Losing weight is no easy task, and misconceptions about weight loss make the task harder. Following are 10 common myths everyone needs to lose.

1. To lose weight, you only need to exercise more.
There are many factors besides exercise that affect weight. You also have to factor in genetics, the environment, your stress level, your emotional state and your hormones, to name a few. And then there’s what and how much you eat. Most people don’t realize how little extra food it takes to replace the calories burned during exercise. Exercise is one part of weight loss but certainly not the only part.

2. All calories are created equal.
A calorie is a measure of energy, and all calories have the same energy content. But not all calories have the same effect on our weight. Our bodies process different sources of calories differently, with varying effects on our hunger hormones. Some calories are more filling — such as a fresh apple, which has fiber, versus a glass of apple juice, which does not. Some calories raise our insulin levels and promote fat storage. Choose calories that have nutritional value.

3. Losing weight is a linear process.
You may be doing the same thing every day and lose weight some weeks but gain during others. It is normal for the body to fluctuate a few pounds, depending on how much food it is digesting or water it is retaining. As you lose weight and your body becomes smaller, sustaining your weight will require fewer calories. That means you will need to take in even fewer calories to keep losing. As long as the general trend is down, you are losing weight.

4. Fat people are unhealthy, and thin people are healthy.
Obesity is associated with increased risk for several chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. But thin people have these diseases too. More importantly is where you carry the extra weight. Deep abdominal fat is associated with more disease than extra weight stored elsewhere.

5. Diet foods can help you lose weight.
Low-fat, sugar-free or gluten-free foods may claim to be healthier, but many have just as many calories — and sometimes more — than the original product. Plus, artificial ingredients can hijack your taste buds, making whole, natural foods taste less appealing. Carefully read labels before believing the claims on the front of the package.

6. Snacking is a bad idea.
Actually, snacks may help you eat less. By eating when you are hungry, you can avoid the starve/binge cycle of so many dieters. Snacks are ideal for working in extra servings of fruits and vegetables. Learn to recognize the difference between true hunger and cravings, and only snack when hungry. If you keep snacks to around 100 to 200 calories, they can fit in almost any healthy diet.

7. Certain foods make you burn more calories or speed up your metabolism.
You’ve probably heard that you burn more calories eating celery than what is in it. This isn’t really true. No particular food or food group has been shown to speed up, or slow down, your metabolism.

8. Healthy foods are expensive.
It may seem that way when you first start trying to improve your eating habits. But there are plenty of inexpensive-yet-healthy foods available, such as beans, frozen fruits and vegetables, rice, and pasta. You don’t need to eat only fresh, organic foods to lose weight.

9. The less you eat, the more quickly you will lose.
Although this seems logical, eating too little for too long can negatively affect your weight loss efforts. If you don’t eat the recommended number of calories, it can affect your hormones and cause a slower metabolism and halted weight loss. Skipping meals can lead to binge eating once you do allow yourself to eat.

10. You need to lose a substantial amount of weight to notice any health changes.
Actually, improvements in blood sugar and blood pressure start to occur with just a 10-percent weight loss. If you have a lot to lose, tackle it in small segments rather than focusing on a large number.
Weight loss myths discourage people and can prevent you from reaching your weight loss goals. Losing weight is highly individualized: The diet that works for one person may not work for someone else. This has to do with the way each body metabolizes food and burns calories. It may take several different diets to find one that works for you. Adding exercise is important for many reasons, including burning a few extra calories. Be sure to choose an exercise or activity that you enjoy and will do regularly.

Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the Cardiopulmonary Rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.