Confession: I Gained 10+ Pounds on a Cruise!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It's been more than four years since I started changing my life. I have lost well over 100 pounds and, for the most part, kept it off. The scale goes up and down sometimes, but all of the clothes in my closet still fit. How's that for consistency? I've been wearing the same pair of size 8 jeans for more than two years, and I'm committed to be part of that elusive "5% group"--people who not only lose the weight but keep it off long-term! But, I'm not perfect. In fact I'm far from it. I believe that one of the most important factors that separate success stories from false starters is the ability to reject the "all or none" attitude, which has the potential to end a healthy lifestyle. Still, rejecting that "all or none" attitude remains my greatest challenge. I’m still working on it, and I just had the opportunity to practice my skills.  My story is an example of what it looks like to reject the all or none attitude and to get back on track.

My family and I recently went on a seven-day cruise. I love to cruise. My first was in 2009, and we have done one every year since. So, that makes a total of three cruises where I have had the opportunity to practice what I preach when it comes to healthy living.

As we all know, cruises are notorious for having plentiful and delicious (but not always healthy) food. We also know the reputation that cruises have for overeating and weight gain. Every year I have committed to not becoming a cruise statistic.

Confession: This year, I did just what I promised myself I wouldn't do. I gained more than 10 pounds during my most recent cruise. Ten pounds! How can that be? I'm going to explain to you how and why it happened, but first I wanted to tell you a little about my previous two cruises and the lessons that I learned from them.

Cruise #1 (2009): I booked our first cruise--a short but sweet 3-day getaway--well in advance, then spent months dreaming about beaches and drinks with umbrellas. I planned to live it up, maybe gain a pound or two. But, a sudden opportunity to be featured in People magazine popped up and my photo shoot (in a bikini!) was four days after my cruise! Of course, I now had to change my plans. I couldn't do all of the overindulging that I had planned, and I had to be mindful of everything that I ate. My plan was that I was going to eat sensibly for breakfast and lunch and splurge a little for dinner. But, the minute I stepped onto the ship and heard the Caribbean music playing and saw little old ladies sipping colorful drinks with umbrellas I said "Forget it!" I boarded the ship at 150 pounds and disembarked at 156 pounds. I gained 6 pounds right before a bikini photo shoot! (Did I really gain 6 pounds? We will get back to that in a moment.)

Cruise #2 (2010): This cruise was a longer--five days instead of three, which meant more time to remember the lessons I learned from the first one. I recited my plan in my head for days before we set sail. I was determined to indulge gain a maximum of 2 pounds on this cruise, my second. I had an opportunity to succeed where I had failed the year prior. My plan was to:
  1. Include a source of protein at every meal.
  2. Eat loads of non-starchy veggies at each meal to fill me up.
  3. Order only one dessert at dinner this year. (You don't have to order three just because you can, Birdie!)
  4. High fiber!
  5. No ordering room service at night (remember those 2 a.m. cheeseburgers?)
  6. More exercise. (Do you seriously think that reclining by the pool all day constitutes exercise?)
I boarded the ship at 153 pounds and disembarked at 158 pounds. 5 pounds! Oops, I did it again! (Did I really gain 5 pounds?)

Cruise #3 (2011): This was a 7 day cruise. I had difficulty on a three-day cruise and a five day cruise, and now I was attempting a seven-day cruise? But, I had two cruises under my belt and I felt that I was ready to improve upon my last two performances. This cruise was a little trickier than the previous two. We booked it last minute and I had very little time to prepare. I came in at a cool 153 for the cruise. Here was my chance to get it right and beat the statistics.  I came off the ship at 167 pounds. 14 pounds! Wow! (Did I really gain 14 pounds?)

So how did I gain all that weight? Easy. My meals and snacks consisted of hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, milkshakes, butter-infused steaks, potatoes with cheesy, creamy sauce, pizza, and boatloads of chocolate chip cookies. Let's not forget the fruity drinks with the umbrellas (the ones that kids can't have!).

Those mega portions of high-fat food are a far cry from my usual meals of high-fiber cereal, healthy frozen meals, and our family favorite, Salsa Chicken.

I'm sharing my cruise experiences with you to show you that perfection is not required for weight loss or maintenance.

Now it's time to assess the damage.

