Smart.Sexy.Paleo takes on the Love Boat (and why she won’t be doing it again)

by Jude on May 18, 2012

in Head and Heart Stuff, Paleo Diet, Smart.Sexy.Paleo

**WARNING. salty language ahead. Maybe I will address that some day.
**minor edits to remove the errors that were annoying me the most.

SO! Low Carb Cruise 2012.

I planned my attendance at this event from the first available moment during May 2011. My first international trip and my first “paleo” event. When I first booked in, Robb Wolf and Gary Taubes were scheduled to speak and for their own very good reasons, they needed to cancel.

Whilst my biggest drawcards were no longer there, I was looking forward to the cruise anyway. The other planned speakers looked good, and I knew I would meet some excellent people and translate some twitter friendships into real world friendships. Good enough for me.

As it turned out, this holiday came along exactly when I needed it, so regardless – I was keen as mustard to get on a ship and escape reality for a week.

I’m going to split this post into two parts, to go along with my split personality.

The Cruise for Jude – newly single girl

For the newly single girl, this cruise was fantastic. I flounced, strutted, flirted, squealed, danced and drank my little heart out (well, I drank for the first 3 days. After that I couldn’t go near another drop!). I was open to all possibilities and happily that really paid off for me. I stopped taking myself so seriously and just went with it. I really needed to do that.

Not much more needs to be said on that.

The Cruise for Jude – @smartsexypaleo

Thing is, newly single girls aren’t really concerned with their health, like they should be. For @smartsexypaleo, this cruise was dreadful.

There, I said it.

Anyone who has been here for any length of time knows a few things about me.

  1. I firmly believe that the focus on lifestyle factors and food quality, rather than just the old calories in/calories out model (which includes the whole total carb load thing too) is one the greatest things about this Ancestral Health gig.
  2. I love a Whole30 and fully credit that framework and guidance from the Whole9 team for curing my diet crazy (and fuck knows I was a crazy, nuerotic mess when I started this).
  3. I have a wicked inner sugar whore, and I go to great lengths to keep that bitch out of polite society.
  4. I take this shit really seriously, because I have never felt better in my life.

So for someone like me, this cruise was not ideal. Here’s the thing though. The cruise was full of people like me. I can sense a fellow (faux) sugar and carb addict a mile off. I know what it is like to rely heavily on diet products, bars, splenda etc as part of a restrictive diet – I mean, it’s legal right? No calories, low carb, why not enjoy it all the time?

Also, for the most part, the food quality was pretty ordinary. I could taste the weird oils that had been used in cooking, nothing tasted quite right. I got increasingly more lethargic and unwell as the cruise progressed. Exactly how I used to feel before I focused on food quality. I had digestive issues, mood swings and cravings. Very unsexy.

For someone who goes to effort to prepare good quality, nutrient dense meals – giving up complete control of that aspect of your life for 7 days is hard. Especially when the kitchen is cooking for 4000 people – all they care about is that it is cost effective, tasty and visually appealing. A bit like the foods we paleo types avoid, huh? (Side note: dinners were usually an exception – I had some pretty good meals at dinner. But don’t even talk to me about breakfast and lunch.)

I also believe that holding a conference for people who clearly have issues with food on a cruise ship where their drug of choice is freely available 24 hours a day is bordering on reckless. I know. Harsh, huh? I know that I succumbed a few times to foods I would never normally go near. It was right fucking there ALL the time and when you’re already feeling crappy, feeling slightly more crap is no big deal. You better believe that I was not the only one either. Yeah it was a “vacation”, but when you have issues with food, you are playing russian roulette with cheats.

There were lots of low-carb options available for the group – but you already know how I feel about Sex With Your Pants On. I’m sure that many of the group were absolutely ok with that, but I know that for some, diet icecream was no substitute for the real thing, which you could get 24 hours a day. Trust me.

There is no judgement here. I am one of them. And I know that every person on that cruise was interested in improving their health – more bloody power to them, I say. But you wouldn’t hold an AA meeting in a bar and serve Claytons and expect everyone to stay on the wagon, would you?

I don’t see why this should be any different.

