The Cayman-15 is a real thing. Weight gain is a simple formula; you are eating, on average, more calories than you burn. It is estimated that one pound of body fat equates to approximately 3,500 calories. Quick math indicates you need to consume at least 3500 extra calories per week to gain one incremental pound. I’m still trying to come to grips with our ability to gain 5 pounds in a week! Hello vacation drinking, I see you.

Our bodies are built to gain weight; it is as natural an occurrence as breathing. Research shows that adults gain a pound or two on average yearly. So how do we maintain our body weight if that’s the case, you might ask? Well, I’m working on finding out. For now, I have resigned myself to accepting the things I cannot change. And the rest, well, I’ll do my best. I am never one to follow the latest diet trends as most of these traditional diets fail in the long run for various reasons. Either the prescribed food is not tasty or appealing, the portions are not satisfying, or the program is so rigid that it is not sustainable.

Beach workout - weight gain

The Dreaded Weight Gain

Outside of illness, I’ve always been able to maintain a consistent weight. That was until I relocated to the beautiful Caribbean Island of Grand Cayman just in time to catch the tail end of the mango season. And, more importantly, to dive into a rich Caribbean diet of fresh ground provisions, rice and peas, and mango season. Oh, I mentioned that already. Let me explain, I lived in Bermuda before relocating to The Cayman Islands, and there is no mango or freshly baked chicken patties to snack or binge on there.

Having all this at my disposal, I was in food heaven! Heaven also looks like what is called the Cayman 15. This is where newly relocated persons to the island mysteriously gain 15lbs within their first six months of arrival.

I like my food and I cannot lie!

Time for a change

Here is the catch, no one tells you about this Cayman 15 until it has been established firmly on your hips. Then your co-worker will casually say something like, oh, I see you are enjoying our island and our food. But truth be told, you already knew what was up when all your clothes started protesting months ago! Or you found yourself out shopping for looser clothes to help ‘beat the heat.’

What’s a girl to do? This is the Caribbean life, no? Once it started to cool down, I started to increase my cardio and settled on a gym. I thought the addition of a personal trainer to my arsenal would surely do the trick. But you know that saying, you cannot out-train a bad diet? Well, before you know it, Christmas was here and so was my delicious black rum cake 🙂

You cannot out train or out run a bad diet.

Subsequently, Christmas and the following two months were a blur of food and parties. March, the world was plunged into lockdown. No gyms, working from home, running out of creamer, and substituting baileys was a sure sign this weight was here to stay! By this time the Cayman 15 is now a firm 20 or 30. But without a scale at home, we will never know! LOL

While casually scrolling through my social feed one day, I came across this poster, in a friend’s story and got curious. I messaged him and he was like ‘go for it!’

Spry live poster - weight gain

Reality Check!

After reading up about the challenge, I thought, Yes! Someone had finally cracked the code to weight loss on a Caribbean diet! Before I could change my mind, I instantly signed up, and so the journey began. I was happy when my friend agreed to join me as my accountability partner throughout the challenge. The challenge was managed mainly through a WhatsApp group, and weekly YouTube lives. We were provided a personal workout/diet plan as well as access to their daily workouts online.

In the group chat, we would post our meals for grading by the coach and get support and meal ideas from the other participants’ posts. To be honest, I wasn’t ready. The first two weeks, all my meals were a complete failure. After a particularly harsh criticism, I remember saying to the coach that what he was suggesting I eat was not healthy or sustainable. I legit thought almond butter, bananas and strawberries on a rice cake were a sustainable snack. And surely, my loaded overnight oatmeal was a balanced breakfast. Well, at least it was colourful 😊.

You cannot cheat the process

I was committed, but I needed to really get serious if I wanted this to work. So, for the following four weeks I followed the instructions to the T! What I missed during those four weeks was mango, rice, and peas cooked in heavy coconut cream, fried dumplings, fried plantains, and wine. But I knew I needed the change more, and those could return in moderation after I hit my goals. 

The Transformation

The above results speak for themselves. If you want it bad enough you will work for it. To maintain my efforts I enjoy my favourite Caribbean foods in moderation. Mango season is here again, so prayers are needed.

My Key Takeaways on Shedding the Weight Gain

  • Whatever you do, it all begins with a mindset shift – Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself.  Remember, we are all unique, and our bodies do not respond to the same stimuli. It’s easy to get discouraged if you compare yourself with others.
  • Start small – Starting a health or fitness journey can get overwhelming if you don’t pace yourself.
  • Make exercise fun – For me, that is tennis, I don’t even consider it exercise, but I know I am out there burning those calories while having fun.
  • Avoid diets that promise rapid weight loss – it is highly likely to be followed by rapid weight gain if you have no tools to maintain the weight loss. Instead, focus on eating fewer calories than you burn. If it took you ten months to gain the weight, give yourself ten months to take it off.
  • Manage your portion size – If you must clean your plate, make it a small plate.
  • Be gentle with yourself, Practice forgiveness – A bad meal or a missed workout will not ruin your journey. Also, get rid of your scale and use your eyes and mirror to determine how well you are doing. Or in my case, I had my neighbour take pictures of me every 14 days to track my progress. And I kept doing this for months after the challenge ended.

As always, thank you for reading and supporting my stories. If you are on a fat loss journey I would love to hear from you how you are progressing. Also if you wish to share any tips for the rest of the community, we would be happy to hear them.