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How to Avoid the Frustrating Weight Gain on a Cruise

The calendar has turned from summer to fall and with that cooler temperatures have arrived. You may already be thinking about escaping the cold for warmer climates sometime this coming winter. One to the most affordable ways I’ve found to do that is to spend some time in the Caribbean (or any warm climate) on a cruise.

Cruise dinner plateI’ve cruised a lot through the years and absolutely love it. The sun, the sights and the spectacular fun all make a cruise worth the money. But the icing on the cake to a really good cruise is the food. And oh…is there a lot of it!

I love to eat. So for that, a cruise is right up my alley. You can literally find food and drinks somewhere on (and off) the ship all day long. And it’s also great tasting food, which makes it all the more worth it.

The downside is that the more you eat the more weight you gain. On my first cruise (a 4-day, 3-nighter) I gained eight pounds. A week-long cruise once pushed my weight gain closer to twelve.

When I was younger, those numbers didn’t scare me. With my metabolism, I could burn those off in a heartbeat once I got home. Now that I’m older, well, let’s just say the pounds don’t shed like they used to.

So here are some things I’ve tried and are easy to implement to not gain as much weight on a cruise without diminishing the fun and enjoyment received from the cruise itself.

How to Not Gain Weight On a Cruise

Of all the things I’ve tried, these first two stand out as the best ways I’ve found to not gain weight on a cruise:

1. Stay Active

Cruises are designed for relaxation. But one of the worst things you can do to gain weight on a cruise is to lie around all day. Sunning yourself on a deck chair is very relaxing…it just doesn’t burn off many calories.

So stay active to some degree based on your physical fitness level. At the least spend time walking around the boat or get off the ship at ports of call and walk through the town.

If you want to exercise in a more dynamic way you could…

  • Run for 30 minutes (on or off the boat)
  • Work out in the ship’s gym
  • Sign up for an aerobics class
  • Rent bicycles or go on a hike at a port-of-call
  • Snorkel or scuba dive
  • Play beach volleyball

There are a host of other fun activities you could do. The point is to stay active somehow and burn off those food calories.

2. Skip the Midnight Buffet/Pizza Run

These two are an absolute killer! Gorging yourself at a midnight buffet or stuffing yourself with pizza minutes before you go to bed can really help pack on the pounds. Doing this is like the icing on the cake to your daily caloric intake. It puts you WAY over the top…if you weren’t there already.

So instead of your body burning off some fat at night at it regulates and maintains your body’s systems, it has to spend hours digesting your food.

If you get the late night hunger pains on a cruise just have a small snack. Or do what I do now because I’m so exhausted from the day’s activities…go to bed early. Then you won’t even know your hungry.

Here are a few other things you might try if you are concerned about gaining weight on a cruise:

3. Order Room Service for Breakfast. At home I usually eat very little for breakfast. A bowl of cereal, yogurt or piece of toast usually is all I have. On a cruise it’s a different story.

The breakfast buffet is teeming with things I love. Bacon, cheeses, hash browns, cereal, pancakes and waffles with syrup, fruit, corn beef hash…the list goes on and on. The best part is that you can go back for all you want.

At breakfast I can easily consume 2,000 calories. That’s a tasty but high-caloric intake to start the day.

Ordering room service can help in this way…It keeps you from over indulging at breakfast. There is something about a buffet that entices you to go back for more and more. With room service, you will eat only what they bring. You don’t see all the options will be less tempted to go back for seconds.

Speaking of seconds…

4. Wait 5 Minutes Before Seconds

Ever here the expression, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach?” Here is what that means…you tend to take more food than your stomach will allow. That’s how it is for me when cruising. My eyes pop when I see all the food options and I end up eating more than I should have.

So once I’m done finishing my plate I’ll wait for a few minutes before getting seconds. That allows my body to catch up with my mind. In my mind I might want more food. The real questions to answer though are “Does my body need it?” or “Can it handle it?”

Giving yourself a moment to digest what you’ve already eaten will help you slow down and train your mind to think about what’s happening with your body.

Besides, what’s the rush? You are on vacation. The food on the ship is not going anywhere.

