Need to transform your life? Read how I transformed mine in the most serene of places — at sea.
“Dad, you’re getting fat,” my 14-year-old son Alex said to me last April. This, from a boy who had never said an unkind word to anyone, at least to my knowledge. His proclamation, however, wasn’t meant to be mean. He was telling me to get healthy, lose weight, “because I want you to live for a long time.”
And so I promised Alex that by his 15th birthday (in December), I would deliver to him a new me. Accountability to my son (and daughter) is a strong motivator.
Although December is a couple of months away, I’ve already made good on my promise. Here’s how I dropped more than 20 pounds in six months.
Transformation At Sea
Six months ago, I boarded Silver Spirit in Dubai with my son’s words on my mind. I could barely button the 42-inch waist slacks, and my large belt was at the end of its loop. For someone who had played basketball in my teens and cycled across America in my 20s, I was a mess. Even if I could carry the weight fairly well at 6’5″, the numbers on the scale appalled me: 260 pounds, a physical manifestation of a life spiraling out of control.
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But when I stepped on Silver Spirit, I decided there would never be a better opportunity to transform myself. For starters, time at sea would give me something that few of us have in our busy lives back home: time to take care of myself.
Second, I knew that if I chose to do so, I could live a healthy lifestyle and even lose weight on a cruise. That’s antithetical to what often happens on cruises, where people, the old me included, gain weight. A cruise doesn’t have to be a gluttonous indulgence that packs on pounds. It can be, and I believe it should be, a chance to relax, restore and recharge.
Third, the ship provides me with something my kitchen doesn’t: a wide variety of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods and the healthy components of good nutrition. Yes, I can get those things at home, but I have to make a run to the grocery store — and prepare the meals.
Plus, the ship has a fitness center, where I can exercise for 30 minutes each day — or walk or jog on the upper decks. Exercising alone won’t take off the weight, but once you’ve made it a habit, working out will make you feel great.
When I stepped on Silver Shadow last Friday, I had not seen the scales since first stepping on board Silver Spirit six months ago. What I saw when I put my two feet on the scales shocked me. I knew I had lost weight. My pants were loose around the waist. I added three notches, in the preferred direction, to my belt. I bought new slacks, waist size 40, and even they were a bit loose.
What began as a transformation during days at sea on Silver Spirit took me from 260 pounds to 238 pounds when I stepped on Silver Shadow. I had to step off and on the scale three times to make sure I was seeing the numbers correctly. I couldn’t believe it.
And here’s the thing: I don’t feel that I am sacrificing any of the enjoyment of food or dining or life. One of my rules early on was not to regiment a boringly rigid lifestyle. No food or drink is off-limits. I can consume anything I like, but unlike in the past, I’ve learned moderation, discipline and something else: respect for myself.
During the first two weeks on Silver Spirit, I worked hard to jump start my new life. Nearly everything that passed my lips came from Silversea’s Wellness Menu. I still had wine with dinner, but only one glass. And I exercised an hour instead of 30 minutes. I still order more often than not from the Wellness Menu, because the food is so darn good — and healthy. And I allow myself two glasses of wine (always hoping for a generous pour, of course!). I exercise 30 minutes a day in some fashion, whether walking, riding a bike or at the gym.
- Use time at sea to transform your life. Yes, you are on vacation, but if you’re reading this, you also need a change. Use the cruise to begin a healthy lifestyle. You have all the components you need to begin the transformation: healthy food, fitness centers, time to relax and recharge. If not now, when?
- Exercise. Just do something, whether it’s walking around the decks or hitting the gym. At first, exercise may be hard for you, so go easy on yourself and realize that this is a long-term commitment. Slowly work up to the point where you feel good after each workout. And trust me, you will feel good, eventually great, after your workouts.
- Always take the stairs. Yes, it is much easier to do so on Silver Shadow than, say, on the towering Allure of the Seas, where you can climb a dozen or more decks. Typically, on Silver Shadow, I need to go no more than four decks up or down. Certainly, most of us can manage four decks. There are only two times when I will use the elevator on a cruise: embarking with luggage and disembarking with luggage. Otherwise, it’s the stairs, a small sacrifice that will make a big difference.
- Put the kibosh on bread. I began saying no to bread (other than the occasional whole grain bread) six months ago. For the first few weeks, I had to fight hard to resist bread. Today, I can’t stand the thought of it. I know it’s a bit odd, but I associate bread with the excess weight that was around my hips (and still is, just less of it).
- Moderate. Eat whatever you like, but in small portions. Though I don’t eat bread, I will eat pizza (hypocrisy, I know), but just smaller portions than I used to.
- Make smart choices. Go for healthy nuts instead of the chips, fruit instead of processed desserts, water instead of soft drinks.
- Drink. Lots of water — and always have your two glasses of wine.
I’m not a physician, a nutritionist or a sports therapist. I’m just a guy telling you what worked for me in the hope that it might work for you.
Last time I returned home, my son and I pedaled on mountain bikes up the rugged hills of Western North Carolina. It felt good to be in the physical condition to enjoy this activity with my son. For him, it was a rite of passage. He had pedaled the gauntlet, an hour of heavy breathing up to what is known as Five Points. For me, it was a promise made good. I don’t recall ever feeling so good.