Wednesday, January 06, 2010

How To Take a Healthy Cruise- Have Fun Without the Weight Gain

Azamara Journey 16 day cruise through the Panama Canal.

A healthy custom egg white and veggie omelette for breakfast.

Or have oatmeal with optional ground flax, raisins and seeds.

A blueberry smoothie from the custom smoothie station.

A combo of different veggie and seafood salad offerings.

Or make your own salad from a salad bar available all day.

Fresh fruit and cottage cheese makes a nice, light lunch.

You could order "steamed" veggies in any of the dining rooms.

There was always a nice selection of baked fish.

They offered custom stir-fries every night with fresh ingredients.

Start the day with an exercise class or work out in the gym.

Dancing in the New Year while burning more calories!

It's Easy to Lose Control on an "All You Can Eat" Vacation
When Doug suggested we take a 16 day cruise for our 20th wedding anniversary I was both delighted and terrified. The last time we went on a cruise or an "all-inclusive" land vacation, I put on pounds that took a long time to remove. These vacations all start out the same way. For a day or so we examine every little morsel that goes in our mouth, avoid the heavy desserts and check out the gym. After a few days we stumble into a margarita tasting or an ice cream social and by the end of the vacation we are ordering multiple entrees and eating a dessert at every meal. We hear ourselves saying, "what the heck, we're on vacation" and "it's paid for". We manage to squeeze into our largest outfit and fly home avoiding the scale for weeks and hating ourselves for losing our will power. If we take a 16 day cruise (almost twice our longest trip), we'll have to have a better plan.

How To Take a 16 Day Cruise Without Gaining Weight
First of all, you need to develop a plan that includes "Your Goal", the "Plan to Meet the Goal" along with "Rules for Avoiding Calories" and "Rules to Burn Calories". Don't forget, you've got to write it all down. Here's what I did:
My Goal
To take a 16 day cruise through Christmas and New Years to the Panama Canal WITHOUT gaining a single pound. My pre-cruise weight was 115.5.
The Plan
(1) Keep a journal and write down every calorie eaten and every calorie burned.
(2) "Net" 1386 calories a day. (To maintain weight, you need around 12 to 15 calories for every pound of body weight. To be conservative I used 12 X 115.5 calories or 1386). Net calories is all calories consumed minus all calories burned.
Rules for Avoiding Calories
(1) Skip the bread. I told the waiter to NEVER bring bread and butter to the table. Once that beautiful basket of assorted hot bread is sitting there in front of me, it's almost impossible to resist.
(2) Limit alcohol to one glass of wine or Champagne a day and try to skip some days all together (not an easy task given this cruise was over the Christmas and New Years holiday). Avoid high calories mixed drinks completely.
(3) Be VERY specific about food preparation. I asked for "steamed" vegetables, "plain" baked potatoes, salad dressing "on the side", "hold the sauce", "grilled or poached" fish.
(4) Avoid events that give away alcohol or fattening food like martini tastings or ice cream socials.
(5) When eating buffet style, make one visit for the salad/appetizer and one visit for the main meal. Use a smaller plate.
(6) Limit dessert to one small and relatively healthy one per day like fresh fruit, low fat frozen yogurt or a mini fruit tart.
(7) Keep a food journal and WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. Count all calories consumed (I brought the "Biggest Loser Complete Calorie Counter book with me).
Rules to Burn Calories
(1) NEVER take the elevator on a cruise ship. Walking up and down steps burns lots of calories.
(2) Use the gym every day.
(3) Sign up for exercise and self improvement classes. Azamara offered stretch and exercise classes and gave lectures on acupuncture and detox and tested for body composition. You could even hire a personal trainer.
(4) Walk around the track.
(5) Take the most "strenuous" excursions. Walk, hike or swim and avoid "site seeing bus tours".
(6) Dance
(7) Reward yourself with a massage
(8) WRITE ALL ACTIVITIES DOWN and record calories burned.
Smart Meal Choices if Available
Oatmeal with ground flax, cinnamon, raisins and sunflower seeds
Raw fruit smoothie
Cold cereal like Cheerios or All Bran with soy or skim milk
Egg white omelette with veggies and smoked salmon
Poached egg on an English muffin with Spinach
Yogurt and fruit
Salads with lots of raw veggies, garbanzo beans, beets, etc. with a light dressing
Fresh fruit platter with low fat cottage cheese
Tuna or lean turkey sandwich with veggies and mustard.
Plain baked potato with steamed veggies
Grilled kabobs and veggies
Custom stir fry with lots of veggies, shrimp and white meat chicken on rice or rice noodles
Miso soup and sushi
Grilled or poached fish with steamed veggies and plain rice
Grilled chicken or lean meat with steamed veggies and a plain baked potato
Light, non-cream based soups
Entree sized salads with shrimp, scallops, lobster, chicken breast or flank steak
Small piece of chocolate
Low fat frozen yogurt
Sherbet or sugar free ice cream
Small fruit tart
Even though I passed on the richer meals, the food was still amazing. With the beautiful fresh salads and fruit and the delicious selection of seafood, I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything. I ate three wonderful meals a day and a few healthy snacks in between.
I didn't really know how much I weighed on the cruise. The scale in the gym varied with each wave so I had to wait until I got home to see the results. I stuck to my calorie goal and worked out every day. I felt really great. Even without weighing myself, I felt like I was in better shape than when I got on the boat. After getting home I waited a day for the "salty" food to get through my system since I knew that would hold some "water weight". But the moment of truth came the next morning when I stepped on the scale and weighed 115.5 - EXACTLY what I weighed the morning I left for vacation. Doug, who ate and drank a bit more than I did,(but also worked out more) managed to actually lose one pound.
It was the best vacation we ever took. We saw the Panama canal, walked through the cloud forest in Costa Rica and released baby sea turtles to the ocean in Acapulco. We also visited Jamaica, Columbia, Nicaragua, Huatulco and Cabo San Lucas. Best of all, we didn't go home feeling badly about our loss of self control. My hats off to Azamara Cruises for offering all those delicious healthy choices. My "fear of cruises" is gone forever!


Marcia said...

Hey that was a great job! That healthy food looks yummy. After years of gaining weight on vacations, particularly when my parents visit me (they insist on eating out a lot), I finally conquered it.

This year, I ordered a salad or soup for every meal out but one, stuck to vegetarian options, and almost never had alcohol. No weight gain!

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Congratulations Marcia. Once you establish ground rules like you did (vegetarian soups and salads only) it's a lot easier.

Sarah said...

Well I was there seeing you do all these wonderful things. Great article and great photos.

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Thanks Sarah. It was great meeting you guys and I hope you had a safe trip back home. Hope to see you again on the high seas!