We Started A Low Carb Diet Before Our Vacation
The winter hibernation in Toronto added yet more pounds to our slowly increasing weight. It was time to take drastic measures. We started a low carb diet 10 days before we headed south on our Windstar Caribbean cruise. Our southern vacation included 6 days in Miami and then a 12 day cruise. When we returned home, we were happy to find that we had lost weight on a cruise vacation.
Typically when we weigh ourselves after we have returned from a vacation, we have gained weight. Food has often been exceptional when we cruised before. It was great to find that our vigilance during this vacation helped to drop some pounds off. But I will not say that it was easy.
We considered several diet options. But for both of us, carbs were not our friend. I sometimes thought that I gained weight just looking at pastries and bread.
Neither of us are big dessert eaters in general. That of course is true is you believe that chocolate is not really a dessert but a health food! Luckily we like our chocolate the darker the better, so at least it is more healthy for us. As long as the chocolate doesn’t come bundled with other not so healthy treats. The big killer for me is bread. The smell of fresh baked bread or toast just ready to pop gets every craving going. So some carbs were very hard to give up.
We used the Atkins diet as a base. They have a great online site and tracker that let us keep a food and exercise journal. I am a great believer that you can only manage what you measure. We then looked at the very popular keto diet which was an even stricter regiment than Atkins. That was our target. For most days, that meant that most of our carbs would come from a limited supply of low glycemic vegetables and maybe the occasional berries and nuts. The goal was to keep our bodies in a state of ketosis so that our body burned our fat.
In the 10 days before we headed south, we lost about 6 pounds. It was enough of a start to provide good motivation to keep the diet up. We definitely wanted to be able to report that we had lost weight on a cruise.
Protein Was King
Through our vacation, we sought out a good supply of protein at every meal. Breakfast was always the easier meal to manage. Breakfast buffets provided lots of options – eggs, cheese and bacon. Since fats are good on a low carb diet, we could eat bacon every day! Not a bad thing.
Lunch often meant tearing apart a perfectly good sandwich or burger to extract the meat. When we could, we ordered “without the bun”. In Miami, we found a great spot (the BurBowl) where we could order grilled chicken or a burger in a lettuce wrap. Toro Toro at the Intercontinental Miami served a great burger with no bun and topped with avocado. This was perfect. If only sandwiches were available, we ordered the ones piled high with meat or tuna and then discarded the bread. I was always happier if I just didn’t have to see the bread.
Dinner should have been easy. But it is amazing how many meals come with some kind of sauce, glazing or otherwise added carbs. If we could order with no sauce (or sauce on the side to not offend the chef), then we did. If there was no way to remove the carbs, we looked for something else on the menu. Many times we left a lot on the plate that we could not eat. Even when we asked to have specific carbs removed, the plate was delivered intact.
On several cruise nights, Windstar had great BBQ buffets. We always found a good mix of beef, chicken and seafood.
Keeping our protein levels up was an essential requirement to ensure we lost weight on a cruise.
Lower Carb Fruits And Vegetables
If you have ever done a low carb diet, you know which fruits and vegetables have a low glycemic index. We generally eat mostly low glycemic fruits and veggies so we thought we would be ok to eat as much as we wanted. But even low glycemic is not zero carbs. So we measured and counted our fruits and veggies to keep our carb count low. Half a cup of celery, broccoli, cauliflower or green beans were good. Both sweet peppers and onions had to be kept as garnish. We even bought travel sized measuring cups and spoons to manage portion sizes.
Fruit was a more slippery slope. We stuck to berries as our fruit treat. No more than a half a cup. But it was amazing that after we were off sugar for a few weeks, a few berries tasted so sweet. We didn’t need much for a treat. Luckily we were generally able to find fresh berries.
Keeping to the good carb fruits and vegetables certainly ensured we lost weight on a cruise.
