05/29/2012 11:48 am ET Updated Jul 29, 2012

How to Enjoy a Cruise Vacation Without Going Overboard

On the first night of a recent cruise, we met a nice couple at dinner with a cruise mindset pretty typical of the sort of thing we heard all over the ship: "We already know we'll gain 10 pounds." With their cruise mindset, I'll bet they did!

On the other hand, my husband and I continued to use our mindful eating mindset throughout the cruise and felt great when we got home.

Overcoming the Cruise Mindset

So how do you enjoy a cruise (or any vacation) without going overboard? You don't need to deprive yourself, but you do need to change your thinking from the cruise mindset (CM) to a mindful eating mindset (MEM). To show you the difference, I'll use examples from each of the decision points in the Mindful Eating Cycle. (Download chapter one of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for more details.)

Of course, even if you aren't going on a cruise, this mindful eating mindset applies to any situation where there's an abundance of food -- in other words, every day of your life!

Why Do I Eat?

CM: I'm on vacation, so I'm going to eat as much as I want.
MEM: I'm on vacation, so I'm going to eat as much as I want, but not more than I need.

CM: I dieted before I came and I'll go back on my diet when I get home to lose what I gain. I better enjoy it while I can.
MEM: I eat what I love and love what I eat every day.

When Do I Eat?

CM: Food is everywhere all the time, so I can eat constantly.
MEM: Food is everywhere all the time, so I can wait to eat until I'm actually hungry.

What Do I Eat?

CM: The buffets are amazing! I'm going to try everything.
MEM: The buffets are amazing! I can choose what I love and skip the rest.

CM: The food is so good!
MEM: Some of the food is so good. When it isn't, I don't bother with more than a bite.

CM: I don't want to miss out on anything.
MEM: The food just keeps showing up, so there's no need to worry about missing a thing.

CM: I'm not going to worry about what I eat this week.
MEM: I eat to meet my needs for nourishment and enjoyment no matter where I am.

How Much Do I Eat?

CM: I have to get my money's worth.
MEM: I get my money's worth when I eat exactly what I need. More than that is a waste of food and makes me feel uncomfortable.

CM: I'm on vacation, so I'm going to splurge.
MEM: I'm on vacation, so I going to enjoy some new foods and activities.

CM: I'm going to eat until I'm unconscious.
MEM: I'm going to eat until I feel content, and then I'm going to relax with a good book.

Where Do I Invest My Energy?

CM: I'll eat until I'm stuffed tonight, but I'll hit the gym to make up for it tomorrow.
MEM: I'll eat until I'm comfortable tonight. I can't wait for the guided hike on shore tomorrow!

CM: Why exercise? I'm on vacation!
MEM: Why exercise? I'm on vacation! I can swim, walk on the beach, dance, kayak, or rock climb.

CM: I know I'll gain 10 pounds.
MEM: I know I'll enjoy an abundance of wonderful food and return home feeling great!

By changing your cruise mindset to a mindful eating mindset, you'll enjoy your cruise -- or any vacation -- without taking it home with you.

For more by Michelle May, M.D., click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.