Many have spent years believing that the healthiest, fittest, and leanest version of themselves requires eating salads at every meal and spending endless hours on the treadmill. Diet and exercise programs would have you believe that working on our health has to be difficult and miserable. If you don’t suffer, will you really see progress?

Though it seems counterintuitive, eating less and doing an hour of cardio every day is not the key to burning fat, building muscle, getting leaner, and improving overall health. Reaching your health goals doesn’t have to be miserable.


Cardio exercises like running, biking, and swimming are a great way to move your body and burn calories, but they are not the only (or best) way to work out. If you have goals geared towards improving health or body composition, then strength-training exercises should be a part of your regimen.

Strength training includes free weights, weight machines, and resistance bands. If you have health goals, this type of training will help fortify your bones and ligaments and reduce the risk of disease. If you have goals geared towards getting leaner, strength training will help you build muscle mass, which in turn increases your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories.


While salads are healthy, the idea that you need to eat one for every meal is restrictive and difficult to follow. It’s true that eating fewer calories than you burn will lead to weight loss, but it’s hard to make any long-term changes to your body composition and health when your diet pattern leaves you hungry and under fueled. Swearing off all carbs and trying to eat less than 1,200 calories a day won’t go over well when you want to go to dinner with friends or enjoy your child’s birthday party. Chances are you will either end up skipping the meal or birthday cake altogether or throwing in the towel and stuff yourself with half the birthday cake instead of enjoying just a piece.

Eating less is not the answer to your health or aesthetic goals because it’s not sustainable. Rather than restricting yourself from foods you enjoy, strive to find balance in your diet. Eat more vegetables and whole foods, and aim to include a protein source with each meal. Then when it comes time for a meal out or a dessert you love, enjoy it in moderation and then move on.


Health is not short term. More important than the specific exercise regimen or diet is finding a way to stick to what is sustainable for you. Move in a way that is fun and eat the foods you enjoy, then reaching your health goals won’t have to be miserable.

By Kate Lyman