Last week was our First Annual Fit and Flourishing Caribbean Cruise. We had two great speakers join Ben and myself- Pam Davis, the Obesity Action Coalition Chairman, and Sandi Henderson who runs LapBanded Living and also works with me as a member of the board of the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America.
(Sandi, Pam, and Me!)
Our group was by no means a large group, but what a great group it was. We spanned the country from east coast to west coast and north to south and all brought something different to the discussions. I loved hearing people talk about things they were going to do on this trip that would have only been a dream in past years when their weight held them back.
(Part of our group having a great talk about goals and dreams)
It was also nice to see everyone going to the gym and sharing ideas for living a healthy and fit and flourishing lifestyle. I cannot count how many times I ran into someone from our group who was on the way to or from the gym, with me in the gym, headed to swim laps, or on the way to the walking track. It was not just the ones who are my Online Personal Training clients who were hitting the gym, but EVERYONE!
(Sandi and I getting our workouts on!)
Now that I think back on the week, I do not remember one single time I ran into someone who said they were headed to eat in the buffet.
My emotions on this trip were so very mixed. On the one hand, I was so proud of our group. People in the group were doing things they never could have done when they were morbidly obese. Onshore activities included swimming, snorkeling scuba diving, horseback riding, hiking, climbing pyramids, salsa dancing, and so many more.
(My beautiful family on one of the elegant nights)
Several people commented to me during the trip about how on past cruises, they would never have gone to the gym, or swam laps in the pool, or done any of the physical activities that we all did. To me, those are the things that really make lasting memories. Being on vacation and being able to do things you could not do before gives you such an incredible feeling. I had a few cruisers explain to me how when they would cruise before they lost weight, the main thing they cared about was the food, and when the next meal was and what the next meal was going to be. Since I had never cruised before my weight loss, I could not relate to this, except to put it in terms of my Disney trips. I know the name and menu for practically every restaurant in EPCOT and used to dream of the delicious things I would be eating for each trip.
For me, cruising has always been something I have enjoyed post-weight loss. I will never ever forget seeing the gorgeous and colorful fish along the reef in Roatan as I snorkeled with my kids and husband last week. Being able to navigate the shallow waters of the reef and get through the passages without getting stuck or being afraid of getting stuck felt so liberating and amazing. This is one activity I enjoy every year and have done for the last four years, but never would have tried when I was 325 pounds.
The food is just not the focus when I cruise. I love walking all over the ports and discovering the cities we stop in and taking in everything I can. I think Ben and the kids and I likely walked 5-8 miles in Cozumel and went farther into the city than we had in years past. We discovered great places to snorkel, have lunch and shop and we met some great locals.
(My daughter Abby and I after snorkeling all day in Roatan!)
All of these things, and the fellowship with my friends, both old and new, made this an amazing vacation! Now for the sad part…….
Just like going to Disney can do, cruising makes me realize just how serious the obesity epidemic is in this country. As I looked around the ship of over 4000 people each day, I saw at least 2000 that were obese. Not overweight, not chubby, but obese. Now do not get me wrong- I never once looked at any of these people in a spirit of judgement, as I used to be one of them. My sadness came from wanting to just shout to them at the top of my lungs- “YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY!”
As we boarded the vessel and headed up the gangway, which circles and climbs at a very easy and slight incline, it saddened my heart to see how many people had trouble just getting onto the vessel. I saw one person in a scooter who had a huge cast, but the rest were morbidly obese and many had oxygen tanks. It broke my heart. All I could think about was how everything on a ship is a pretty good distance away from where you sleep and so there is no way to avoid a good deal of walking, unless you are in a scooter.
In fact, one of the things we told our group at the first meeting the day we got on board, was that if you needed to go to something that was just one or two decks above or below, do not even bother waiting for the elevator, especially at peak times, just take the stairs! Two flights is nothing! We all did it and it was a great little extra bit of exercise to offset the bites of desert here and there. It felt good to move and not have to wait or be limited by our physical issues as many of us had been in our prior lives.
We usually do not like to eat at the buffets. It is just not our style. We prefer a nice sit down meal in the nice dining room and enjoy the atmosphere and experience. This trip, we were staying at the very front of the ship, and so to get to anything on the Lido deck, we had to walk through the buffet area. Let me start by showing you a picture of a “plate” used in the lido buffet on the Conquest.
