LAST WEEK, I was at a dinner party, and, as is often the case, someone started talking to someone else about exercise and nutrition.
I couldn't help but contribute my own two cents when I overheard a few fitness myths that never seem to die.
This column is dedicated to those enduring false beliefs - which are almost certainly preventing some of you from reaching your goals.
Let's send some to the graveyard:
1 The sauna myth. I hear this one all the time at the gym - that sitting in the sauna helps to "sweat out the toxins" and promote weight loss.
Sorry. While the sauna is a great relaxation tool, that's all it is. As soon as you drink some fluids, any water weight you might have shed from sweating comes right back again. What's more, staying in too long can cause you to become dangerously dehydrated.
2 The cardio myth. Here's another from the gym - that engaging in endless hours of cardio is the best way to lose fat. No, no, no!
Yes, doing endless hours of cardiovascular exercises will shed some body fat. But do too much and you'll start to lose muscle mass, which makes your body less able to burn fat.
Your muscles can even atrophy, leaving you weaker and softer. If your goal is to have a tight, toned physique, you need to do resistance training. You also need to eat sensibly.
3 The one-square-meal delusion. You'd be surprised how often I hear that eating once a day is the best way to lose weight. While that approach may work for some, it's an absolute disaster for others.
Ultimately, you have to experiment to figure out what frequency, amount and type of foods get the best results for you. For some people, three meals and no snacks works. Others do better with six mini meals spread throughout the day.
Of course, no matter how you choose to pace your meals, avoiding chips, cakes, cookies and candy will help tremendously.
4 The burn-it-off myth. "I exercise," you hear people say, "so I can eat whatever I want."
Fat chance. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight no matter how hard you exercise.
5 The Popeye myth. So many women think that lifting weights will make them bulky, and it's just not true.
Most women don't have large amounts of testosterone like men, and they rarely train with the same level of intensity. Even those who do get nicely toned, not muscle-bound.
6 The 'Why bother?' excuse. The other nonsense you hear about weight training is that it's best not to start, since the muscle will turn to fat when you stop.
Wrong. Muscle does not turn into fat, and fat doesn't turn into muscle.
Muscle and fat are two different tissues in our bodies. They cannot turn into each other.
7 The sweat test. If you're not breaking a sweat, some people will tell you that you're not working hard enough. But perspiration is a variable thing.
My husband, for example, is a sweater. As soon as he begins to exercise, water just flows out of his pores.
I don't sweat as readily when I exercise, but it doesn't mean my heart isn't getting a beneficial workout!
8 Rolly-polly oldies. "As you age, you automatically get fat." Have you heard that one? It's one of the worst fitness lies on Earth.
Sure, your metabolism may decline as you age, but with proper nutrition and regular exercise you can counter that subtle shift.
If you're gaining weight as you age, blame the extra slice of pizza that you've become accustomed to throughout the years.
9 The six-pack myth. If you want a flat stomach, what do you do? Thousands of crunches, right?
Bzzzzt! Wrong answer!
To shed excess fat around your midsection, you must manage your caloric intake. No amount of ab work can flatten your belly and stop your stomach from hanging over your pants.
10 The new weight-loss revolution! How many times have you been told that with the latest miracle supplement - or the latest weird diet - weight loss is easy?
It's not. Permanent weight loss is hard, and no matter how you take the pounds off, it will take a lifetime of deliberate effort to keep them off.
But that's not a reason to give up. Your health and well-being are worth all the hard work it takes.