Monday, February 18, 2013

Food, glorious food...cruising and your waistline!

For those of you reading this who are seasoned 'cruisers', you'll know all about the weight gain once on board (let's refer to it as WG from here on in, so it's not staring us in the face!). For those of you about to embark on your first cruise, listen up...

The aim of any cruise line is to provide you with what they consider to be the best of everything - entertainment, accommodation, bars and, some may say, most important of all, food! You can live without all the others but we all need food. And, despite being in the middle of nowhere - usually an ocean somewhere - there's tons of it.

I have discovered that this post runs slowly if viewed on Internet Explorer. It's best viewed on Google Chrome or Firefox (not as fast as Chrome).

Anyone hungry?

Years ago when I was on the road working as a news photographer and got sent away on assignment, I concocted a theory that 'food bought on expenses had no calories' as a way to justify buying things like custard pies and cans of soft drink (soda) as a means of sustenance as soon as I'd turned out of the newspaper office's driveway. Of course, I was a lot younger then...we all know where this is going...

The problem is that I now tend to take that same approach when on holiday, although the excuse, seeing as I am paying for it, is more along the lines of "Hey, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow...". Some may deem this to be in the 'glass is half empty' league, so the 'glass is half full' approach might be, "I'm on holidays...I've earned it...I'll deal with it afterwards...". 

Half empty or half full, neither excuse is particularly plausible, but when you're on a cruise ship and you have to choose between carrots and carrot cake, any justification will do!

"I'm on holidays...I've earned it...I'll deal with it afterwards..."
(the pool deck on P&O's Pacific Dawn)

Yes, unless you're in your 20s or are pencil thin, cruise ships and WG do go hand-in-hand for most of us. Like death and taxes, it seems its inevitable. Ho hum!

Now that we're okay with that, let's deal with some ways to minimise the WG -

1. There's the obvious - eat the healthy options (okay, who muttered, 'boring'?!).
2. Take the 'a little bit from column A and a little bit from column B' approach.
By that, I mean, be LtoR naughty (croissants) but nice (fruit salad and yoghurt) in equal measures.
This is plausible but I, at least, still tend to take the "Hey, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow..." approach.
Let's face it, carrots still taste like carrots when you're on holiday. Plus, I go to enough
parties at home that serve carrot sticks with their dip (whatever happened to crackers?).
3. You're on holiday and you want to have a good time in the multitude of bars on board your ship
 (trust me, there will be lots of 'watering holes').
Watching your alcohol intake will be good for not only your waistline but your
 general health (if you have too much, that is) and also your on board bank balance.
4. Take the stairs.
It may seem something simple but I worked it out that on an average day I could do anything
up to 600 steps total (up and down). Combined with the 'general' walking you will do around
the ship, this translates into a lot of calories burned.
5. All ships have a promenade deck that will enable you to walk, if not all the way around the ship,
then most of the way. This photo was taken on Radiance of the Seas (promenade deck is Deck 5) and I worked
out that one lap was around 600 metres (650 yards). One lap around Oasis and Allure of the Seas, the two biggest
cruise ships in the world, comes in at around 800 metres (880 yards)! A lot of the passengers don the
sneakers and hit the promenade deck. In fact, you'll get used to seeing the usual faces
'pounding the pavement'. It becomes quite a little community.
6. Further to walking/jogging around the ship, when you do have shore stops, stretch the legs as best you can.
Invariably you will dock or moor next to a village/town/city, so walk around and have a look at the shops,
markets and/or scenery before or after your tour excursion (or instead of one).
While this might be good for the waistline, I can't guarantee it will be good for the bank balance!
7. Many cruise ships have actual walking/jogging/running tracks, which
 seem to be mainly up near the pool area. That way you get to exercise
in the sun (fresh air is everywhere!) and, perhaps, act as motivation for others.
The tracks may not go the whole way around the ship but there are signs/notices
 letting you know how many laps equal 1km or 1 mile.
8. All ships have swimming pools.
They're not huge (think back yard pool or slightly bigger) and, while during the day they get crowded,
usually mornings are quiet and you can get in a few laps.

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If you like the photography in my blogs, it's because I am a professional photographer. My photos don't merely show something, they tell a story. And visual stories i.e. photos, are more interesting than pictures that merely show something. 

If you'd like to know how to turn your images into visual stories, I've published a book that takes a whole new slant on photography and 'translates' the art of taking photos into a language we all understand.

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***I use all the tips and hints from my book in every photo I take, including those in Travel With Giulio.

*     *     *     *     *

9. Gym - all ships have a gym of some sort. Some are open 24 hours but check when you board.
10. Assorted entertainment.
All cruises have things like dance classes, or other activities that involve moving. They all burn calories!
11. More and more ships now have things like basketball courts and, if you're on a Royal Caribbean ship,
then a rock climbing wall. If your years are beyond both, then shouting on encouragement
while watching both activities will burn a few calories!

During the 17 nights I was on Radiance of the Seas, I slapped on 7kg (15lb), even though I was walking the promenade deck every day and always taking the stairs. Putting on 7kg isn't meant to be a badge of honour. I was naughty on many levels and, in future, hope to be a little less 'full on', especially at the buffet (my downfall!). However, according to studies, putting on weight isn't surprising and most 'cruisers' gain half-a-kilo (1lb) per day on a cruise. The problem is, over a lengthy cruise this adds up!

