How to Maintain (or even lose) Weight on a Cruise

I just got back from a lovely cruise aboard the Westerdam of the Holland America Fleet to Alaska. As a personal trainer and fitness guru, I could not help but notice that the plethora of food could possibly be a waist line catastrophe for most. So, I came up with some tips for anyone looking to enjoy the cruise to the fullest while still fitting into those jeans by the end.

  1. Follow the One Plate rule at buffets: Go to the buffet. Do a walk around and survey the offerings. Get ONE plate and fill it up without stacking it. You must be able to see all the items at one time on the plate. DO NOT GO BACK for seconds. Realize, you will be on this ship enjoying the same buffet for at least seven days. There will be time to sample everything.
  2. BEWARE the salad bar: Getting a salad at the buffet is deceptive. It can often end up calorically higher than the food you actually wanted to eat when you add the calories in dressings, cheeses, and croutons. Having a salad does not necessarily mean that you will maintain your waist line. Eat what you really want and enjoy it in modest portions.
  3. Have dessert once a day: On my cruise, breakfast was dessert. Lunch buffet had too many desserts. Ice cream was available twenty four hours a day. Yet, the really beautiful and decadent desserts were served in modest portions at the sit down reservation dinner. I chose to eat my dessert then. Whatever your pleasure, have it once a day.
  4. Skip the snacks: I ascribe to the theory that both three square meals a day and four-five small meals a day will both work–if you pick ONE method. On a cruise, the meals are so plentiful that you are bound to get all your calories in one go. This is not the time to eat the large meals, then go to cocktail hour, then go to high tea, etc. The cruise is meant to be a time a feasting, but just do that three times a day.
  5. Exercise: On a ship of nearly 3,000 guests, I saw the same ten to fifteen people in the gym daily. I went at different times too. Burn some calories so you can enjoy more food.
  6. Take a walk around the ship after big meals: I learned this trick while I was pregnant with my second child and experiencing gestational diabetes. In order to regulate my blood sugar, I had to take a ten to twenty minute walk within one hour of starting my meal. When I did this, I did not need to take insulin. I find that it can help anyone whether they experience diabetes or not. On our ship, the third level was designed for laps and if you did three, it would equal one mile. Make it a point to do that after every meal and you will maintain your weight and feel better. You will lessen the food coma effect and possibly have more energy for the casino or the dance floor.
  7. Take all of the fitness classes that the ship offers: On my cruise, the classes were very limited, but the teachers were excellent. Use the cruise as an opportunity to try new modalities and begin an exercise program if you are not already engaged in one.
  8. Book a session with the cruise personal trainer: Again, my cruise featured great trainers. If you currently work with a trainer at home, keep the routine up on the ship. If you don’t work with a trainer, consider this a decadent splurge to jumpstart your health and wellness. You will get more out of this service than a massage.
  9. Limit alcohol to two drinks a day: I know, this is a bummer. You are finally on a cruise and you want to let loose. Yet this trip will be at least seven days. Your waist line and your wallet will thank you for limiting alcohol intake. This suggestion is actually hard to follow with the attentive waiters at your beck n call offering you drinks at all hours of the day. Sure, you are watching the sea, spending time by the pool…but if you start the drinks early in the day, you most likely ditch the walk around the decks and all the fitness classes and opt for a nap or boozey shopping instead.
  10. Order regular portions at the sit-down dinner: Sure, it’s all you can eat and the waiters will bring you three appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts if you ask for them (my husband and father-in-law did this), but again, you want to maintain or even lose weight on this cruise so act accordingly.

All of these tips are things I practiced on my last cruise and I maintained my weight and had a great time. Happy Travels!