By Ruth Heidrich, Ph.D.

It’s hard to imagine going on a seven-day cruise and ending it weighing less and being healthier and smarter than when you started! Well, for about 150 CHIP (Coronary Health Improvement Program) Cruisers, that was the outcome.

On February 15, 2004, the only non-smoking cruise ship, Carnival’s Paradise, pulled out of the Port of Miami and headed for Nassau, Bahamas; Dominican Republic, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. While at sea, the “captive audience” was “treated” to lectures by Howard Lyman, “The Mad Cowboy”; Dr. T. Colin Campbell, “The China Diet Study”; Dr. Ruth Heidrich, “The Ironlady”; Dr. Hans Diehl, CHIP leader; Don Alsbro, “Changing Habits”; Heike Englert, Physical Therapist, and Larry Ulery, “Vitamin H – Humor.”

Each of the speakers covered an area of Wellness and made for a fascinating and challenging program – challenging for a few of those who were dragged kicking and screaming because hearing about, and eating good vegan food, was the last thing they wanted to do! Others heard for the first time ever that dairy products, milk specifically, did not build strong bones but that running does! Dr. Campbell told how casein (a milk protein) worked like an on/off switch for cancer, and that eating animal products causes heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Howard Lyman told how commercial cattle production ruins our health, contaminates the environment, and that if anyone thinks there is only a single case of Mad Cow Disease in this country, they must be smoking California’s #1 crop! Hans Diehl told how a diet including animal foods, with little or no exercise, and smoking makes up the major portion of disease and medical costs in this country.

IronLady2Dr. Ruth told how the change to a low-fat vegan diet reversed her breast cancer and enabled her to complete the Ironman Triathlon a number of times and increase her bone density in the process. Don Alsbro talked about how to gain the motivation to change habits and the four different stages of change. Heike Englert showed us how massage relaxes muscles, stretching keeps joint mobile, and how to exercise on the road with elastic bands. Larry Ulery, the “Good Humor Man,” told us that having humor in our lives was essential to mental health, helps relationships, and deals with stress. There were also several accomplished musicians, including Lily Diehl, who provided a concert treat for our aesthetic senses.

The “stars” of the show, however, were the seven vegan chefs who prepared seven day’s worth of vegan food, mouth-watering in visual appeal and titillating to the taste buds. No one would ever believe that you could eat all you want of this sumptuous buffet, have so much energy that you just couldn’t keep yourself from exercising, and still lose weight!

Oh, yes, we also climbed up to Fort Charlotte, the highest point of Nassau to see where pirates roamed, ran through the busy streets of La Romana, the port town of the Dominican Republic, and hiked up some very steep hills that surround St. Thomas and took in stunning, tropical views.

SnappyBack in Miami, a few of us super-lucky ones did an air-boat tour of the Everglades where your lucky reporter got to hold Snappy, a three-year-old alligator!

I can’t imagine a better cruise, can you?

Ruth E. Heidrich, Ph.D.