But what if you could board a ship, enjoy a vacation, and come back in even better shape than before? It might sound like a crazy concept, but several healthy lifestyle companies have taken on the challenge and are now offering spa-, fitness-, and nutrition-themed cruises.
I was skeptical but intrigued, so when I got invited to participate in the Weight Watchers Rejuvenation Vacation at Sea, I eagerly hopped aboard. I admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would being on a diet-themed cruise kill the vacation vibe? Would I feel too restricted? Would the cruise somehow feel like work? Here’s how it went.
The cruise sailed from Miami around the Caribbean; ports of call were Jamaica, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and the Bahamas, plus there were two at-sea days. Throughout the cruise—and especially on the at-sea days—there were optional meetings, lectures, fitness classes, and cooking classes. These were all designed to get people to think beyond the scale and to really focus on a healthy lifestyle. (Stay up-to-date on breaking health news, with these 10 updates from Prevention Premium.)
I decided to attend the cooking classes, because I hate to cook and thought they might inspire me. I learned how to make some simple food swaps and adjustments, which seemed useful. Instead of deep-frying coconut shrimp, we baked the shrimp but used panko instead of regular breadcrumbs to cut calories while maintaining the crispy flavor. (Here are 9 more cooking secrets that seriously up the health-factor in your food.)
While I enjoyed the cooking classes, what I really loved was having the opportunity to explore some new fitness options. I’m an exercise junkie, and I hit the gym an hour a day at home. But I’ve always been of the mindset that if you don’t sweat a ton, it’s not worth it. Yet with several days free to try new things, I found myself signing up for tai chi.
It turns out I adore tai chi—not for the physical workout, but for the mental one. I started out a bit stressed (I showed up a few minutes late and the place was packed, so it was hard to find a spot), and yet by the end I felt really good, super chill and relaxed. The “pushing away of the negative energy” and “bringing forward the positive” was definitely a bit woo-woo, but once I let go and really focused on the movement, it was kind of wonderful. I probably didn’t burn many calories, but I left feeling healthier and lighter. (If you like tai chi, you’ll love this low-impact workout that’s a proven inflammation fighter.)
Being on the cruise also gave me the opportunity to tackle weight loss from a social perspective. Studies show that losing weight with a friend or partner increases the chances of keeping it off, but I’ve always gone down that path alone and wasn’t sure how I’d feel about making it a group thing. The cruise included several focus meetings, so I figured I might as well check them out. They definitely felt like group therapy, but that wasn’t a bad thing. I was also surprised about how much we discussed that didn’t have to do directly with weight: One mom said her family wasn’t connecting anymore, because there was too much screen time at home; others were dealing with sick relatives and demanding jobs. Most of the topics were pretty relatable, and I walked away feeling like part of a supportive community. And after talking about difficult situations, my desire to eat my emotions via a cookie didn’t seem as strong.