Even though I didn't want to I hopped on the scale as soon as I got home. I was shocked. How in the world did I gain 14 pounds? I'm not quite sure what I was thinking. I've been living this lifestyle for more than four years. I live with an ever-present element of restraint. But when I get into certain situations (like easy, unlimited access to any and all foods), I throw caution to the wind, telling myself that I can get it off later on.

Back to the weight gain.

Did I actually gain those 14 pounds? I sure did! But, I think the question you should really be asking is: Did I really gain 14 pounds of fat? The answer is NO. In order for me to gain 14 pounds of fat on that cruise I would have needed to eat about 49,000 over my daily caloric needs (or 7,000 extra calories per day). Did I do that? No. The weight on the scale was the literal weight of the food and waste in my body and the fluid that I retained to process the tremendous amount of calories I consumed. Fourteen pounds is difficult for the average person to gain in 7 days. In my case, I believe that I have to capacity to gain more weight in the form of water than most because I have a significant amount of excess skin that the water can hang out in. 

I'm writing this at six days post cruise and I am down to 160 pounds. Did I gain seven pounds of fat? Maybe.  But it doesn't really matter because I am back to my routine and I'm in my regular environment.  The rest of the weight will come off when it comes off--whether it's excess water or fat. I'm not going to succumb to the “all or none” attitude here at home. Getting back on track is also much easier if you have a support system (thank you, Nick, my wonderful husband!). If you take home any lessons from my confession and hope that you took away these:

1. Sudden weight gain after falling off the horse is not all fat gain.
2. Always get back on plan. Even if you feel like you have failed.

As you can see, I’m far from perfect.  I accept this and I use the pivotal concept of balance to work on correcting my bad choices.  Even though I work daily on understanding the impact of my choices on my health, I will invariably make bad choices. We all will.  Attempting to achieve balance is what helps me regain my equilibrium when my choices send me off track.  Although I am working toward the idea of having balance in every moment of my life, the reality is that being balanced for every second, minute, hour, and certainly on a week vacation is not routinely achieved.  I always try to remember that balance over time is what matters!

Do I hope to go on another cruise next year? Yes. Do I have any grand plans to prevent weight gain? Not really. It has been three years in a row that I have come through cruise weight gain and I'm not back at my starting weight. 
I don't weigh 292 pounds. I did learn more lessons from this cruise that I will attempt to use next year, but if all else fails, I know I can get back up if I fall. 

Vacations can lead to you getting partially or even completely off plan. You may even relapse into pre SparkPeople behaviors for weeks after your vacation has ended. Will this cause you to gain all the weight back?  Only if you let yourself give in to the negative thoughts that are the breeding grounds for excuses to give up.  As SparkPeople members I hope that you know by now that "all or none" behavior is dangerous for maintaining your new lifestyle. If you fall, dust off your knees and get right back up. Vacations are meant to be enjoyed and remembered. Forgive yourself for any slip-ups and get back to your routine. Your path to better health awaits!

Do you go off track on vacation? How do you get back on track?
Do you fall prey to the "all or none" attitude? How do you fight it?

Dr. Birdie Varnedore, M.D., is happy to offer her expertise to the SparkPeople community; however, she cannot offer specific medical advice to dailySpark readers. Please do not share confidential medical information here. If you have a personal question or a concern about your health, please contact your health-care provider.

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FISHGUT3 11/20/2020
Don't cruise now! Report
Thanks for the article, something to keep in mind for when I one day finally go on a cruise! Report
Thank you. Report
We have never been on a cruise. I just don't want to go down with the Titanic! haha Report
We have been on over 100 cruises. Those ten pounds never came off but didn’t increase. Report
Thank You for the good tips. I truly believe that no matter what setting you are in, it is possible to choose healthy foods, exercise, and have a great treat every so often. Build it in and work it off. Report
We cruise over 100 days every year. Report
I've never been on a cruise. Report
Cruising is my fav thing in the whole world. Met my DH on a cruise! Food . . . .. Lord, it's available in all forms on a cruise 24/7. Have to really be mindful.

I always tried to get the first seating for supper so I'd have a chance to work it off. Did look @ the midnight buffet, but didn't eat. It was a good excuse to walk around the ship. Unless the dessert was spectacular, I would take 2 bites and share w/DH. Avoided the sauces as much as possible.

Always manage to stay even! Got off the gain train! And as you say, if you DO fall off the wagon, the sensible thing is to just get right back on.

