Ask me anything: Weight loss dietitian
Get the knowledge needed to take confident steps toward a healthier, happier self.
Weight loss is a journey that many people embark on alone, yet it can often feel like navigating a maze of conflicting information and advice.
With every trip to the supermarket, we're faced with choices that can either help or hinder our progress.
Add to this the constant barrage of crash diets, restrictive weight loss programs and social media experts telling us how to 'lose weight fast', and it can start to feel like an impossible task.
With the right tools, however, sustainable weight loss is possible. Seasoned weight loss dietitian at Juniper, Amelia Bandera, is experienced in helping people of all ages and life stages achieve weight loss success, focusing on nutrition and behavioural changes that can set individuals up for a healthy lifestyle for years to come.
To cut through the food noise and get the knowledge needed to take confident steps toward a healthier, happier self, Amelia is answering some of her most commonly asked questions surrounding weight loss advice, food intake, and overall health, to help anyone get started on their journey to better health.
What's the best way to lose weight in the first 4 weeks?
Set realistic goals
When we embark on a new journey to lose weight, we can be really motivated to make changes to our diet and physical activity levels, but it can be overwhelming to figure out what areas to focus on first.
At Juniper, our health coaching team focuses on identifying areas of weight management that each individual is most confident with and the aspects they find most challenging, so we can work on those from the very beginning to create an individualised weight loss plan that fits in with each lifestyle and lead to successful weight loss.
Create and maintain a regular eating pattern
Regular eating patterns are important for sustainable weight loss in order to stabilise appetite and fuel the body with nutrient-dense foods. This is essential to support good health and help you achieve a healthy weight, without relying on fad diets or restrictive exercise regimes to do so.
Focus on what you're filling your meals with, adding food groups to your diet that include whole grains and healthy fats, rather than just focusing on the things that should be taken away in order to consume fewer calories.
A regular eating pattern could look like 3 meals a day, with 1-2 snacks in between, but can be different for everyone.
Focus on fibre
Fibre is a nutrient important for helping stabilise appetite and reduce excess weight.
Focusing on adding more veggies is a really great way to not only fill our body with lots of micronutrients that are helpful for our health but adding fibre into our diet can also help regulate bowel movements and improve gut health.
Fibre is one of those super nutrients that are generally low in calories and take longer to digest, helping us to feel fuller for longer — an important aspect of any weight loss program.
Including more veggies and non-starchy vegetables like whole grains, tomatoes, capsicum, carrots, broccoli, beetroot and eggplants is a great addition to any diet, as all of these colourful veggies are rich in fibre and micronutrients.
As well as fibre, protein is another nutrient that is really helpful for stabilising your appetite — gone are the days when protein was thought to be only for athletes and anyone lifting weights.
Foods that are rich in protein include eggs, tofu, beans, legumes, and other sources of lean meat like poultry, fish and red meat a couple of times a week.
Protein is helpful for keeping us fuller for longer and maintaining our appetite, but it is also involved in helping maintain our lean muscle mass, which is really important when trying to lose body fat and build strength on your weight loss journey.
Maintaining our muscle mass is just as important as losing weight as it helps to build and repair muscle and bones, boosts metabolism by burning more calories at rest, and increases satiety.
What milk is the best option for your daily coffee?
Cow's milk is a really great source of protein and calcium, however, it can also be higher in calories and contribute to your calorie intake throughout the day.
If you're looking to lose weight, switching from full-fat milk to low-fat milk is one simple way to reduce calories. If you're someone who is looking to avoid dairy milk, opt for something like soy milk which has a similar nutrition profile to cow's milk.
Soy milk is a good source of protein, which we know is helpful for keeping us fuller for longer, and will likely be appropriately fortified with calcium, which is really important if your daily coffee is one of your sources of calcium for the day.
If you're having multiple coffees throughout the day, consider making your second coffee a long black or a coffee order with less milk, such as a macchiato or piccolo.
Reducing your coffee size is a really simple way to reduce calories. Going from a large to a small, or a small to a piccolo is always an easy option.
If you're someone who enjoys syrups or chai lattes, it's important to know that these contain sugars that add to your calories. While these can be a part of a healthy, balanced diet, in order to lose weight it's better to swap these out for an artificial sweetener like Stevia or a small amount of honey.
Are full-fat or low-fat dairy products better for weight loss?
When it comes to choosing dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt, if you're looking to reduce your overall calories throughout the day, choosing a low-fat option is the best way to reduce your calories.
Soy is a great choice if you're plant-based or avoiding dairy, but also if you want to find ways to get calcium sources into your day or just enjoy the texture of cheese and yoghurt.
Choosing yoghurts that are soy-based is the best option because these are usually appropriately fortified with calcium and are also a good source of protein.
Other plant-based options like coconut yoghurt or almond yoghurt, for example, are usually a lot higher in calories than soy-based yoghurts, which might not be the best option if you're looking to lose weight.
Plus, they don't offer a lot of protein and are high in saturated fats, which may not work for your weight loss journey.
When choosing yoghurts, opt for natural or unflavored. For example, choose plain Greek yoghurt (a great source of healthy fats) and flavour it in your own way instead of choosing an already sweetened yoghurt, which is going to add extra calories and potentially lead to weight gain.
Adding fruit like berries or passionfruit is a great way to sweeten yogurt in a natural way without increasing total calorie intake.
Is it better to use sugar or artificial sweeteners as a way to lose weight?
