While cruises are relaxing, entertaining and an exciting, hassle-free way to see the world, some passengers suffer an unwanted side effect. They pile on the pounds.

It’s all very innocent, not really gluttony. Folks just want to sample everything being served, and they’re on vacation, so who can say no to a few desserts?

But weight gain on a cruise is not inevitable, according to one motivational diet guru, Dr. Deena Solomon of Santa Monica, Calif. Solomon is a cognitive behavioral psychotherapist and author of Immaculate Consumption: The Path to Lifelong Weight Management.

3 steps for weight control on a cruise

Says Dr. Solomon, “People attempt to engage in motivation and willpower in order to control overeating during cruises or vacations. Another problem: vacation eating involves lots of sugary, salty and oily foods-all three ingredients stimulate powerful cravings. I believe that cruisers can do a few simple things to help fight cravings, control frequency of high-calorie days and implement new behaviors that help them control weight over the long term.”

Here are three steps Dr. Solomon recommends for fitting into your skinny jeans at the end of a cruise.

Manage your high-calorie days

Manage the frequency and magnitude of high-calorie days. When having a high-calorie day, cut back and be calorically conservative the following day. Or start asking for all dressing or sauces on the side. You get to eat unusual and flavorful foods while being able to count the tablespoons of high-calorie items, and that should give you a greater feeling of self-control.

Also, pre-plan your meals whenever possible. As you know, cruises have the dinner menu available by lunchtime. This makes pre-planning meals effortless. Once in the dining room, you’re subjected to irresistible sensory stimuli. But if you can pre-plan your meal, it enables more effective decision-making about what you’ll consume. There’s far greater objectivity with decisions if you plan ahead before actually sitting down to eat.

Patti’s tip: Many cruise lines offer low-calorie options on the menus, so perhaps you might want to alternate between spa dinners and the whole enchilada.

Manage your cravings

Dr. Deena Solomon

Dr. Deena Solomon: “Food cravings can’t be reasoned with.”

Recognize overeating as a   normal part of one’s vacation and take the anxiety about eating and guilt out of the equation. Food cravings can’t be reasoned with. You eat sugar and crave it — that’s what I happen to love about buffets — but as we all know, it can be a problem for those of us who are calorically challenged. The key for a successful cruise is feeling confident that you won’t have any sense of deprivation. I usually eat in the dining room, but my buffet experience is saved for the last day of the cruise. This accomplishes two things: A) Feelings of deprivation are managed since knowing I have a buffet meal ahead, just not just every day during the cruise. B) Deferring buffet eating provides an ultimate sense of control. A successful management of a craving response provides an internal reinforcement schedule that becomes more seductive than the immediate gratification of food.

Steer clear of all-you-can-eat buffets, or put it off until the last day.

Juan manuel Garcia / Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Steer clear of all-you-can-eat buffets, or put it off until the last day.

Order meals with low salt & oils

Learning weight management strategies during vacations can provide eating patterns that can be used for the rest of the year. The greatest draw of cruising is that the staff wants to please you and meet your needs, but whenever you eat, you should consistently order meals with little or no salt or oil as a way to lower calories in a way that is almost unnoticeable.

By making this into a consistent habit or pattern that you learn before or during the cruise, you can incorporate this into a long-term behavior. There is a higher success rate among those striving to control weight over the long term when people implement small units of change into their diets than drastic ones.

Implementing small changes that are almost unnoticeable helps you meet your dietary needs, but also increases the probability of long-term compliance to new behaviors.

Patti’s tip: Ask waiters to leave the butter and salt off the table and even the bread if you can resist.

Can’t argue with an 84% success rate

Solomon teaches self-awareness, self-management and discipline via scientifically documenting what you eat before you eat. This scientifically based weight loss program is based on decades of research and her own personal experience, and it forms the foundation of her own 70-pound weight loss, which she has successfully maintained since 1980, and the equally impressive results she has achieved with hundreds of patients. With an 84 percent success rate, compared with the approximately 5 percent success rate of most diets, Dr. Solomon’s method is focused on real-life techniques for lifelong weight management.

If you want a bon voyage gift for someone taking a cruise, a good choice would be a copy of Dr. Solomon’s book at Amazon.

Dr. Deena Solomon
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