It's not hard to understand why this is the case. Many ships have buffets/eateries that are open 24 hours and room service is either free or close to it. There are also many choices for dining - including things like burger joints, pizza parlous and ice-cream stands...none of which assist in calorie burning - and food never seems to be far away. How tempting it is when you order a coffee and that delicious looking choc chip cookie on the counter in front of you is free and your cruise card (or equivalent) is hanging around your neck, so you don't have to look for loose change or get the wallet out.

That said, like many onshore eateries in this day and age, there are many healthy options available that make the 'a little bit from column A and a little bit from column B' approach possible (see Point 2).

The can be as naughty as you want, or as nice.

Of course, if you are one of those that have added the half-a-kilo per day, putting it on was easy (and enjoyable) whereas taking it off when you get home is a struggle. Nearly half of those who encounter WG struggle to take it off once back in the routine of home life, especially if exercise and weight loss wasn't a part of their regime before they cruised. It isn't fully advertised in brochures and on websites but some ships offer tailoring services that, if need be, can assist in accommodating expanding waistlines. That really is tempting fate!

If you're wondering how to avoid all of the above...

Most people book their cruise a long way in advance, so why not start thinking about dropping a few kgs before you board the 'SS Temptation'? That way, you can go a little bit crazy at the buffet, or not feel bad about ordering that extra cocktail.

Losing weight in the lead up to your cruise can be a gradual process, so as to lessen the impact of having to go on a crash-diet at the last minute (I hate the word 'diet'. It implies so many negatives). The good thing about the items mentioned below is that if all, or some, are gradually introduced into your lifestyle, then there's every chance they will become a part of your routine, BC and AD (Before Cruising and After Disembarkation) and this can only be good.

Basically, it's all about balance:
  • Park your car a few blocks away from where you need to be, so you have to walk.
  • Do you really need dessert every night?
  • Walk before work or after dinner (got a dog?).
  • Dust off the bicycle sitting in the garage (and the weights set for that matter).
  • Do you really need a six-pack while you're watching the football?
  • Use public transport. Some people have an aversion to public transport but it means you have to walk more and every little bit helps.
  • Stop eating white 'stuff' - bread, rice and sugar to mention a few.
  • Do you really need those biscuits you have with your morning/afternoon/evening cuppa.
  • Soft drinks? You might as well tape the fat to your bum/gut! If you need to, try Coke Zero or Pepsi Max or any similar 'zero sugar' soft drink.
  • Live in a flat/unit/apartment? I do and regularly take to the steps right outside our front door. Up and down is 64 steps and I can do 50 ups and downs in around a half hour - that's 3,200 steps total! Fifteen mins = 1,600 and 10 mins = over 1,000! Trust me, you work up a sweat and you can feel the calories dropping off. And the beauty is it's right outside the front door and you can do it night or day, rain or sunshine.
Public transport, steps, biscuits, bicycle...three good, one not so good.

All of the above involves adapting your lifestyle before your cruise so, if you can do it gradually and as early on as possible, it will lessen what 'shock' there might be. Of course, there are many other things you can do in your own lifestyle that can be changed or adapted to help get you 'in shape' for your cruise.

Since Radiance in October 2011, I've lost the 7kg I put on and am back to 'fighting weight' - thanks to most of the above. I have a 14-night cruise booked on Voyager of the Seas in October, 2012, and I'm keeping the same routine in order to drop weight so I can party a little harder come October.

I hope you've found some of these tips useful so you can board your cruise 'well prepared' and have a blast. I'm sure you will...after all, you HAVE earned it!

Bon voyage and bon app├ętit,


*If you embarked on a pre-cruise weight-loss 'regime' as a result of this post, please tell me! 
As a humourous aside (I hope it was a joke!), a Facebook friend - Cathy T - came up with an alternative 'theory' about how to approach weight loss and cruising:

My tip to avoid weight gain whilst cruising is all in the lead up to the cruise. Make sure you don't exercise at all for at least 12 weeks prior, do not walk anywhere, stop going to the gym, sit around and watch a lot of TV. Eat as much as you can while doing nothing, followed by excessive shanghai smash chasers and pina coladas. Eat a multitude of desserts, and add whipped cream and sugar to all. Then while on the ship, partake in regular romantic encounters, dancing, swimming, table tennis, gym if you have the urge, and deck strolls. Drop the whipped cream from the desserts, and take the stairs to dinner on at least one occasion.... Voila!!! Done. No weight gain. In fact, you will find you have lost weight since embarkation.

All photos and text by Giulio Saggin
© Use of photos and text must be via written permission


Marian Krueger said...

Excellent post! We always take the stairs because well, why waste time waiting for an elevator. We are ultra competitive, my husband and I, so we end up seeing who will get back the fastest. This leads to loads of laughing, even without a drink. If I am eating at a buffet, I suggest circling it first and deciding what you want before taking everything. My husband on one cruise lost 12 lbs. and wasn't even trying because he regularly ran every day. So it can be done! Going on a cruise does not have to mean gaining weight. :)

Travel with us! said...

Thanks Marian and, likewise, we take the stairs but only because it means we're working off the food! And 12lbs is impressive but it is fun having pastries with your breakfast...and lunch...and dinner...and midnight snack...(Giulio here, in case you didn't know it). Every cruise I tell myself, 'you don't need pastries for breakfast...' and every cruise I make a liar of myself!