The Aranui Diet

Posted on 07 May 2009

How did I lose 10 pounds on a luxury cruise??  Okay, maybe calling it “luxury” is a bit of a stretch–“adventure” is perhaps more apt.  On the cruise ship Aranui, from which I returned about a month ago, there are regular hikes planned for the time spent on land.  Not to mention, getting around the Marquesas–our final destination–is impossible without going up and down mountains (the islands feature steep, volcanic cliffs and deep, cavernous valleys).  But still, most days we were stuck for at least part of the day on a fairly small boat, as cruises go (large enough for about 300 people plus freight), and spending much of our time wandering around schmoozing.  I certainly didn’t get any normal exercise, and I seemed to be eating endlessly–both on the boat and on land. 

We had three meals a day on the boat, two of which were multi-course affairs.  For both lunch and dinner, we sat placidly on (what I envisioned to be) our growing behinds, being served first with baskets of fresh bread, then with salad (usually slathered in mayonnaise–remember, this was in a French territory); a main course always including meat of some kind (beef, lamb, duck, pork, fish, you name it!  As long as it wasn’t what we’d had the previous three nights); and finally, dessert–totally delectable, irresistible and richly infused with cream, butter and sugar–like only the French know how. 

Our time on land wasn’t much better.  Village visits often included lunch in some local, family-run restaurant.  A giant spread of food, involving multiple tables, included a broad spectrum of delicious Polynesian platters: raw fish and shrimp in coconut sauce with lime; breadfruit fries and deep fried fish; Chinese-style barbeque pork; huge mounds of rice and plates of French bread; sashimi with mustard sauce and raw fish salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and oil; goat prepared traditionally with garlic and coconut milk; slippery squares of banana pudding made with tapioca flour; and on and on, depending on the local specialties. 

If possible, I was even more spoiled when I spent time with my Marquesan host family, in the village of Vaitahu–every activity, regardless of time or location, involved some form of eating.  Whether we were visiting friends, going for walks, chilling on the beach or hanging out at the house, there was always fresh fruit to be found, raw fish to be hunted down and eaten, or delectable finger snacks to be had.

Given all this unfettered, fat-filled indulgence, combined with an almost complete lack of exercise, I was absolutely blown away when I stepped back on the scale at home and saw that somehow, magically, TEN whole pounds had disappeared!  Or at least, that’s roughly what I think I lost (I normally don’t keep too close an eye on my weight, but nor does it tend to fluctuate much).  How is this possible?  True, I was spending a lot of time on my feet in the islands (though not necessarily going anywhere); but how does this compare to my daily routine of bike rides and salads, back home??  It just doesn’t make sense…and therefore appears totally magical–too good to be true.  I love it!  So American.  Maybe it’s time to start marketing the Aranui Diet? 

A fairly typical Marquesan spread...mmmm!

A fairly typical Marquesan spread...mmmm!

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