There were many positives about the cruise. Please don’t think for a second that it was a bad experience overall. I believe that the organising committee have nothing but the best intentions and are doing a great job of getting the message out. They organised some great speakers, put together a solid program and kept everything running smoothly. I hope that the cruise continues to grow in popularity and get more people off of the refined carbs and sugars.

But for me – it is not something I would be in a hurry to repeat. I need to do a lot of work now to repair the damage done over 7 days and I hate the idea of going backward.

For next year, I think an honest discussion about the importance food quality and the truth about artificial sweetners would be beneficial, but that is just my bias. I also think it is a risky move to have speakers with “products” to sell or other commercial agendas. This does not include books, though. The more information out there, the better. But inviting people with an obvious commercial agenda just turns this into another arm of the “diet industry” and that makes me angry.

As a plain paleo person, as opposed to a paleo personality, I can say whatever I want here – because I have no reputation to manage and no influence. That allows me to be totally honest.

A year ago, this cruise would have been perfectly suited to my level of knowledge and personal experience. I wouldn’t have noticed any issues with the food quality and would have learnt an absolute butt-load from the conference. But for where I am now, I think AHS is a better investment of my (significant) travel time and resources.

Would I recommend the Low Carb Cruise to others? Yes, but #contextmatters.

If you know you have issues with certain foods – just be aware that they will likely be freely available in vast quantities. That could be tough, even if you are repulsed by it all intellectually.

If you want an easy (and family-friendly) holiday with a bit of nutrition talk chucked in and lots of like minded souls – this is absolutely the event for you. You will have a blast.

So – there ya have it. No @smartsexypaleo on the cruise next year. No great loss, I am sure :)


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann Wendel May 18, 2012 at 6:57 am

One thing I really love about you is your absolute honesty – both with yourself and others. Don’t ever change that! I’m glad you are back home where you can heal again!


Jude May 18, 2012 at 8:24 am

Oh you are such a darling. Thanks so much. I’m SO glad we were able to hang out – looking forward to another big hug at AHS.



Lara May 18, 2012 at 7:07 am

That was an honest piece. I’m a non-personality and could give a rat’s ass either way, as in who is – who ain’t (look at how some of “them” are falling face first), but there would never ever be a chance in hell I would 1. Go on a cruise and 2. Go on one with a group of foodies who like you say, don’t eat the way the cruise carnival eats. And you came from Europe to attend!? Oy. That’s an expensive price to pay for . . . THAT!


Lara May 18, 2012 at 7:30 am

Whoops. You’re not European. But I ‘hear’ you have an accent.


Jude May 18, 2012 at 8:24 am

It’s cool! At least you didn’t say I was a New Zealander :)

A cruise wouldn’t usually be my first choice of a holiday – but it certainly was an attractive option for my first international event.

All that happened is that I progressed past the intended target audience without really noticing. I don’t want to shit all over it, many people loved the cruise – but for people with food issues (addiction like issues) it is a dangerous environment. I know I wasn’t the only one who struggled with that.

Glad you stopped in, thanks!


Amelia May 18, 2012 at 7:48 am

Thank you so much for this honest appraisal. I really wanted to go on the cruise this year. It just sounded like so much fun! However, I appreciate you talking about how difficult the food situation actually was. When I’m out, I let food quality concerns go a little bit. I stay gluten free and mostly low carb (I don’t worry so much about whether meat is grass fed or what kind of oil is used). This framework makes eating out doable for me, personally. That being said, I don’t eat out very often (apart from my Elevation Burger obsession, which is the exception to the rule – the food quality is great especially since I stick to the burgers). But a cruise is 7 days with little control. I do think that would freak me out and possibly leave me not feeling so hot. Great food for thought – I can’t make it to AHS this year, but will keep it on the radar in the future as being the better choice. Thanks again!


Jude May 18, 2012 at 8:21 am

Amelia! Thanks for your comment – but please don’t be discouraged or put off by it. Like I said, earlier on in my paleo transition, I would not have noticed a thing wrong. But I have done 5 whole30s and my tastebuds have totally recalibrated. I have aggressively worked on food quality and as a result, I can tell the difference (especially over 7 consecutive days! – I’m no food nazi on a day to day basis).