Snacks and Treats
The list of allowable snacks and treats was pretty low. Atkins has a great line of bars and snacks that we made sure to stock up on. They got us through very long tour days.
Cheese and nuts were always an easy way to add protein and fat through the day. There was a small carb hit but the benefit outweighed the cost. But 10 almonds was a serving! It was easy to pack a small bag of nuts for a mid-day snack.
Careful regular snacking was essential to lose weight on a cruise.
Lots Of Fluids
It was necessary to drink lots of fluids on this diet. We needed to flush out the toxins and fat we burned. We drank water continuously (more than 10 cups per day). Clear tea was a replacement for water. Diet sodas were ok. But after a few weeks, they just tasted too sweet.
Coffee was definitely allowed. But we needed to drink it black or with heavy cream. It was strange to find out that lower fat milk had much more carbs. Every now and then, I had a cappuccino as my treat. These carbs had to be balanced off over the day.
Alcoholic drinks were something we had very sparingly. Most alcohol with no mix except soda water was about the same carbs as most wines. But if you had any form of alcohol, your body did burn the alcohol before it would go back to burning fat. When we wanted a drink, we generally kept to a few ounces of wine sipped very slowly.
We missed having a glass of wine with dinner more than most other things we gave up. But it was a sacrifice we made to make sure we lost weight on a cruise.
The Sacrifices We Made
The big foods we needed to avoid so that we lost weight on a cruise centred around breads and desserts. Breads were totally out. We tried a few no sugar desserts but most of these still had lots of carbs. And even when there were no carbs, the artificial sweetener made the desserts far too sweet for our taste. We passed by all the other sweet treats.
If we really wanted a treat, we indulged in one square of 90% cacao chocolate. We were already eating this high cacao count chocolate before the diet. We just needed to mind our portions. One square was our treat. But if you are a milk chocolate fan, it may take getting used to the 90% cacao. It is much more bitter. But after a few weeks with no sugar, it still definitely felt like a treat.
It was easier than we thought it would be to give up sugar treats. Occasionally as we wandered in port towns, we would get tempted with ice cream or gelato. But restraint meant we lost weight on a cruise!
And We Kept Moving On Our Vacation
We moved a lot around the ship. We always walked up and down the stairs. It was one of the things that was easier with the smaller Windstar cruise ship. We kept saying we would go to the gym and make the morning stretch class. But we never quite made it.
Many of our excursions were active adventures. Our zipline adventure in St Kitts burned adrenaline. And we also walked a lot through the rainforest. In St Lucia we snorkelled in Rodney Bay. And in Grenada we did a two tank scuba dive. The catamaran adventure in Martinique included yet more snorkelling. On these days I am sure we burned far more calories than we ate.
Most days we passed our fitness band step count targets. Without much effort, we logged several thousand steps and 10 flights of stairs just getting around the ship. And many days we went into the port and at a minimum did a short port walk. In Terre-De-Haute (an island of Guadaloupe), we did a long hike up and down the hills from one side to the other side of the island to go to the beach.
Keeping active was certainly a way to make sure we lost weight on a cruise.
Yes We Lost Weight On A Cruise
We generally did very well at sticking to our very strict diet on our stay in Miami and then on the cruise ship. We probably ate far too little vegetables. But we didn’t touch the bread or the sugary desserts. Over the course of 17 days, we didn’t even finish one bottle of wine.
So we were quite optimistic when we returned home and faced the scales. On our keto diet adventure, we lost weight on a cruise. We both lost about 5 pounds and were delighted! But our diet was not over. We still had much to lose before we left for our spring trip to Eastern Europe. And that trip would be very challenging to keep to our diet!
Would you believe that we lost weight on a cruise? Any other tips for avoiding weight gain on holiday?
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You will have a much harder time in Eastern Europe with low carb unfortunately 🙁 but congrats! It’s so hard when you are traveling and you are supposed to be tasting to food for blogging! For me it’s also the alcohol! Good for you both!