Let's start with what artificial sweeteners actually are: either natural or synthetic compounds that taste sweet like sugar, but they've got no or very small amounts of energy (in comparison, sugar has 4 calories per gram). If we consider this, sweeteners can be helpful for reducing our overall calories and therefore helpful for weight loss.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a systematic review of the available evidence about artificial sweeteners and found that in the long term, there's no clear consensus on whether artificial sweeteners have any long-term benefits for losing weight or maintaining weight loss .
Does this mean that we go back to sugar? Ideally, no. WHO recommends that sugar makes up no more than 10% of our daily intake, reducing added sugars where we can.
Added sugars typically refer to table sugar or raw sugar that you would find in certain foods like baked goods, sugary drinks, or processed foods in the junk food aisle. This doesn't refer to sugars that are naturally found in fruits, vegetables or milk.
To reduce our sugar intake, we can look at sweetening our foods in a natural way. Again, using things like fruit to sweeten our foods or simply reducing the amount of sugar we're adding to our food.
Can you combine intermittent fasting with weight loss medication?
When it comes to intermittent fasting, there are a few things to consider when deciding whether it's going to be appropriate for you.
There are a few different types of intermittent fasting, with 2 of the most common being 16-8 and 5-2.
With 16-8, you will be fasting for 16 hours of the day followed by an 8-hour window for eating meals. For example, you may break your fast at 12pm and finish eating at 8pm.
The 5-2 approach is slightly different: on 5 days of the week you would eat your normal recommended amount of calories and 2 days a week on nonconsecutive days, you would have a severely reduced calorie intake of about 500 to 700 calories.
The goal of intermittent fasting is to reduce the number of meals that you have throughout the day to achieve a calorie deficit.
We need to consider health conditions and any potential medications that could impact the appropriateness of intermittent fasting. For example, if you're on any medication for managing diabetes, intermittent fasting might affect your blood sugar and put you at risk of hypoglycemia.
The second thing that we will consider is your eating patterns. If you're someone who doesn't usually eat breakfast and can easily go through until lunchtime without fasting impacting your appetite, this could be a really great approach for you.
But if you're someone who wakes up ready for breakfast and a regular meal pattern throughout the day works well for you, intermittent fasting might not be the best approach.
Our health coaching team at Juniper works really closely with our patients to understand personal preferences, what has and hasn't worked in the past, and why. We work with patients to really understand what eating pattern is going to be best for each person.
Research has shown that intermittent fasting can be really effective in weight loss, but no more effective than other calorie-restrictive diets where you are in a calorie deficit, so it comes down to what works for you and what you can sustain in the long term.
How can you manage cravings?
A lot of our patients find that Juniper's treatments can be really helpful for reducing their cravings, due to the medication's ability to delay gastric emptying, making you feel fuller and more satisfied for longer.
However, our role in the health coaching team at Juniper is to make our patients feel really confident in managing their cravings and establishing healthy eating habits beyond the program.
We work with each patient to see whether their diet is nutritionally complete.
A big part of this is determining whether you have a regular eating pattern throughout the day that includes plenty of protein and fibre, both essential nutrients for any weight loss plan.
Creating a balanced diet and a regular eating pattern can be a really powerful tool to control hunger and aid weight loss efforts.
Research has shown that eating enough protein throughout the day is really effective in managing cravings , so make sure that you're including enough protein at each meal and each snack throughout the day.
Why am I still hungry after drinking liquids?
There are some studies that suggest that liquids actually have less of an impact on satiety than solid foods . For example, if you're someone who drinks smoothies for meals, you may find that they're not as satiating as solid foods and might find yourself reaching for snack foods as a result.
We also need to look at the nutritional components of this smoothie and whether they include fibre or protein, which we know are nutrients that help to keep us fuller for longer.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day and staying hydrated have numerous health benefits including managing appetite and keeping us regular.
If you're finding that you're still feeling quite hungry after liquids such as smoothies, consider putting a source of fibre in there such as rolled oats or fruit. Adding low-fat dairy products like milk and yoghurt, or adding protein supplements, are all effective if you want to boost the protein of that liquid meal more.
How do I work out how many calories I need?
When working out your calorie requirements, it's important to remember that estimating calorie requirements is exactly that — an estimate.
Crunch the numbers
At Juniper, we use calculations to estimate what your resting energy expenditure is, which takes into account height, current weight, exercise habits, age, and gender.
With all of these inputs, it's possible to get an idea of how many calories you should be having throughout the day and what calories you need to achieve a deficit and ultimately, lose weight.
Reassess as you lose weight
After finding your calorie requirements, it's important to reassess these throughout your weight loss journey. This is important for continually eating in a calorie deficit as you continue to lose weight and prevent weight gain.
Track your calories
Tracking calories is a powerful tool that can aid weight loss. But if you know your ideal daily calorie intake and don't know what to do with that information, it can be redundant.
It's not for everyone, but if counting calories has worked in the past or you are interested in trying it, calorie-tracking apps like My Fitness Pal or Easy Diet Diary are ways that you can self-monitor what you're doing.
These tools can help you get a better understanding of what you're eating and how that's impacting your health and weight loss goals, helping you to practice more mindful eating.
Weight loss can be complex, but being armed with evidence-based insights will give you the tools to navigate it with confidence.
Everyone's journey to lose weight looks different, so it's important to allow yourself time to find out what strategies work for you and make them count by prioritising gradual, sustainable changes.
Juniper's qualified healthcare professionals including doctors, dietitians, nurses, pharmacists and health coaches are available to all members of the Juniper Weight Reset Program.
If you're ready to kickstart your weight loss journey, take the quiz to see if you're eligible at www.myjuniper.com
Thousands of Australian women have found new confidence with Juniper.