Many teenagers and young adults are all too familiar with the fear I felt as I struggled to rebutton my favorite pair of mom jeans earlier this summer. Unfortunately for myself, the realization that my loosest pair of jeans barely fit around my vacation hips did not hit me until about a week before I set sail with my family on a cruise. I found myself trying to return to my typical healthy lifestyle while surrounded by an ocean of glorious amounts of food and countless cocktails and mocktails.
Even though it was only a three-day cruise, I made it out alive, and my jeans are now the same size I remembered them being before my lazy summer vacation diet. And I think that pretty much makes me an expert at staying healthy-ish while on a cruise or any similar relaxing vacation.
I, personally, call the way I have been treating my body this summer a “vacation diet,” because I will eat whatever, whenever I want and skip out on my regular exercise routines because I’m on vacation. When your vacation takes up two and half months of the year, this attitude towards health begins to catch up with you, or else someone is stealing my jeans and shrinking them in the wash when I’m not around.
Here are 4 tips I discovered will help you stay healthy on a cruise or a similarly gluttonous summer vacation.
1. Keep your diet (relatively) the same
Typically, cruises give their guests a range of unique and rare dishes to try, whether it be in the fancy dining room, mixed in with the breakfast buffet or served poolside. On my recent three-day cruise with Carnival, there were options such as escargot and crocodile fritters.
However, the wide variety of foods does not stop there. Cruises allow people to try new foods and to expand their palettes even if it is not unique. And if you do not like what you try, you can always grab something else at the buffet or simply go for a leaning tower of soft serve ice cream, teetering on a sugar cone.
These endless options and opportunities to try new foods also make staying healthy on the cruise difficult. Especially if you are eating a certain daily diet before the cruise, and then you completely change your diet because it’s vacation.
Let’s say you typically eat gluten-free on a regular day. When you’re on vacation it would probably be a bad idea to start gorging on bread and pasta. If you typically shy away from red meat, you probably shouldn’t eat that big meaty steak from the grill for dinner.
Introducing these new items into your diet suddenly can make you feel sick or be sick. Abrupt changes in diets can affect your body in so many ways and can cause you stomach problems that could prevent you from having a good time on vacation.
2. Do not forget to move that body
When you see an advertisement for a cruise, most of the guests are sedentary, lounging around the pool and getting drunk off colorful Mai Tais and Piña Coladas. But there are so many more activities on a cruise ship than that. So many, in fact, that most cruises give you an itinerary of all the activities available each day.
Most cruise lines, from Princess Cruises to the Norwegian Cruise Line, offer some sort of fitness class in the mornings on the daily schedule. Take advantage of this opportunity for complimentary classes, which range from yoga and Pilates to cycling and self-defense, especially on the first morning of your cruise. Some ships only offer the first classes for free, while others include all of the classes within the price of a ticket.
Some cruises even offer sessions with a personal trainer, but of course the cheapest and most independent option would be working out of your own accord in the ship’s gym. Running on a treadmill, lifting weights or even just stretching out your muscles is a whole lot more satisfying when you can see the gentle waves of the ocean stretch endlessly into the horizon out the window.
If any of these options sound like a waste of your valuable vacation time, I have one more idea for you that actually saves time in the long run. Most cruises have several floors of restaurants, stores, theaters and other rooms. Most people wait in large clusters, which should be orderly lines, in order to get on a slow elevator. Because of the number of other guests on the ship, the stairs are more efficient in addition to helping you get your body moving.
3. Practice moderation
I need to preface this by saying that this is where my perfect, healthy plan came falling apart, so hopefully I can help you learn from my mistake. I was doing pretty well keeping a steady exercise routine and only limiting myself to one sweet a day (like I once did before my vacation brain took over) until the last full day on the cruise when we stopped in Ensenada.
I drank three virgin Piña Coladas in one day (virgin, of course, because I’m the ripe, young age of 20). Three. That is so much sugar that both my step-sister and I experienced sugar crashes for the first time since we were children and passed out at 9 p.m.
If I had taken this advice and practiced moderation, I would’ve only had one virgin Piña Colada that day, and I would have been able to stay up and spend more time with my family while we were all together on the ship.
Even if I had spread out my consumption of those deliciously frozen coconut and pineapple drinks amongst the three days on the ship, it would have been better for me and my body (still, no one ever said a Piña Colada a day keeps the doctor away).
Drawing from my humble experience, my advice to you is to practice moderation and avoid drinking three Piña Coladas in one day, virgin or not.
4. Remember to relax — it’s a vacation after all
Keep everything I said in mind, but don’t forget to have fun. A vacation, whether or not it’s with your family or friends, is about having fun and taking a break from the stresses of everyday life, such as work, school or the guy who stares at you funny while you are working out at your local gym.
Don’t stress so much about your health that it gets in the way of your enjoyment, but, of course, don’t go overboard with bad vacation habits. You know yourself, and you know what will be good for you and your body on your next cruise.