11 Ways to Lose Weight on a Cruise Vacation

Posted on 23. Oct, 2011 by in What to Eat

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a cruise vacation?

 Endless buffets of hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries?

Buckets of Corona and Frozen Margaritas in the hot tub?

Chocolate covered strawberries at the chocoholic buffet?

Soft serve ice cream cones by the pool?

 Cruises can spell disaster for a healthy lifestyle!  And if anybody knows how to turn a 7 day cruise into 7 days of trying to stuff your face with as much food and alcohol as humanly possible, it’s me.  My cruise prior to this one on the Norwegian Epic left me 12 lbs heavier after just a week!  I didn’t even think that was possible!  I guess ordering PB and J, chicken nuggets, and cookies at 3 am from the room service kids menu didn’t help.

 Ever since my first cruise approximately 10 years ago, eating, drinking, and trying to hit on girls was all I knew about cruising.  And I truly had a blast doing it. 

 But now that I’m a little older (and arguably more mature) and have a girlfriend, I want a slightly more meaningful cruising experience. 

 Is it too much to ask to return home after 7 days feeling better than when I left?  Or at least not feeling like I want to die on the morning of disembarkation?

 I recently returned home from a week long cruise through the Mediterranean from Venice to Rome where I set out to not only have a blast, but to come back feeling more refreshed and healthier then when I embarked on day 1.

 Was my trip a success? I think so.

 I didn’t gain any weight over the course of the 7 days.  But the casino decided to give away free drinks the last night of the cruise, and combined with an early wake up, left me a little more tired than I would’ve liked. 

 But I did enjoy a fairly different type of cruise vacation and came away with a lot of knowledge on how to make the next one even better.  I realized that for every temptation on a cruise, there’s an equally, just as delicious, Paleo approved food to enjoy. 

 I’ve narrowed down what I learned into 11 helpful tips on how you can stay happy and healthy on your next cruise. 

 1). Set a goal before you get there

 I knew if I didn’t go into the cruise with a plan, I would quickly be overwhelmed by the quantity of food put in front of me.  One bad decision would lead to another, and I would be sick to my stomach by day 3.  So I set a simple goal to come back feeling better than when I left, and to weigh less on day 7 then on day 1.  This decision alone changed my whole outlook on the entire cruise. 

 2)  Have a plan

 You need to decide where you’re going to be strict, and where you’re going to give yourself some leeway.  For me, cheese, legumes, and wine don’t pose too many issues, so I allowed them on pretty much a daily basis.  But for things like bread, pastas, pastries, beer, and sweets, I had to draw the line.  These foods make me feel like crap and they make me crave more of them.  Know where you can go a little off track and where you need to be strict and stick with it!  Try planning your cheats around special occasions like lobster night, a specialty restaurant, or the chocoholic buffet so going off track will feel limited to the occasion and not a regular occurrence.

 3)  Eat Paleo

 I had to say it.  Trust me, eating paleo has never been easier then on a cruise.  There’s no need to settle for bunless hamburgers or cans of tuna you brought from home.  Here is just a brief sampling of some of the 5 star paleo meals I indulged in throughout the cruise:  Smoked salmon tartare with avocado, NY strip steak with mushrooms and mashed butternut squash, lobster tail and seared tuna with mixed veggies, and roasted pork loin with apple chutney and mashed sweet potatoes.(my personal favorite!)

 4) Don’t go Overboard

 This is just as important in everyday life as is it is on a cruise.  The first few bites of dessert or the first few sips of beer are always the most enjoyable ones.  It’s ok to have your cheats, but get right back to eating paleo after you do.  Staying healthy is not about being perfect.  Acknowledge the fact that you went a little off track, and get right back to eating healthy at your next meal. 

 5) Realize how lucky you are

 You’re about to step on a ship where you have access to some of the finest fish, meats, fruits, and vegetables that you have ever tasted in your life.  Where else are you going to have access to lobster, smoked salmon, sirloin steak, rotisserie chicken, and the best fruit salads you have ever tasted, for FREE?  You don’t even have to cook or clean! Why waste your energy and your appetite on crappy bread, pastries, ice cream, and cakes that you can buy in any store when you’re at home?  Focus on the good food you have available and you will soon forget about all the other junk. 

 6) Do something everyday

 I’m always surprised when I hear another cruiser say they never even saw a whole section of a ship they were on. I make an effort to see every square inch of every ship I’m on.  Exercise can be as easy as walking a few laps around the ship or doing some yoga in the only available space you have in your inside cabin.  Or hop into the ship’s gym for a quick 30-min. sweat. Exercise has a lasting effect that will make you want to eat better than you would if you weren’t doing any. 

 7)  Start every day on the right foot

 If you can start every day off with a healthy breakfast, lunch, and brief workout, you will be setting yourself up for success.  Even something as simple as a danish with breakfast can spiral into a full day of cheating that you will regret.  I stuck with the same breakfast of smoked salmon, eggs, ham, bacon, and fruit everyday which left me feeling great and the feeling carried over into the rest of the day. 

 8) No late night eating

 If I had to narrow down my number one failure on past cruises, this would definitely be it. It’s so tempting to eat late at night on a cruise since you’ve usually had a few drinks and there are so many tasty food options still available to you.  Avoid the room service at all costs and think about how good breakfast is going to taste on an empty stomach. Instead, chug a large glass of water. It will help you feel a little bit fuller and it will help combat any dehydration (and subsequent hangover) those few drinks may have cost you.

 9) Sleep!

 “I will sleep when I’m dead!” sounds a lot better before you realize that the lack of sleep is probably going to kill you a lot faster.  Late night eating may be the principle cause of weight gain, but lack of sleep is what’s going to make you feel like you need another vacation after this one is over.  A cruise is not the best time to try to burn the candle at both ends.  Illnesses can spread quickly while out to sea, so nothing will ruin your cruise faster than a weak immune system. 

10) Don’t be afraid to skip a meal

 Its way easier to avoid thinking about food altogether, then it is to moderate your food intake at any given meal.  Skipping a meal while off the ship or on a shore excursion is a great way to limit your caloric intake without even realizing you are doing so.  The morning after the chocoholic buffet i decided i would sleep in, skip breakfast, and workout before lunch.  By midday, I already felt like the plate of brownies, cakes, and whipped cream I consumed the night before had never even happened. 

 11) Walk, dance, and play!

Food may be the first thing that comes to mind when people think about cruising, but it’s certainly not the most fun part.  Seeing new places, meeting new people, and trying new things is what really makes your cruise experience a lasting memory.  Make an effort to walk everywhere, dance like an idiot, and try things you’ve never done before.  This is way more fun than worrying about the slice of chocolate cake you missed out on.

Our cruise ship from Venice to Rome, the Norwegain Jade. Walking the decks of a ship this big is a workout in itself!

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