5. Make Lunch a Lighter Meal

The last few trips I’ve tried to consciously make lunch a lighter meal by eating more fruits, salads, soups, rice, and vegetables. You could still gorge on things like that but what I’m trying to avoid at lunch are higher calorie/fat items like breads, meats (burgers and hotdogs), fries and desserts.

6. Pass on the Dinner Bread

I love evening dinners in the main dining hall! The gourmet specialty restaurants are even better. I don’t know why anyone would routinely skip these two places. They are the prime locations to find the best food on the ship.

However, I’ve found – in the dining halls especially – there is a constant stream of bread that just keeps coming and coming and coming to the table. They never stop bringing it through the entire meal. You can down five sourdough rolls (with butter of course) before the appetizer even hits the table.

So, what is that? With butter slathered all over the rolls an easy 500 calories?

The bread is really good I know…but show some discipline and have just one or two.

7. Drink Less Alcohol & Other High Calorie Drinks

I know this is a tough one. Drinking is many people’s favorite activity of the cruise. It starts as soon as the bars open around noon and goes well into the wee hours of the morning.

Personally, I’ve never had much use for alcohol. I don’t see the draw and I don’t want to deal with the effects on the body and mind or the consequences that may come from being wasted. Plus the price, plus the added calories in the drink all keep me away from it.

But you can still add in big calories in some of the exotic virgin fruit drinks. Not to mention what calories you will consume if you purchase the endless soda ticket. Or what about the milkshakes you can get at the ice cream shop or the high calorie pick-me-up drink at the coffee shop?

I’ll stick mostly with water, ice tea or lemonade as those are the most refreshing drinks to me anyway.

Food is a big part of any cruise, so enjoy it. Unless you practice some of these tips though, you’ll end up bringing more of yourself home than what you left with.

Questions: Have you ever gained weight while on a cruise? If so, was it difficult to get off once you got back? Do you think a person should even be focused on this while on a vacation? What other tips are there to help people not gain weight on a cruise?

Image courtesy of GoToVan at Flickr Creative Commons

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  1. 2. Skip the Midnight Buffet/Pizza Run – it is the hardest thing)) But in all I agree with advises.

  2. Viral article, I know some people who can’t just rest at cruise, they fully relax and grain more than few pounds every vocation.
    Fully agree with your active point, if you start your day with exercises you most probably wont gain weight, pl us you always need to remember, eating is more important in the day time, than in the evening.
    Stay Fit !

  3. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank says

    I haven’t been to a cruise but I think I now know how to stay fit and to avoid weight gain and discipline pays off.

  4. I only gained 4 pounds when we were in Italy last month, and that felt like a huge accomplishment. I usually pack it on – then get mad at myself when I get home! Avoiding too much alcohol and carbs is key for me not gaining too much. Fortunately, I can drop it pretty easy when I get home.

  5. We are actually going on our first family cruise in March and I have a big fear about gaining weight while on it. I plan to stay as active as I can while on the ship and participate in as many activities as I can to stay mobile. Great points about the things to avoid along the way!

    • That’s awesome Shannon…I think you are going to love it! You can avoid the weight gain if you are smart. But I’d also say since it’s your first cruise do what you can to enjoy it…and that includes eating new foods. A gain of 5 pounds or so isn’t that big a deal.

  6. Good stuff. Part of the mentality that leads to a trap that many of us fall into is that since we paid for it, we might as well get the most out of it. We’re heading down to Disney World in a few weeks, and we have a meal plan where we’ll be dining at different restaurants around the parks and such. It’s not cheap, and I know the temptation will be to ‘get the most out of what we paid for’ but that can lead to eating unhealthy choices, too much food, dessert at every meal, and so on. Avoiding these traps is something we’ve talked about and I’m hoping that we can stick to!

  7. I have only been on one cruise, and I did indeed gain weight that week. We ended up skipping dinner in the dining hall for most of the week because I just couldn’t stand the idea of eating such a big meal at 8pm every night! But, as you’ve mentioned, the other food at breakfast and stuff is really high calorie so skipping the big dinners still didn’t prevent me from gaining weight. And breakfast is my favorite meal of the day- it’s always my downfall 🙂

    • Fortunately we’ve always had the earlier dinner time (@6:30). I wouldn’t want to eat that late either but would still probably eat in the dinning room…the food is so good. 🙂

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