Coming from Australia, I spent 36 hours travelling each way. For that much time, I have to be totally committed to the purpose. I simply couldn’t justify that for another cruise – given my particular food issues etc.

Keep thinking about it – and let me know if you want to chat further. I have a particular bias and focus that not everyone shares. It’s only fair that you know that :)


The Lazy Caveman May 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Thanks for the honest review of your experience, Jude. I was regretting not having gone on the cruise, but I see now it would have been a land mine for me.


Jude May 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Thanks Badier!

I think the most important thing is knowing your triggers. I know some people had absolutely no problem with it and managed quite well – but for me, it was a real problem. I know I wasn’t alone in that either.

Perhaps next year will be different – and there will be a way to better manage dietary requirements. All a process, I guess!


Becky May 20, 2012 at 12:37 am

Hi, Jude. I was on the cruise as well. (You did a stellar Gloria Gainor, by the way!) I certainly understand what you mean about the food, as it would not have been too many years ago that I would have been all about the food. Thankfully, the past two years have brought me more discrimination in food quality and more discernment in motives of the heart, so this time it was all about the friendships to me. Anyway, I was able to make good food choices, especially when I found out we could ask for real eggs at breakfast and also take breakfast and lunch in the dining room, too, as well as dinner. I actually came home smaller and lighter than when I boarded. (All the walking might have helped, too.) I must admit to more alcohol than usual, though I skipped the sugary drinks. The cruise ship certainly could be a non-stop eating binge, though, since it seems designed to provide limitless quantities of every indulgence of the flesh one might crave. It is a bit like having an AA meeting in a nightclub, isn’t it?


Jude May 20, 2012 at 2:33 am

Becky! Hello :) am so glad you stopped in. I am even happier to hear that you had a great time on the cruise.

Interestingly, I have also come back smaller, which I wasn’t expecting – by no means did I blow out, but since I felt physically lousy, I assumed that meant I had gained weight. It used to! But, no. I will take that as a good result. I will be happier once I clear up my skin and digestion again :) 7 days can undo a bit of condition it seems.

Yes, the breakfast in the southern lights was better than the lido, but even that was questionable for everything but the eggs. That blasted oil! And so difficult to get any vegetables! I missed lunch at the restaurant, sadly. Shame, because I tended to pretty well at dinner.

I am sad about the venue, the more I think about it… but everyone else who has publicly posted on the matter seems to be ok with it. Although, I suspect they are people who don’t have the same issues with food that most of the guests obviously did.

PS, where you at the final show?


Barbi May 21, 2012 at 9:16 am

So sad you won’t be back Jude, we loved meeting you and hanging out the little bit we did. Hope you walked away with more good than bad and we wish you all the best!
Cody and Barbi


Jude May 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Don’t for a second think I didn’t have a good time – but the cruise certainly wasn’t great on a few health related levels. BUT it was so so so fantastic to hang out with you both… I loved that I was able to run in to you guys so easily.

Glad you stopped in, now I have your email address! ;)


Jimmy Moore May 28, 2012 at 10:08 am

Jude, I’m so glad you DID come in 2012 and I’m sorry the food offerings were off putting for you. Trust me, in an ideal world I’d LOVE for the chefs to cook everything perfectly low-carb Paleo for us and that’s the dream when we get big enough to command something like that. Beyond the food, though, is the fellowship and friendships developed during this experience. If I never see you again then I’ll treasure our moments together during that one week in May 2012. THANK YOU for being you and I’m honored to call you my friend.


Jude May 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Oh Jimmy, you are such a class act.

I think for where I am on my little process, the food was problematic – but the benefits of knowing that about myself and being able to articulate what the issues were for me are positives that far outweigh any food issues. 12 months ago I could not have done that, and I credit the quality of information from podcasts/blogs such as yours (as well as my patented navel-gazing skills) for getting me to that point.

I have come so much further with my own understanding about nutrition (especially my beloved low carb paleo) than I gave myself credit for. That is a real win for me.

The friends and fellowship were fantastic and you & the cruise committee did a wonderful job of putting it all together.

Thrilled to have met you, and I am a huge fan of yours. I will definitely be seeing you at future paleo events. For’ sho’

Thanks for stopping in!


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