When it comes to successful and sustainable weight loss, there are many myths and misconceptions that can derail our efforts and lead us off track.

We take a closer look at some of the more common myths so that you don’t fall prey to this misinformation.

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Myth #1: Weight loss requires extreme measures

With all the pressure to lose weight in modern society, some people resort to extreme measures to lose weight, such as crash diets (generally extremely low-calorie or fasting diets), eating plans that omit entire food groups (like no-carb or fat-free diets), or excessive exercise.

While fasting is generally used as part of religious rituals or for health reasons, these diets simply restrict eating for specific periods rather than limiting total calorie intake.

On the other hand, starvation or crash diets severely restrict calorie intakes and may lead to issues such as nutrient deficiencies and malnourishment. These conditions can be extremely harmful to your body and your health, and can cause cognitive and psychological problems.

Excessive exercise aims to burn energy at rates above healthy levels to ‘purge’ calories through excessive physical activity. This approach can lead to a condition termed exercise bulimia.

Both approaches are extreme in nature and are unlikely to result in long-term weight loss. In fact, they can sometimes lead to longer-term weight gain and can have severe health implications.

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Myth #2: Weight training turns fat into muscle, and inactivity transforms muscle into fat

This myth may make sense based on observations of impressive real-world body transformations. When we eat properly and train regularly with weights, we certainly alter our body composition.

But we aren’t creating muscle alchemy, so to speak, by converting one type of tissue into another. Instead, we’re burning stored body fat and building more muscle tissue at the same time.

And the converse applies. When we stop exercising regularly, we lose muscle due to inactivity (known as disuse or physiologic atrophy).

The other problem that we experience when we stop training is that we typically adopt poor eating habits. The combination of poorer food choices, overeating and a lack of activity causes us to gain fat.

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Myth #3: Crunches and sit-ups will get you a flat tummy

The spot reduction myth suggests that we can lose fat from a specific area by performing exercises that target or isolate that region.

The truth is that we burn (metabolise) stored fat in a generalised pattern throughout the body via a process that depends on numerous factors, such as genetics, hormones, age, body composition, and the type and intensity of the exercise or activity you’re performing.

Natural body fat distribution processes (driven by hormones) also tend to store more energy in our midsections – our hips, bums, thighs and belly – with less stored in our extremities.

The areas with the least amount of stored fat, like our arms are legs, will get leaner faster. Accordingly, those ‘spots’ that gained the most fat will be the last area to become visibly leaner because there is more stored fat to lose.

And performing hundreds of sit ups every day won’t accelerate the process. Instead, use your training time for intense full-body exercises to burn as many calories as possible every day.