I might be the only person who can say that I actually lost weight on both the week-long cruises that I have taken. That’s especially surprising because I don’t get seasick and I’m not naturally thin with a great metabolism. Actually, like most other people I know, I usually gain weight when out on the town or on regular vacations or anywhere where the food is wonderful. No, the cruise ships I was on didn’t have bad food. No, I didn’t work out in their gym or run laps on deck. I went from eating place to eating place just like most of the other passengers. What’s more, I ordered every course available (sometimes 5 or 6 courses). What was the secret?
The first thing I remember was that I didn’t have the deprivation mentality. You know how it goes, “I have been on my interminable diet forever, now I’m on vacation, when I get home I will not be able to eat any of these yummy foods–probably ever again–so I am really going to pig out now.” That leads to taking down all the barriers, barreling ahead at full steam and tossing caution to the wind, to use a few clichés. Instead, I ordered every course, sampled every offering and only ate a bite or two of anything less than fantastic, and only a few more of things that were exceptional because, well, I couldn’t hold that much and also who cared? There was another buffet or grill or bar with hors d’oeuvres right around the corner any time day or night. Add to that, general excitement and lots of walking in the ports-of-call and dancing at night and you get two pounds gone at the end of the week instead of two added. All while having a fabulous fun time, even for a foodie, I might add.
I’ve decided to call this the Cruise Diet and the first rule is to ditch the deprivation mentality. Give yourself permission to eat anything you want to—vow to eat only a little of it. Compare that to the usual advice of chowing down on the veggies and low-cal dip, drinking seltzer watered-down drinks, standing far away from the buffet table and gritting your teeth. (I’ve even read that if you chew gum you’re less likely to eat too much. Are you kidding?) The Cruise diet really does work because you don’t obsess about the food and feel so guilty about eating.
The second rule of the diet is to eat consciously. That means, eat each bite savoring the taste, the texture, the ambiance and the company. Put your fork down between bites and talk to somebody. If you are eating alone, consciously give yourself a time for eating and make sure your meal or snack takes that much time. I don’t buy the advice that you shouldn’t read or watch TV while eating, but if you do—stop between bites and pause. You will get into the habit of doing this very quickly and wonder how you could have devoured so much food so fast before. Drinking water or other beverages between bites is a good way to slow down and eat consciously. It gives you time to ask yourself if you’ve actually had enough. When at a restaurant, just nudge you plate over to the side a little when you think it’s time to quit. You’d be surprised at how self-conscious you would be to start eating from that plate again.
The last rule is to enjoy eating—really enjoy it. Treat yourself as special as you treat company. Put some flowers on the table, set a place, even if only for one. I heard a story from a friend who went back to her hometown and the only person she wanted to see was her first grade teacher. The teacher was living in a retirement apartment and was quite elderly. The friend found her, went to her apartment and knocked on the door, hoping to surprise her. When the door opened and the two were joyfully reunited, the teacher invited my friend in. Looking past the teacher’s shoulder, my friend saw a lovely table, set with china and crystal and a flower centerpiece. She regretfully said, “Oh, I see you are expecting company for dinner, I don’t want to intrude”. The teacher looked surprised and said, “No, I was going to sit down to dinner alone in awhile.” It turned out that this elderly lady always dined in style, whether she had company or not. Well, why not? Maybe that mentality is what makes the Cruise Diet work.