Amber, I definitely missed having an occasional glass of wine. But we have found that our taste buds are much sharper since we started the diet. We opt for very delicious foods and can have a small portion and feel sated. And dark chocolate is definitely on the diet list! Your pictures of the food of Eastern Europe have been great. And I do agree that it will be hard to go low carb. Maybe we just have to walk even more! I won’t want to give up local treats when we are travelling in regions like that. Linda
I have very less knowledge of keto diet, but I honestly want to take it up. It looks like you fully enjoyed your time on a cruise.
Stephanie, We did have a very relaxing vacation. We found a very low low carb diet pretty easy to follow. Probably not truly keto but close. We will not be so lucky every time we travel. Linda
Great job!! That diet would be too hard for me- I love milk chocolate. I need to up my exercise and cut portions down though. Each year it gets more challenging.
We did use the steps often on our cruise too, better than waiting for the elevators;) Every day we walked at least 5 miles, there is always so much to see on cruises that it keeps you active.
Way to go, I’ll be cheering you on for your next goal!
Cathy, The diet is generally not hard to follow when travelling to most places. We do occasionally treat ourselves but have to then go hard over no carbs to get back on track. As you said, each year it gets harder. But travelling keeps me far more active than when we are at home. Another great reason to be hitting the road. Linda
You’ve inspired me. Around 15 years ago my husband and I went hard on Atkins and lots heaps of weight. Once we got going it was pretty easy, especially when we started to see results. Sadly we got back onto the slippery ride of weight increase due to reckless carb loading and the enjoyment of good wine.
These past 3 years of full time travel haven’t helped me keep my weight from slowly creeping up, I love eating!
So, after reading your story I am back on Atkins (similar to Keto?) and haven’t had carbs for 3 days. I can feel a difference already – no bloating.
Thank you for writing this, it’s a gem.
Sue, I totally understand what you mean about travel weight gain. It was finally time for us to deal with it. We have just returned from 5 days in Washington. We kept to the diet and again lost weight. We even handled the occasiaonal slip since it was my birthday week. I will wish you luck with going back on Atkins. In many places we travel, it is actually quite easy to travel. Worried a bit about our coming Eastern Europe trip. Linda
Wow that’s so great! Never heard of someone losing weight while on a cruise haha. That must have taken a lot of self control. We always gain weight from the endless buffets haha. Love your tip about indulging in cacao chocolate if needed because it’s important to not make everything off limits. Looks like your cruise had lots of amazing food!
Steph and Zach, There was certainly lots of good food on our vacation. In the end, it was about making trade offs. We tried not to waste our carbs on things that were not really tasty. Dark chocolate was something we switched to years ago. Linda
I guess if we can let go all the sugar, we would be ok. I lose weight if I do not eat late at night. I am sure it would have been tough to control yourself on the cruise but I guess the gains at the end would have made you feel – worth it.
Anuradha, I have found that it gets harder each year to manage our weight. This diet was about trying to get things a little under control. The nice thing about being on the cruise was the variety of food that was available. It was definitely worth it. Linda
I reckon your trip to Eastern Europe might be harder than the cruise – they do so love their heavy bread products! At least you’ll always be able to get a hearty meat stew! Great tip to have a wee square of 90% cacao chocolate – that’s how I get by too. I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, but when I want something sweet I either have some of that or some sugar free ice-cream! Well done losing so much!
Hannah, We are a bit more concerned about Eastern Europe. But we are not going to let the diet control our whole trip. It is really just about balance. When we get to Switzerland we can survive on cheese 🙂 We discovered dark chocolate as a snack a few years ago. It is a bit like really good food. Sometimes a small taste is enough. I will save a cheat meal for when you hit Toronto. Linda
That is certainly admirable. Losing weight by making conscious choices like these is a great approach to adopt. Finally healthy eating is all about staying sensible.
