are negative and many complaints surround the company
So, Does Take Shape for Life Work?
At the most general level, yes, the Take Shape for Life diet would help you to lose weight. After all, you are decreasing your calorie intake, mostly by heavily relying on packaged products and meal replacements.
Nevertheless, the overall plan isn’t likely to be sustainable for most people and the products are expensive.
If you want to realistically lose weight and get healthier, then this type of system is never going to be the answer. Instead, you’d probably find that you lose weight in the short-term but would gain most or all of that back when you stopped the diet.
In contrast, there are other approaches that you can follow that will help you to lose weight and actually keep it off.
Achieving this is about figuring out a lifestyle that suits your needs and means that you are relying on healthy foods, rather than processed products.
This includes having an emphasis on fruits and vegetables, along with healthy fats and good sources of protein.
There are multiple different ways of achieving this.
In many cases, people choose a specific lifestyle that is designed to promote weight loss. I mentioned one example earlier, which is the idea of intermittent fasting. This method of weight loss works for many people, especially as you don’t have to worry about counting calories or avoiding specific types of food.
These are typically called diets but they can easily be long-term lifestyles as well. With low-carb and ketosis, the general aim is to lose weight through lowering your carb intake.
Essentially, this means you end up with a relatively high-fat and low-carb diet, which is the opposite of conventional recommendations. Yet, the idea is powerful for weight loss and your food tends to be more filling and satisfying than a high-carb diet.
There is also no shortage of good and healthy food that you can rely on. For example, I’ve previously highlighted a range of great recipes from food bloggers, including:
There are also many low carb vegetables that make a perfect addition to this type of lifestyle.
Now, intermittent fasting, low carb and ketosis diets approaches aren’t the only options. But, they’re good examples of the way that you can successfully lose weight by following a healthy diet and lifestyle, rather than relying on packaged food and meal replacement products.
Want to Lose Weight and Keep it Off?
Weight loss is a huge industry, with no shortage of bold claims. But, long-term weight loss doesn’t come from a crash diet or a popular fad. Instead, it is connected to sustainable habits and healthy foods.
Check out my most recommended products and guides to see where you can get started.
What approach do you take towards weight loss and healthy eating? Do you follow any of the ideas that I’ve talked about or something different entirely?