Thanks for sharing your insights. Report
Thus is very motivating. I'm going in a cruise and I know there will be prepared fruit and veggies in many more varieties than I normally prepare, There's a gym just a short walk from my own shower, with a great view usually, and there will be shops and markets to walk around. Yes there will be wine and cocktails on hand and those great breakfasts. But I'm determined and Bridie' s info about fast gain being short term junk have really got me thinking. Thank you Spark! Report
I have never been on a cruise, but out of the normal routine, away from home, is enough to pile on the pounds... I now search for hotels with gyms, as I love my workouts, and pack my resistance bands too. I’ll get there, day by day... Report
We cruise over 100 every year so have to be extremely careful. Report
Thanks for a great article! :) Report
I love your attitude. If you fall, dust yourself off and get back on track. Report
I actually lost 6 pounds on a cruise. I made very healthy choices and found excursions that was active, and still exercised every morning before breakfast. Report
We cruise 100 days a year so have to be really careful. Report
Thank you for sharing your story with us. Report
I think everyone who's vacationed or gone on a cruise can relate. Over the last few years we've done 7 or 8 cruises, most of them in the 10-17 day range. Amazingly to me, I've lost weight on almost every cruise. Part of it is a commitment to walking every day. I've worn my fitbit for more than 6 years now and it is a serious task master. I log lots of miles on the deck on sea days and we try to pick shore excursions that require some walking. The other rule we follow is a solid healthy breakfast, only soup or salad for lunch and then a dinner that is tasty but not necessarily overblown. I love dessert, but find that the portions are generally small enough to not be sinful. I also have finally convinced myself that I don't need to eat it just because it is there... I drink very little alcohol, which also keeps calories under control. We always have a case of water delivered to our cabin on embarkation and I make sure to stay thoroughly hydrated. A lot of times when I think I'm starving hungry it is much more likely than I'm thirsty. So cruises don't necessarily make for weight gain. Next one we're going on is over Thanksgiving. We'll see how that works out!
I do let myself relax more on vacation but surprisingly enough I lost weight on my last vacation thanks to so much walking up and down and avoiding sugar (because I can't have too much without getting sick). My next vacation I might not get so lucky since it is a cruise so there is a good chance I'll gain something but I'll try and keep this article in mind. If I do gain weight I can always lose it when I return home to my regular routine :). Report
I lost 93 lbs from August 2016-August 2017. Then I had a week long vacation, my birthday, another week long vacation, Thanksgiving and then Christmas. I gained 11 lbs. While I regretted the weight gain, I didn't regret anything I ate. Now I am back on plan and maybe will learn that I don't have to eat everything put in front of me!!! Report
This is such a great article. Just because a person gains 10 pounds, doesn't mean we can't get right back on the wagon. Report
I love this article! Birdie is such an inspiration to me. Several years ago I was in track with SparkPeople and then I went on a cruise. Unlike Birdie I didn't get back on track and here I am starting over! Great article with great insight. Report
We eat a lot more when we cruise by I try to get it off the first week home. Report
Too much food tempting you. Report
I've never been on a cruise but I manage to gain weight on all my vacations, which are few and far between. It seems a lot easier to lose that weight than every day weight. Report
Oh thank goodness I'm not the only one. I was mortified when I got back from my 7 day cruise last week and I had gained 13 pounds. After a few days of drinking plenty of water and watching food intake, most of that was gone. Report
I've never gone on a cruise but we are gone for 8-12 days typically on annual Sukkot (travel days increase the farther away we go)... and so very often I do gain weight. The year we went to Puerto Rico I lost weight! I think the thing there was I did a lot of walking to the variou parts of the resorts (they billed our room extra for the "electric cart taxi rides".), and the buffets had a lot of unfamiliar foods (which later in life I realized probably would have been very healthy to eat, like mangos guava etc). They rarely had fancy desserts on their menu, and they generally only had fish and chicken on the buffet. So I just didn't eat much, and I didn't like booze enough to want to spend extra money on cocktails. I ended up losing 10 pounds on that trip. Oh and we did a hike through the mountain there on San Juan island, so that was more mega calories burned. Report
My husband and I discovered cruising in 2004, and have been on one each year since then. This past year we did a B2B, which meant two consecutive weeks on a cruise ship. We find we walk so much all over the ship that we end up losing a couple of pounds. I am also very careful about what I eat (I'm also a diabetic), but will have one or two drinks (rum & diet coke) in the evenings. I pick a seafood dish for dinner almost every night and skip the carbs with dinner, so I can have a dinner roll and a sugar-free dessert. Usually by the end of the cruise, I'll have a regular dessert. My one weakness is breakfast -- bagel, lox (smoked salmon) and cream cheese! Thank goodness they have small bagels and light cream cheese!! Most cruises have done away with midnight buffets, so you shouldn't worry about that. And you don't have to eat all the food you see, but you are on vacation, so it's okay to have something you don't normally have at home.