Punita, It was easy to stay to our keto diet once we got started. Eating healthy did have other benefits than just weight loss! Linda
I have to admit, as a fitness freak in the UK, I feel for you Canadians who love to keep fit but have to deal with winters like those. Can I know the thinking, dam, we gotta diet and get fit again as we do tend to eat a lot when staying indoors and not doing much. But to lose weight on a cruise, all credit to you. That does take some doing! I be totally the opposite I think if I was on the cruise, I be in the pool all the time and hitting the gym but shovelling the food in as well. lol
Danik, The winter here in Toronto has been brutal this year. I did indeed feel like a hibernating bear at times. This cruise was a bit easier to handle the food than others we have been on. Lots of choice for food but no excessive temptations. Plus, we did remember that sometimes you just need to balance off a treat occasionally. Linda
I just started this and I was worried since I will be on the road but now your story inspired me. Maybe I just need to be more choosy! Also I packed MCT powder with me so that should help.
Karla, I am glad my post inspired you to try the low carb route again. It is probably one of the easier regimes to follow on the road. Taking protein powder with you is a great way to keep your protein up. Linda
From one cruiser to another I know how much self control and patience this must’ve taken! I usually gain a pound when I cruise because they have all the options for every single meal and never say no to sweets and carbs. But I am so happy for you Linda!! Miss you guys
Nicki, I usually gain weight on cruises too so this was a good test. I will occasionally splurge like I did when we met with you in Washington for Afternoon Tea. Down 15 pounds in totally and really hoping our coming trip to Central Europe does not undo all of that. Was so great to meet you in Washington. We will do it again soon! Linda
WOW! I can’t even imagine staying low carb on vacation let alone a cruise. Although, I love bacon and could eat a plate full every morning easy 🙂
Sherianne, It was easy to find lots of protein. I love that we can eat all the bacon we want. Although the lesson we did learn was that calories do matter too. So not “all you can eat”. Linda
I never lose weight on a holiday so this is pretty amazing to see! As a huge foodie, I’m not sure I could go on a restrictve diet during my holidays, but I can see how following low carb is not such a hardship. One thing I do think helps as you say is to be really active – especially on city breaks I do find that I get lots of steps in!
Samantha, We are not probably foodies in the true sense but we really do like to try new foods. Hard when the new foods are all carbs. We are going to have to find some balance when we arrive in Central Europe this week. There are many local foods I am not going to pass on. Good thing this coming vacation is not a cruise and we will be doing a ton of walking. I will put lots of steps on my fitness band! Linda
I always find it hard to follow any kind of diet because I am such a foodie and i find it painful to think about what I am eating, I want to just eat! But low-carb diet is something I’ve been thinking of following as well. I think I agree with you carbs aren’t my friends either and I also think I just gain weight my looking at pastries haha. Good job at losing (instead of gaining weight) on the cruise 🙂
Medha, I have probably tried almost every diet at some point or the other. In the end, this low carb regimen seems to work best for me. Carbs really are not by friend and I can feel the difference as soon as I take them out. Weight loss is not the only benefit for me. Linda
While most of the emphasis in Atkins is on the diet, nutritional supplements and exercise are considered equally important elements. The Atkins Diet represents a radical departure from prevailing theories. Atkins claimed there are two main unrecognized factors about Western eating habits, arguing firstly that the main cause of obesity is eating refined carbohydrates, particularly sugar, flour, and high-fructose corn syrups; and secondly, that saturated fat is overrated as a nutritional problem, and that only trans fats from sources such as hydrogenated oils need to be avoided.
Lesa, I generally feel much healthier when I am able to follow the Atkins guidelines. Not always possible when we travel so much. But we do try. Linda
There is a keto cruise travel agt that sets up Keto groups on specific cruises. Dining is not restricted to Keto, but u travel w other Keto diners so easier to stay keto and they have speakers and seminars. google ketocruise to find it!
Penny, Thanks for sharing this info. I will check it out. Linda