Your Quickstart Guide to Losing 55 Pounds

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The right diet is crucial to safe and sustainable weight loss.
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If you're 55 pounds overweight, you may be concerned about how that extra weight is affecting your health. And in fact, being overweight ups your risk for heart disease, diabetes, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and certain cancers, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Losing weight can reduce your risk of these problems, but although you might be tempted to do it quickly, faster is not always better.

Quick, Safe Weight Loss

Fad diets that drastically cut calories can initially make you lose weight quickly, but in the long run, they're hard to keep up and can make you feel drained and sluggish. The weight you lose, which is likely to be water weight and muscle tissue (instead of fat mass), is quickly gained back. And when your body goes into survival mode, your metabolism can slow down.

So, what's a safe rate of weight loss? Dropping 1 to 2 pounds per week is healthy and sustainable, according to the Mayo Clinic. Since a pound equals 3,500 calories, losing 2 pounds in a week requires a deficit of 1,000 calories each day (aka you'll need to burn 1,000 calories more than you consume). At that rate, you can expect to lose 55 pounds in about 28 weeks, or seven months. While that may seem like a long time, the investment is worth it, since you'll be more likely to keep the weight off in the long run.

Read more: 4 Types of Diets to Avoid if Long-Term Weight Loss Is Your Goal

Eat a Reduced-Calorie Diet

Changing your diet is the most important factor when it comes to weight loss. Start by comparing food labels and choosing low-calorie, nutritious whole foods over high-calorie and processed foods. Limit foods that are high in trans and saturated fats, sugar, salt and cholesterol, and plan meals ahead of time. Eat from smaller plates to help you reduce your portion sizes and eat fewer calories. Your nutrients should come from whole grains, reduced-fat dairy, a variety of fruits and vegetables and lean protein.

Did you know that keeping a food diary is one of the most effective ways to manage your weight? Download the MyPlate app to easily track calories, stay focused and achieve your goals!

Burn Calories with Cardio

Cardiovascular exercise burns calories, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends doing one hour on most days to lose weight.

Including high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your routine three days per week can optimize your results, because it keeps your body burning calories at a good clip even after you finish your workout. To do this, walk, jog or ride a bike for 90 seconds at a moderate, maintainable pace, and then speed up to a vigorous pace for 60 seconds. Alternate between the intensities for about 15 minutes.

Read more: How to Build the Best HIIT Workout for You

Build Lean Muscle Through Strength Training

Strength training at least two days per week can help preserve your lean muscle tissue as you lose weight. You want to prevent losing muscle tissue, because compared to fat, your body burns more calories just to maintain it, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Circuit training, during which you perform one set of at least six exercises with minimal rest in between, can really boost your results, because you optimize caloric burn while stimulating muscle tissue at the same time, per the American Council on Exercise. A strength-training circuit can include bench presses, crunches, biceps curls, dumbbell lunges, overhead presses and bent-over dumbbell rows.

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