It's been more than four years since I started changing my life. I have lost well over 100 pounds and, for the most part, kept it off. The scale goes up and down sometimes, but all of the clothes in my closet still fit. How's that for consistency? I've been wearing the same pair of size 8 jeans for more than two years, and I'm committed to be part of that elusive "5% group"--people who not only lose the weight but keep it off long-term! But, I'm not perfect. In fact I'm far from it. I believe that one of the most important factors that separate success stories from false starters is the ability to reject the "all or none" attitude, which has the potential to end a healthy lifestyle. Still, rejecting that "all or none" attitude remains my greatest challenge. I’m still working on it, and I just had the opportunity to practice my skills. My story is an example of what it looks like to reject the all or none attitude and to get back on track.
My family and I recently went on a seven-day cruise. I love to cruise. My first was in 2009, and we have done one every year since. So, that makes a total of three cruises where I have had the opportunity to practice what I preach when it comes to healthy living.
As we all know, cruises are notorious for having plentiful and delicious (but not always healthy) food. We also know the reputation that cruises have for overeating and weight gain. Every year I have committed to not becoming a cruise statistic.
Confession: This year, I did just what I promised myself I wouldn't do. I gained more than 10 pounds during my most recent cruise. Ten pounds! How can that be? I'm going to explain to you how and why it happened, but first I wanted to tell you a little about my previous two cruises and the lessons that I learned from them.
Cruise #1 (2009): I booked our first cruise--a short but sweet 3-day getaway--well in advance, then spent months dreaming about beaches and drinks with umbrellas. I planned to live it up, maybe gain a pound or two. But, a sudden opportunity to be featured in People magazine popped up and my photo shoot (in a bikini!) was four days after my cruise! Of course, I now had to change my plans. I couldn't do all of the overindulging that I had planned, and I had to be mindful of everything that I ate. My plan was that I was going to eat sensibly for breakfast and lunch and splurge a little for dinner. But, the minute I stepped onto the ship and heard the Caribbean music playing and saw little old ladies sipping colorful drinks with umbrellas I said "Forget it!" I boarded the ship at 150 pounds and disembarked at 156 pounds. I gained 6 pounds right before a bikini photo shoot! (Did I really gain 6 pounds? We will get back to that in a moment.)
Cruise #2 (2010): This cruise was a longer--five days instead of three, which meant more time to remember the lessons I learned from the first one. I recited my plan in my head for days before we set sail. I was determined to indulge gain a maximum of 2 pounds on this cruise, my second. I had an opportunity to succeed where I had failed the year prior. My plan was to:
Cruise #3 (2011): This was a 7 day cruise. I had difficulty on a three-day cruise and a five day cruise, and now I was attempting a seven-day cruise? But, I had two cruises under my belt and I felt that I was ready to improve upon my last two performances. This cruise was a little trickier than the previous two. We booked it last minute and I had very little time to prepare. I came in at a cool 153 for the cruise. Here was my chance to get it right and beat the statistics. I came off the ship at 167 pounds. 14 pounds! Wow! (Did I really gain 14 pounds?)
So how did I gain all that weight? Easy. My meals and snacks consisted of hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, milkshakes, butter-infused steaks, potatoes with cheesy, creamy sauce, pizza, and boatloads of chocolate chip cookies. Let's not forget the fruity drinks with the umbrellas (the ones that kids can't have!).
Those mega portions of high-fat food are a far cry from my usual meals of high-fiber cereal, healthy frozen meals, and our family favorite, Salsa Chicken.
I'm sharing my cruise experiences with you to show you that perfection is not required for weight loss or maintenance.
Now it's time to assess the damage.
Even though I didn't want to I hopped on the scale as soon as I got home. I was shocked. How in the world did I gain 14 pounds? I'm not quite sure what I was thinking. I've been living this lifestyle for more than four years. I live with an ever-present element of restraint. But when I get into certain situations (like easy, unlimited access to any and all foods), I throw caution to the wind, telling myself that I can get it off later on.
Back to the weight gain.
Did I actually gain those 14 pounds? I sure did! But, I think the question you should really be asking is: Did I really gain 14 pounds of fat? The answer is NO. In order for me to gain 14 pounds of fat on that cruise I would have needed to eat about 49,000 over my daily caloric needs (or 7,000 extra calories per day). Did I do that? No. The weight on the scale was the literal weight of the food and waste in my body and the fluid that I retained to process the tremendous amount of calories I consumed. Fourteen pounds is difficult for the average person to gain in 7 days. In my case, I believe that I have to capacity to gain more weight in the form of water than most because I have a significant amount of excess skin that the water can hang out in.
I'm writing this at six days post cruise and I am down to 160 pounds. Did I gain seven pounds of fat? Maybe. But it doesn't really matter because I am back to my routine and I'm in my regular environment. The rest of the weight will come off when it comes off--whether it's excess water or fat. I'm not going to succumb to the “all or none” attitude here at home. Getting back on track is also much easier if you have a support system (thank you, Nick, my wonderful husband!). If you take home any lessons from my confession and hope that you took away these:
1. Sudden weight gain after falling off the horse is not all fat gain.
2. Always get back on plan. Even if you feel like you have failed.
As you can see, I’m far from perfect. I accept this and I use the pivotal concept of balance to work on correcting my bad choices. Even though I work daily on understanding the impact of my choices on my health, I will invariably make bad choices. We all will. Attempting to achieve balance is what helps me regain my equilibrium when my choices send me off track. Although I am working toward the idea of having balance in every moment of my life, the reality is that being balanced for every second, minute, hour, and certainly on a week vacation is not routinely achieved. I always try to remember that balance over time is what matters!
Do I hope to go on another cruise next year? Yes. Do I have any grand plans to prevent weight gain? Not really. It has been three years in a row that I have come through cruise weight gain and I'm not back at my starting weight.
I don't weigh 292 pounds. I did learn more lessons from this cruise that I will attempt to use next year, but if all else fails, I know I can get back up if I fall.
Vacations can lead to you getting partially or even completely off plan. You may even relapse into pre SparkPeople behaviors for weeks after your vacation has ended. Will this cause you to gain all the weight back? Only if you let yourself give in to the negative thoughts that are the breeding grounds for excuses to give up. As SparkPeople members I hope that you know by now that "all or none" behavior is dangerous for maintaining your new lifestyle. If you fall, dust off your knees and get right back up. Vacations are meant to be enjoyed and remembered. Forgive yourself for any slip-ups and get back to your routine. Your path to better health awaits!
Do you go off track on vacation? How do you get back on track?
Do you fall prey to the "all or none" attitude? How do you fight it?
Dr. Birdie Varnedore, M.D., is happy to offer her expertise to the SparkPeople community; however, she cannot offer specific medical advice to dailySpark readers. Please do not share confidential medical information here. If you have a personal question or a concern about your health, please contact your health-care provider.
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