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Sure-Fire Ways to Lose Weight on a Cruise. We Swear

Jo Piazza
Managing Editor
August 5, 2014

Your cruise shouldn’t be an all-you-can-eat free-for-all. (Photo: Thinkstock)

It’s commonly accepted that if you go on a cruise on vacation, you will gain weight. In fact, most of the advice readers gave me before I set sail for my first cruise last week was food-related:

“Stop eating now!” “Buy larger pants for when you get home.” “Get ready to pig out!!!!” They weren’t kidding.

A poll conducted by the Daily Mail found that cruisers typically gain a pound a day during a two-week cruise vacation.

Liviu Boiana, the fitness director in Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Summit Canyon Ranch fitness center, says that a lot of his passengers think they can leave their fitness and health routines back at home along with their puffy down jackets.

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“When people are cruising, they often think they can forget about all this because it is a holiday. They shouldn’t,” said Boiana, who does a half marathon and a triathlon when he goes on his own vacations.

How much cake would you eat if you were at home? You wouldn’t try all of these cakes, would you? (Photo: Jo Piazza)

With limitless food options in the buffet, why wouldn’t you have nine slices of cake in a day or a gallon of ice cream? The better question is, why would you? A cruise vacation doesn’t mean that all diet bets are off, and you shouldn’t hate yourself or your body when you get home from a lovely holiday.

There’s one surefire way to make sure you don’t overindulge on a cruise — bring a scale. That was the advice that Jenn Seracuse, trainer and the director of Pilates at FLEX Studios NYC, gave me before I left. 

“When on a cruise, your ability to move and be active is seriously limited, so keeping your eating in check is crucial. That’s easier said than done, of course! Packing a lightweight scale is a great way to check in with yourself each day and promote accountability,” Syracuse said. “Even if you don’t ‘weigh in’ each day, just knowing that the scale is waiting for you back in your room can help you make better nutritional choices throughout the day.” 

You don’t have to gain weight on a cruise. In fact, you might even be able to lose some.

Related: Ever Wanted to See Cuba? You Can With These Cruises

I packed my scale and followed some of the tips from Boiana, Syracuse, and nutritionists Lauren Slayton and Kristin Kirkpatrick, and I swear to you, I lost two pounds on my four days of cruising.

1. Pig out at breakfast. Stock up on the pancakes, waffles, and delicious carbs at breakfast to give yourself energy for the day. “Have breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a poor guy,” Boiana said. Most people skip breakfast and then, to compensate, they eat a lot the rest of the day, and that is the main reason they get fat.

2. Drink a ton of water. You may be on the water, but it sure isn’t easy to get water all the time on a cruise. In fact, most bottles of water you see around are for sale, and they’re expensive. ($5 Evian, anyone?) Bring your own refillable bottle and fill it up every time you go to the buffet. Keeping yourself hydrated makes you less hungry and less likely to overindulge, and it keeps flushing toxins out of your body.

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3. Sleep eight hours a night. Sleep more than eight hours if you need to catch up. Seriously, rest. You are on vacation, and you deserve it. Resting will help your body be able to reach its optimal performance during the day.

4. Keep to your routine. Your vacation shouldn’t be a free-for-all. If you usually run in the morning, run in the morning. If you like long walks, walk around the cruise ship. There’s plenty to see along the way.

5. Move! Make sure you do at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Most cruises offer fitness classes. I took CrossFit, Pilates, and Zumba classes on my cruise. Take advantage of the jogging track on the upper deck. It’s a great place to watch the sunset. Partake of a crew-versus-guests volleyball game. Dance like nobody’s watching in the nightclub. But, seriously, just move. The Cruise Critic site does a great job ranking the fitness offerings on different cruises. Check it out before you go.

6.  Set goals. “Wear a pedometer and make 10,000 steps a competition between your friends and family,” Kirkpatrick said. “Whoever meets the mark daily gets either bragging rights or cash from the other family members.”

Related: Want to Take the Family on a Cruise? Here’s How to Save a Few Bucks

7. Pick one splurge meal. You don’t need to go gangbusters at the buffet every time. It isn’t going anywhere. “My favorite cruise rule — the one-plate rule,” Slayton, the founder of Foodtrainers, explained.”You wouldn’t ask for second helpings at a restaurant. Savor your one plate.”

Sea bass with tomato sauce, fruit salad, and a fresh tuna sashimi salad — all from the buffet at the Oceanview Café on Celebrity Cruises. (Photo: Jo Piazza)

8. Load up on fruits and veggies at every meal, and just say no to bread. There is bread everywhere on a cruise. Nineteen people will ask you if you want bread during any given day. Don’t say yes just to be polite. 

9. Go to the gym in the off hours. The cardio machines are never crowded when everyone is at the pool or in port, according to Boiana.

10. Take the stairs. There are typically 10 floors on a cruise. If you took the stairs instead of the elevator every time you wanted to go to the pool, your backside would look incredible.

11.  Bring your own healthy snacks.  ”It’s the mid-afternoon snack attack that attracts us to high-calorie treats like ice cream or potato chips,” Kirkpatrick said. “Instead, bring nonperishable items that can keep your hunger under control, like healthy trail mix, hummus packs, and low-sugar energy bars.”

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