This is not a plate. This is a SERVING PLATTER! Ben used them each morning to go and get us two cups of coffee each and carry them back to our cabin. In addition to the FOUR MUGS OF COFFEE, he could also fit a banana for me and a pastry for him on this “plate” with ease. Look at the amount of food on this platter. I found this photo online. I cannot tell you how many people we saw with these platters just piled high with food and food and more food. And some people had two to three of these platters just filled with food.
I could not help but feel this sadness and wonder if these people knew or would ever know the joy of doing the things like swimming, snorkeling, hiking, climbing pyramids, etc. I also think part of what made me sad was the knowledge that had I gone on a cruise five years ago, that would likely have been me, sitting there thinking this unlimited supply of food was the best thing ever and literally eating myself to death. I used to do it in Disney World.
It truly struck me that for so many of these cruisers, this trip was all about endless food. And the food literally is endless. There is 24 hour room service, 24 hour pizza and ice cream, and much more to choose from. I think many people feel that if they do not eat enough and often enough they are not getting the value they think they need from the trip.
We have become this society of more more more and bigger bigger biggest and we are literally eating ourselves into disability. Want a shock? Goggle the percentage of people on disability who’s only disability is obesity. It is staggering to say the least. Food has become sport. When we center our lives around food, food becomes the center of our lives and that is dangerous.
What happened to living with balance? This is something we do not understand in this country. We became friends with a beautiful young woman from South Africa named Adri on this trip. She works for Carnival. She was telling me that the first thing 90% of the people ask as they board the ship is “where is the food?” Rarely is she asked about how to find the gym or the pool or the library or the theater but always about the food. Now when she is working on ships out of Europe, this is not the case.
She told me a great story about coming to the United States and going into a fast food restaurant. She ordered a large soda. She was thirsty. The only problem was she was given a bucket, in her mind. Adri explained how in Europe, a small soda is about 4oz and here it is 8oz, a medium is about 8oz and here it is 16oz and a large soda back home or in Europe is about 12oz and here it was 32oz! She was so amazed.
BIG AND MUCH are what we have come to expect in this country. I personally feel that I got a huge value for my money on this trip and never once finished an entree in the beautiful dining room, but had lovely conversation with family and friends and got to taste some delicious foods. To me the value is in the experiences and the memories we made.
Healthy options are everywhere if you look for them. There are heart healthy choices every night at dinner and one thing I really enjoyed was an Indian vegetarian entree that had lentils, chickpeas, and curry vegetables. DELICIOUS! There is also a new dining option called The Blue Iguana Cantina that offered fish, chicken, and pork tacos and also burritos. They also offered a salsa bar. It was so easy to load up a tortilla with a protein and lots of veggies and then toss the tortilla and have a wonderful taco salad. They also made breakfast burritos and for those who can eat tortillas, there was a choice of flour or whole wheat.
I never felt like I was in a situation without good options. Carnival is great about this!
There is so very much to do on a cruise besides eat! The gym has classes going all day long. There is a walking track. There are three pools. There is a basketball court. There is a mini golf course. There are dance classes and dance bands in different areas all day and night. There is shuffleboard and ping pong. There are trivia contests and game shows live on a huge stage. There is a beautiful ice sculpture carving competition and many more tours of the ship and classes, including cooking classes. The things to do are endless!
For all of those passengers who were having trouble moving around, I swear to you I wish I could personally help every single one of them. I know it is not possible, and so I come home feeling even more passionate about my goals and purposes and even more determined to keep spreading the message of freeing ourselves of the bonds of obesity and being able to live happy and healthy and fit and flourishing lives.
Does this mean we all need to be perfect and eat perfectly and look like swimsuit models? OF COURSE NOT! I do not and never will. The idea is to try for optimal health and an active lifestyle and good choices 90% of the time. If we could all do this as a society, think of how much we could reduce the obesity rates and the rates of obesity-related disease and medical expenses!
Thank you to everyone who cruised with us and made the week so special for myself and my family. It was a week we will never ever forget. It was also a week that solidified in my mind the knowledge that as a country, we are literally eating ourselves to death and I will fight as hard as I can to combat this trend through my radio show and our Fit and Flourishing online programs and our conferences. Ben and I will fight one person at a time, one conference at a time, and one COOK, EAT, LIVE Smart class at a time!
There is so much more to enjoy in life once food is no longer the center!