The 5 biggest myths about weight loss
A Juniper dietitian separates fact from fiction.
Harmful diet myths have been peddled by the weight loss industry for decades. From fad diet foods to skipping meals, to demonising carbs, it can be hard to sort the facts from the fiction on your journey to better health.
Registered dietitian with Juniper, Amelia Bandera, is experienced at helping people navigate the complex landscape of nutrition in the quest to lose weight and establish healthy lifestyle habits.
As the host of new podcast, Juniper Digest, Amelia has been hard at work setting the record straight with science and nutrition, exploring why these weight loss myths rarely deliver on their promises.
Read on for more from Amelia, or listen to her debunking diet myths episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen.
What's the deal with weight loss myths?
One common thread running through weight loss industry trends is the idea that cutting out whole food groups, such as carbohydrates or fats, is the key to losing weight.
While some diets do advocate for restrictions, it's essential to remember that our bodies require a balanced intake of healthy foods to function optimally.
Another common myth centres on the notion that all calories are created equal, implying that you can indulge in high-fat foods and fast-food restaurants as long as they fit within your recommended calorie intake.
However, the quality of calories matters just as much as the quantity and a diet composed primarily of nutrient-poor foods can lead to chronic illnesses such as digestive and kidney diseases.
Additionally, diets like the ketogenic diet, the carnivore diet, or the grapefruit diet often promise rapid body weight reduction but may lack the necessary scientific backing for long-term sustainability.
It's crucial to approach these dietary trends with caution and seek advice from healthcare professionals before embarking on any drastic changes to help you lose weight.
And now, let's debunk some of the most common myths you'll find persisting in weight loss today.
Myth #1: Losing weight is as simple as 'eat less, move more'
While a calorie deficit is important to reducing body weight, the human body is a complex machine.
We need to consider that losing weight is a lot more nuanced than this oversimplified mantra, and can therefore be affected by a number of factors which we'll go deeper into.
Sleep guidelines for adults recommend between 7 and 9 hours per night for adequate rest.
Being sleep-deprived can lead to a few changes in our food intake and appetite. Research has found that having inadequate sleep can lead to an increased appetite while also impacting our food choices.
This is because when we're tired, we're more likely to go for higher-calorie food options.
An analysis of 20 studies that included 300,000 people found that there was a 41% increased risk of obesity among adults who slept fewer than 7 hours a night .
Cortisol is a hormone that increases with stress. Cortisol is also an appetite stimulant, meaning when we're stressed, we're more likely to feel hungry and reach for comforting foods like unhealthy snacks and junk foods to help us manage this feeling.
A survey by the Australian Psychological Society found that 75% of people turned to food as a way of coping with stress .
Our health coaching team at Juniper helps patients find healthy ways to manage stress other than food so that when stress inevitably cycles through daily life, they have the tools to maintain a balanced diet.
Weight gain during menopause can be due to a couple of reasons, the first being the changes that occur to our hormones . It is common for many women who may not have had issues with their weight to suddenly struggle to maintain or lose weight once they reach menopause.
In fact, about 90% of women going through menopause will experience some kind of weight gain once they reach this stage of life. When we reach menopause, our hormones like progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone will drop, impacting how our body uses nutrients and stores fat.
For a lot of women who experience weight gain during menopause, they typically will experience a change in the way that fat is stored around their abdominal area, leading to increased weight gain around their mid-section.
Hormonal changes also impact the way our body maintains muscle. These decreases in our sex hormones make it harder for our body to maintain muscle, as they are responsible for building tissue within the body.
Though frustrating, there are some strategies we can look at to address this weight gain.
Reassess your eating
When you are looking to address menopausal weight gain, it can be helpful to reassess your diet.
If you've been eating a certain way your whole life and it has worked for your body, it can be incredibly confusing and frustrating when with the onset of menopause, it no longer feels effective.
At Juniper, we help our patients understand what changes are needed to assist weight loss at this new stage in life.
Eating plenty of protein throughout the day with each meal and snack is one way to help you feel fuller for longer, and build and maintain muscle while losing weight.
Build strength through movement
While eating enough protein is important, also focus on different exercises to assist with strength building. These can include resistance training such as bodyweight exercises or weightlifting, which are going to help with maintaining muscle mass.
Before making any changes to your exercise routine, speak with your doctor or healthcare professional who can help make sure that any changes to your exercise routine are safe for you.
Consider weight loss treatments
Juniper’s weight loss medication targets menopausal weight gain at a biological level, helping to lower the weight that your body fights to maintain.
The medication works to suppress appetite and increase the feeling of fullness, aiding weight loss efforts.
Myth #2 Carbs must be avoided at all costs
Low-carb diets have been doing the rounds in diet culture for years: Atkins Diet, South Beach Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, and more. However, research has found that a low-carb style of eating results in similar weight loss to other ways of eating, such as low fat.
