The Term: The Cruise Effect.
Definition: Gaining weight on a cruise ship is really easy. Losing that weight is not so easy.
I would like to tell you about a two-month study that I just completed. The first month happened before I took a 5-day cruise from Charleston, S.C. to the Bahamas and back.
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The second month happened after I returned from that short trip. I did not try to do anything differently (like exercise more) after the trip than before, so the results of this experiment allowed me to accurately quantify what I call the “Cruise Effect”.
I have experienced the “Cruise Effect” a few times before since we have taken six cruises over the past seven years, but I never quantified the “Cruise Effect”. I can best describe the “Cruise Effect” as the weight gain and related sluggishness you feel after leaving the ship. The weight gain seems to linger for a few weeks after you leave the ship and return home. It is similar to that weight gain you get over Christmas and New Years that prompts you to get into the gym on or about January 1 of each year.
With the prior cruises under my belt (ha ha, big double-entendre joke!), I decided that this year I would not let any weight gain happen during our short 5-day jaunt. Since I am now a plant-powered dude (see @richroll on Twitter if you want to know more), I just knew that it would be easy to keep the pounds off while enjoying all the fruits and vegetables offered on the ship. No problem, I assured myself. I’ll walk with my baby Jett in the backpack and keep my body-weight under control.
I did walk a couple extra miles per day while I was on the cruise, as shown below. During our day in Nassau on July 8, I peaked out at over 10 miles of walking with Jett in the backpack. That was over 21,300 steps taken for the day, which also included swimming, shopping, and other activities. In the two days after that, I walked about 6 miles then 5 miles more, all of this with Jett on my back. After the third day, I felt some definite fatigue, so I knew I was working hard.
I was more active, based on the minutes of “very active” as recorded on my fitbit. This proves that I wasn’t just laying around the room all day.
So what the blankety-blank happened? I simply ate too much on that cruise! My energy equation was out of balance as I took in more energy than I expended. I did exercise more while on the ship, but it is not possible to resist eating the wide variety of calorie-rich deserts and main courses offered throughout the ship. You feel compelled to eat these offerings because you paid for them and they are very temping. We even had to help our daughter Sarah eat some of her 20th birthday cake while on the ship! That was a desert after a desert! Ouch.
There were fruit-crème soup appetizers, luscious cakes, pies, and crème deserts, a plethora of breads with smooth creamy butter just staring at you, begging you to take a taste. I told myself that I was going to have just one bite of buttered bread, just to get a taste. Four pieces later, the remorse had already set-in. I reassured myself that I’d work off the excess. I did try to walk more on the ship and while on shore to burn the excess calories. I was confident that I’d be able to control my weight! However, the Cruise Effect took over and defeated me.
I now have the data to quantify the “Cruise Effect”. My analysis show that the “Cruise Effect” is a weight gain of 1 pound per day, irregardless of the extra energy output you expend. Additionally, it takes about four weeks to get rid of the excess weight once you return home. Here is my analysis and proof via Tableau.
The first week back from the cruise is the worst. My “very active” minutes (previous graph) dropped from 38 per day during the cruise to a low of 8 per day during that first week of recovery after the cruise. When you return home, your body is tired and you feel sluggish. It happens every time I take a cruise.
Overall, it took me another three weeks to strip the seven pounds I gained and to return to my pre-cruise weight. Now I’m determined to continue to drive my body weight lower by increasing the period of time each day that I am very active. Here is a link to a Tableau Public workbook that contains this data.