How to Not Gain Weight on a Cruise (From Someone Who Didn’t!)

Gaining weight on a cruise is a reality for many – but it doesn’t have to be yours! Here are some tips on how to not gain weight on a cruise (but still enjoy yourself). 

How to Avoid Cruise Ship Weight Gain

The average weight gain on a cruise is 7-10 pounds.

Or so they told us during the cruise orientation.

As someone who has trouble losing weight, to begin with, I wasn’t looking forward to this possibility during our cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy in June.

I’ve heard so many stories about how delicious the food is on a cruise – and it’s true. It is delicious. 

I’ve also heard many stories of people gaining weight on a cruise.

I was determined to enjoy the delicious food but not gain that 7-10 pounds many people go home with.

And guess what – I did! I actually weigh less right now than when I went on a cruise.

And I still enjoyed desserts, bread, and had a great time.

So today I wanted to share a few tips on how to avoid cruise ship weight gain without totally depriving yourself 🙂

You May Also Enjoy: Cruise Clothing 101: What to Wear on Your Cruise!

**We booked our cruise through our #1 travel agent – Get Away Today. We’ve used them for many trips, and they made the cruising process even easier. You can get $10 off any cruise package using the code Clarkscondensed**

Take the Stairs

There are elevators that will take you just about anywhere you need to be…but they are just setting you up for being more sedentary on the cruise!

Much to my children’s dismay, I insisted on taking the stairs the majority of the time while on the cruise, and I think this helped a lot. 

According to this article, you burn about 15 calories per three flights of stairs. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, it all adds up. Our stateroom was on the bottom floor of the ship, and since there were about 12 floors on the ship, and we walked up and down them frequently…we burned a good amount of calories.

Sure, we took the elevator occasionally, but I’m glad I decided to take the stairs most of the time.

Check out the Gym

When I tell people I went to the gym almost every day while on the cruise, I often get one of two responses:

  • Why would you go to the gym on a cruise?
  • Do they really have gyms on cruises?

I really enjoy going to the gym when we are at home, and I miss it while traveling – so why wouldn’t I take advantage of it? I’ll admit a few times I almost fell off the treadmill because the boat was moving quite a bit (and it was in the tip-top of the ship), but I was so glad I made the effort to go. During the day, the blinds were open, and it was a pretty neat experience to exercise in front of the beautiful Atlantic ocean.

Most – if not all – cruises will have some kind of gym available. On the Carnival Ecstasy, the gym was well-equipped with treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and lots of strength and weight equipment.

Our cruise had some different classes you could attend. However, they cost extra, so we opted not to attend them. They looked like they would have been fun though!

I only went for about 30 minutes each day, which was a small amount of time in comparison to the whole time we were on the cruise. For me, it was 100% worth it. It helped me recharge and make sure I wasn’t just sitting around eating food!

Don’t forget to pack your tennis shoes and gym clothes!

Skip the Bread

Or ask them to bring it out with your meal.

The first night that we ate dinner on the cruise, I was starving. When they brought out a basket filled with delicious and fancy bread, I helped myself to several pieces (with butter, of course).

This was not a good choice! I filled up on empty calories before they even brought out the appetizers, and I felt pretty crummy. I don’t even want to think about how many calories there were.

And I did eat the rest of the food they brought out, too, because I felt like I should!

I didn’t make that mistake for the rest of the trip, though I indulged in more bread than I probably should have because it was just there (and it was delicious).

One tip I read afterward was to request that they either don’t bring out bread at all, or you can ask them to bring it out with your main dish. If you are eating it while you eat the rest of your meal, you likely won’t eat as many slices.

Drink Water

There are all sorts of drinks available on cruises – soda, alcohol, smoothies…just about everything you can think of!

On the Carnival Ecstasy, water and lemonade were free and readily available whenever you wanted it. My boys really wanted lemonade all the time, but I was fine with water.

I brought along my 64-ounce water bottle (seriously, best purchase EVER), and I would fill it up in the morning with ice at the buffet, along with water. Free and kept me hydrated!

Most cruises have some kind of soda package you can buy which gives you unlimited soda (there is usually something for alcohol too). This may be tempting to buy, but it’s really not a great idea if you are hoping not to gain weight!

I don’t normally drink much other than water, so avoiding the specialty drinks wasn’t a big deal. But if you do like these types of drinks, try and limit yourself to 1-2 a day. Drink water the rest of the time!

Appetizer Sized Main Dishes

You can order appetizer sized main dishes. The main dishes we ordered were really large, and I rarely was able to finish it. If you are wanting to limit your portion sizes, this might be a good option for you! You could also just get a couple of appetizers instead of a main dish.

Use the Track

Our cruise had a track on the top level of the cruise. You could download some audiobooks before you get on the cruise (I highly recommend using Scribd – you can get a 60-day free trial here) – or queue up your favorite songs and walk around the track.

If you are on a more tropical cruise, you may want to wait until later in the afternoon/evening to avoid the hot air! But it can be really nice up there.

Spa Menu

I didn’t actually ask about this on our cruise, but apparently many cruises have a “spa menu” available by request. This is a menu that typically has lower calorie meals that are better on the waistline.

Even if they don’t have a spa menu, there should be at least one or two options available that aren’t high in calories. Every night on our cruise, they had a salmon and chicken breast entree available that didn’t seem to be packed with a ton of calories. Just be careful with your sides – those can add a lot of calories as well!

They also have vegetarian entrees, but be aware – this doesn’t always mean they are low calorie! Here is one that I ordered that was delicious, and I didn’t feel like it was high in calories.

Avoid Stretchy Pants

I love stretchy pants just as much as the next person, but they aren’t typically the best option when you are around lots and lots of food. It can make it easy to not think you are eating a lot when you actually are!

Find Active Activities

Cruises have far more than just BINGO and comedy shows – there’s a lot of active things you can do as well. These may vary depending on the cruise, but if you want to be active, there is definitely a way to do it.

We personally loved the free mini golf on top of the cruise ship!

Be Careful Around the Dessert Table

There are A LOT of desserts on cruises. At lunch and dinner in the buffet room, there are always many delicious and decadent desserts. You don’t need to take one of everything!

Select one (or two, if they aren’t large) things that you enjoy

Don’t Order Everything

When you are in the dining room, it can be tempting to order everything – three appetizers? Sure, why not! Three side dishes for your main dish? No one’s stopping you.

You don’t have to order everything – nor should you. A few times I felt like I had to order an appetizer, but I really didn’t, and when I did once, it made me not enjoy my main dish as much (which was delicious).

Just order what you think sounds good and practice some intuitive eating – stop before you are stuffed!

Enjoy Yourself

I know some people may read this and think it’s ridiculous to worry about gaining weight while on a cruise – which I can understand! I wish it was something that I didn’t have to worry about…but unfortunately, I know how my body works, and any unwanted weight I gain is extremely difficult to lose. So for me, gaining weight on the cruise was not something I wanted to happen.

However, it’s still possible to enjoy yourself. Believe me, I ate delicious food – including dessert nearly every night. I didn’t make myself starve while my family enjoyed foods. When it comes down to it, it really is a matter of finding balance. If you want to eat dessert, perhaps opt for a healthier dinner (and start with a salad!). There really are yummy and delicious healthy options on the cruise!

For instance, I had an egg white omelet for breakfast at least one morning that was filled with lots of veggies. However, I added in some bacon as well.

You don’t have to starve yourself or spend hours in the gym to make sure you don’t gain weight on a cruise – you really just have to make sure you are being careful and mindful about what you are doing! Good luck!

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