Therefore, a low-carb approach can be effective for some people and yet less effective for others, so remember that each weight management journey is different.
Low-carb diets are about 120 grams of carbs a day (for context, a cup of cooked brown rice has about 45 grams of carbohydrates). When considering a low-carb diet, it's also important to think about why carbs are important for our health and what they actually provide to our body.
They're important for providing us with B vitamin nutrients, which are incredibly important for brain function and energy production.
Good quality carbohydrate foods are also rich in fibre, which is not only important for healthy bowel movements and good gut health but also stabilises our appetite and helps us feel fuller for longer.
It's important to find the right balance of good quality carbs that will be beneficial for helping you to achieve a healthy weight, regardless of whether you are choosing to do a low carbohydrate diet or not.
A very low-carb diet, which could be something such as a ketogenic diet, is between 20 and 50 grams of carbs per day.
A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan designed to induce a state of ketosis in the body, where it primarily burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.
Is there such a thing as a 'good carb'?
Yes, there is! Good quality carbs include whole grains because these are less refined than their more processed counterparts, meaning they contain more nutrients.
These are foods like brown rice, quinoa, free grain bread, and rolled oats, as well as starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potato and corn. These nutrient-dense foods are proof that eating carbs can support weight loss while balancing energy intake.
If working towards a low-carb diet, make sure you're thinking about ways that you can include these good quality carbs that include important nutrients in your diet, as well as additional fibre through foods such as non-starchy vegetables.
These include leafy greens, tomato, capsicum; all of the colourful veggies that are low in carbohydrates and calories, but packed with fibre. Aim for about a fist size of good quality carbohydrates with each meal.
Myth #3 Drinking lemon water melts fat
The origins of this diet myth go all the way back to the 1940s, credited to someone named Stanley Burroughs.
Burroughs created what he liked to call the 'master cleanse,' which we can credit with the evolution of the juice fast craze and other fad diets. Stanley's method to lose body fat permitted no food, only lemon-infused water and tea flavoured with cayenne pepper and maple syrup .
In years since, various celebrities have gone on similar versions of this lemon water diet to lose weight quickly.
However, this kind of disruption to the body's regular functioning through severely restricting food groups and skipping meals means that while you can lose fat in a short period of time, as soon as the diet is stopped, you're likely to gain weight back again.
Is there merit to using lemon water as part of a balanced diet for weight loss?
Not really, but it does have some health benefits. Lemon water can be a really helpful way to increase hydration while losing weight, particularly if you find it difficult to drink a lot of water.
Hydration is important to help regulate our body temperature, support healthy bowel movements and is also helpful for managing our appetite — but it's not going to burn fat.
While lemon water won't be the reason that you lose weight, research has found that lemon water might be helpful in reducing blood sugar spikes.
One study found that having lemon juice before a meal that is rich in carbohydrates can actually help reduce the blood sugar spike  (although you would need the juice of 3 lemons for this to have an effect).
Be mindful of how drinking lemon water could impact the wear and tear on your teeth if consumed frequently.
Myth #4 Excessive calorie restriction is the only way to lose weight
Excessive calorie restriction is not the only way to lose weight, and there are a few reasons why.
It is important to acknowledge that to achieve weight loss we do need to be in a calorie deficit, however, when we go far below the number of calories our body needs, we're not fueling our body well enough to perform everyday tasks.
The story of excessive calorie restriction in diet culture is a common one. Also known as yo-yo dieting, it involves reducing your total calorie intake diet so low that is hard to maintain.
After this period of eating fewer calories than your body needs, you return to eating more calories and, more often than not, gain weight once more.
This unsustainable cycle demonstrates that an extremely low-calorie diet is not sustainable long term, and focusing on sustained weight loss through a balanced diet, physical activity, and other healthy lifestyle habits is what we should be aiming for.
At Juniper, we create a healthy diet plan that is individualised and achievable to help you lose weight while fueling the body with essential nutrients to help the body function properly, prevent chronic diseases, and reduce excess weight.
Myth #5 Weight loss should be linear
No one loves a setback, especially when you've been dedicating so much energy towards weight loss efforts. But it can be comforting to know that this is often a common experience when losing weight.
If you are experiencing slower progress than expected, reflect on the progress that you've made so far.
This isn't just the numbers on the scales, but other progress measures like waist measurements, clothing size, and any other habits that you're changing along the way.
Remember that consistency is key and that's going to be a really important part of your weight loss journey and your progress.
A healthy way to approach weight loss
Reaching out to a health professional who specialises in the area of weight management, such as an accredited practising dietitian, is a safe way to set you up for success and get the right information for your better health journey.
Members of the Juniper Weight Reset Program have unlimited access to doctors, dietitians, nurses and health coaches, for assistance with nutrition, movement, medication, and all aspects of the weight loss journey.
To see if you're eligible, take the quiz at www.myjuniper.com
Thousands of Australian women have found new confidence with Juniper.