Maybe if I lose 75 lbs, I'll feel different about this, but right now, cruising doesn't scare me. Report
We have something in common, I love to cruise. It is easy to go "overboard" while on the ship. Temptations are everywhere but I work have the same philosophy--it's a lifestyle and the cruise is my reward. I work hard all year and celebrate a little on the ship. :) Report
Great outlook on the vacation weight gain. I always gain on vacation and am disappointed in myself when I get back home and step on that scale. Report
Good blog. I've been on several cruises over the years, and I've been better on some than others, both with regard to eating and exercise. I have gained 11 pounds on a 7 day cruise. We have another cruise planned for November, and I'm planning to be more moderate in my eating and get in a lot of walking and maybe even use the gym (which I don't usually do), but, like you, I also plan to enjoy my vacation, knowing I can get back on track when I get home. Report
Thanks for sharing, your story describes me to a "T".

Over the past year I've lost 115 pounds, I went from 305 to 190, but right now I'm back up to about 205. I still experience all kinds of wild cravings for the foods I used to love to indulge in, and sometimes a find myself saying "the hell with it" and stuffing my face until my stomach hurts. I've had times where my weight has gone up 15 pounds after a good summer weekend of barbecues and beer drinking, but it always returns back to normal within a few days of normal eating.

As you stated, which I cannot agree more on, is that regardless of how bad you may of let yourself go over a weekend of partying, vacationing etc. always get back up on the horse and keep on keeping on. It doesn't get you anywhere to beat yourself up over it. Report
Thanks Dr Birdie! I totally agree with you! When I have been on VACA and overindulged I did not worry about it. I had faith in myself and my diet buddy (Thoms1) that we would get back on track! Of course we didn't over indulge at every meal or every day. We enjoyed we celebrated and we got back on track! Report
I guess that experience has always kept me from taking a cruise. After we retired my husband wanted to take a cruise and I was against it all because I thought I would be uncontrolable around all of that food and the 24 hour buffet. Now that my mindset is better (as I have really been tested this last year) If the opportunity comes our way again I will be the first one on the ship. Report
I read this blog the other day, right after returning from a short vacation and gaining a few pounds. I am wondering how long it actually takes for the excess waste and water from sodium exit the body before we can assess the "true" weight gain? Report
Great article... I always worried how I would go about managing my final goal reward (which is a trip to Vegas or a cruise) and my eating. This blog was absolutely awesome... really helpful! Report
This is exactly what I needed to hear. I was dreading my vacation in September, but you brought it back to common sense for me. Thank you!!!! Report
Hi Everyone, This is my first day and one of my daily goals is to blog. I've never done it before so here goes. I have only been on one 5 day cruise (loved it) but I came home exactly the same weight as I started. I ate well but didn't go overboard. My bad hip keeps me from exercising alot so I got only a normal amount of exercise. My good friend and I were celebrating our birthdays so we ended up splitting a bottle of wine on two of the evenings. I had dessert everyday but the biggest thing, I guess, was that I picked and chose what I wanted but never went crazy. We had a lovely time, ate yummy food, drank wine and both ended the cruise at our same weights. It can be done and I can't wait to go on another cruise. Report
I'm probably one of the few people who loses weight while on vacation ! Mind you, I eat like a horse and still lose ! It's because I'm walking all over the place doing sight seeing. And when I'm sightseeing, I don't think about food until my tummy starts growling. then I know it's time to eat. LOL !!! Sightseeing, checking out museums, shopping, etc... all these things keep me busy and I only think about food when I pass by a restaurant with amazing aromas wafting from the kitchen. Then, I'll make a pit stop. Can't pass up on yummy local food !

