Is a Cruise Vacation Without Weight Gain Possible?

One poll showed passengers gain 13 pounds on a two-week cruise.

ByABC News
November 27, 2012, 6:42 AM

Nov. 28, 2012— -- Editor's note: This is the final installment of a three-part series on weight loss on a cruise vacation. ABC News producer Tom Giusto shares the challenges of maintaining a recent weight loss while surrounded by food all day long.

RIO DE JANEIRO, ABOARD THE REGENT SEVEN SEAS MARINER: There's an old joke in the cruise industry, people come aboard as passengers but they leave as cargo. When you look at how much food people stack on their plates at the buffets it's easy to realize there's some truth in that joke.

In fact, one poll showed passengers can gain 13 pounds on a two-week cruise.

It's time for me to leave this luxury cruise after 17 days sailing from Monte Carlo to Rio, surrounded by the most enticing food anyone could want, available constantly all day and all included in the cruise fare, along with beer, wine and liquor.

READ: Part I: Fighting the Bulge on the Blue Sea

READ: Part II: The Cruise 13: How to Avoid Packing on the Pounds

I had lost 30 pounds before the cruise and I was determined not to gain any of it back. I still have more to lose but since I have always gained weight on cruises it would be enough to just keep the weight off.

Now I have to face the final weigh-in. Unfortunately, the captain's gala farewell dinner with its caviar, lobster and Beef Wellington was last.

My best advice to cruisers to avoid piling on pounds is five simple words, "stay away from the buffet." If you're disciplined you can eat at the buffet, but if you overeat, the buffet is the worst place to be. The temptation toward large portions is too great. In the dining room you can have much better control over what you eat. The portions are usually small because passengers order several courses. You can order healthier options like fish and chicken. There are even good choices for dessert; fruit, berries, no sugar added ice creams.

My ship, the Regent Seven Seas Mariner, usually has two buffets at lunchtime, the standard indoor buffet with a daily variety of meats and fish, and a themed outdoor poolside buffet that could be Mexican, Italian, Asian, Moroccan or anything the chef decides. They're dangerous for someone like me. In 17 days on the cruise I ate at them only twice, when shore excursions got back to the ship after the main dining room had closed. Now it's time to see if the avoidance had paid off.

In the end, it just comes down to the willpower to make healthier choices. It doesn't mean denying yourself anything, it just requires going with the healthy choices most of the time and the poor choices much more infrequently. In the 34 lunches and dinners on my cruise, I had beef four times and pork twice, each serving no more than 4-5 ounces. All other meals were chicken or fish.

There was an abundant variety of healthy fish; lobster, crab, salmon, halibut, cod, tuna, perch, haddock and Dover sole. There was also a "Canyon Ranch Spa Menu" which featured dishes less than 500 calories. The healthier food has been tasty, with decent-sized portions.

So what did I pass up? I have not eaten one hamburger or one French fry and I have not ordered one ice cream cone. I have also not had any beer, wine or liquor. I'd rather save the calories for the food.

I do eat bread and desserts but I limit them, especially desserts, I'll try to pick lower-calorie options or have fruit or berries. If I really want a particular chocolate dessert I'll order it and eat half, something I would never do before.