When I'm away, I do what I do at home i.e. practice moderation as best I can. Report
Glad to read this as I'm finishing up a quick vacation visiting family. I was doing SO well & I could tell my body was off during this trip as I wasn't eating as well, not as often & not walking as much...So as of now, I'm +3 for the week! Blah! Thank goodness it's a new week & i head home today so I can get back on track (even though I'm headed back to my classroom to unpack, organize & decorate which will be stressful & make me busy!!). My weigh in day is Tuesday, today is Sunday, so maybe I can make a small dent in the 3lbs before then ;) Report
Enjoyed reading this. I might be an exception but when we took our only cruise to Hawaii, we went off-shore on daily excursion with lots of tour buses but some walking too. Therefore we ate breakfast (I had fresh pineapple every single morning) but always missed the main lunch. We enjoyed dinner in the upgraded resturants but I wasn't that impressed with the food on the ship. My own cooking is much better.
Since I'm also prone to motion sickness, despite the ear patch, I only drank aclcohol off the ship a day or two. The rest of the time I drank diet ginger ale because I didn't want to run the risk of 1) being sick or 2) gaining weight.
We walked the ship alot, took stairs much of the time, and ate sensibly. One night my steak was over cooked, twice, so I ended up not eating much, then having a hot dog in the bar later. You know what? I probably ate less because of that. Everyone said that cruise line - which is known for their food - never seems to offer great food in that region; they had taken over the route from another company and could hold down costs since so many people want to visit Hawaii. That turned out to be good for me. There are lots of great places to eat in the world and a week away from them and instead focusing on the local beauty was fine with me.
I have to say that I will never be a great sailor (even though I never was seasick) although I might go crusing again some time. Wasn't crazy about that movement. Put me on a train instead, any time. Still we had a great time and saw some fun shows; also enjoyed the guest lecturers on board. And like others, we do travel alot.
Last couple years, more road trips. Fly somewhere then drive or just drive a few states from home. It's all in the planning (we carry our own small ice chest to buy healthy snacks; carry protein powder that can be stirred into water; share certain meals), not beating yourself up, and moving forward. Eat To Live! Report
I have been on 4 cruises and have one planned for March 2012. I always start with a plan, that I blow by the first night. Last time I gained 10 real pounds and was so mad at myself it took me a long time to get back on track. Now I've lost 8 of those 10 and am committed to keep going. I find I retain a lot of water on every cruise. It is the ONLY time my feet and ankles swell. I think just the food, drink and maybe something to do with the weather, I don't know, but I am hoping to do better next time and still plan to enjoy the rich food. Report
On my cruise last summer, I gained 10lbs. BUT.. 3 days after I got home, it was all gone. Most of it was just water retention. Granted, I ate some stuff I shouldn't have, and stuff I should have. But food you find on a cruise - it's not something that I'm use to, so I enjoy it, otherwise I spend the whole cruise worried whether I'm going to gain weight, rather than having a good time. Report
Thank you for the article. I went on vacation and had to eat all restaurant food. The meals were a part of the vacation package. So I had to choose meals off a specific menu. So I was not able to eat like I normally do. I ended up gaining seven pounds. I will lose the weight. Report
Awesome! such great advice and encouragement. I'm really inspired that you are honest about eating the "junk" on vacation (I do the same thing) and that you don't wallow in guilt afterward but instead get back to normal eating (something I don't do). This September I have a fun road trip planned for visiting my Dad in L.A. (and my favorite hamburger stand Tommy's) then returning up north through the eastern Sierras then through S Lake Tahoe to Sonoma. But this year, I will return to normal after vacation. I vow it! Report
Thanks for sharing and confirming my recent attitute following my recent 10 vacation. I was away and eating out each meal or at my daughters. I gained 2 pounds. I did try to watch what I ate and swapped out egg beaters for eggs most days. Yea I did have burgers and frys. I was able to leave most of the frys on my plate. I had a good time. I found that if I over ate that I felt miserable and uncomfortable. Ate what was available, not as much fruit or vegetables as I would have liked but the weight gain was reasonable. I have been back 10 days and have lost most of the 2 pounds. It feels great to be back on the program of eating better and exercising. It is good to hear that this is a part of life and we can all deal with it with support of others. Report
Glad to know some can pull off a cruise without gaining. I hope to prove that too next May. Thanks for sharing! Nancy Report
SO good for me to read this right now. I had family come to visit for a while and I also "gained" 14 pounds with all the celebrations. It was hard for me to get back on the horse, I've lost 7 of those pounds in 2 weeks (no doubt a lot of water weight), and I know I'm going to keep going down despite the slip up. Report
Thank you - excellent. Great words of wisdom...forgive yourself and get up when you fall. Report
Excellent post and the "all or nothing" attitude has been blocking my success for a very long time. Thank you for sharing! Report