Everyone deserves to treat themself with a little love on Valentine’s Day. But love isn’t always the focus, contrary to most intentions. Instead, the focus becomes about money and about outdoing the year before or someone else’s gift or living up to some outrageous ideal.
My husband calls Valentine’s Day a marketing gimmick. And he’s not wrong. Retail sales for Valentine’s Day topped $27 Billion in 2020. It’s the third-largest holiday for cash spent by consumers in the US. That’s also up over 6% from 2019…and during a global pandemic, I might add.
More than just the money, Valentine’s Day brings with it the idea that there’s this perfect gift or perfect date or perfect way of showing your love for someone. No pressure.
Like my husband, for more and more people Valentine’s Day is losing its luster. Some dislike it because they aren’t the PDA (public display of affection) type. Others hate being faced with the disheartening reality that they haven’t yet found “the one”.
And for anyone learning to break free from dieting, it’s yet another day filled with heart-shaped-candy-everything and ideas that all of this is a once-a-year “indulgence” rather than the way we should treat ourselves and those we love on a regular basis.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum of feelings around Valentine’s Day, and no matter where you’re at in your ditching-the-diets journey, here are five ways to give yourself the gift of a little self-love.
1. Make yourself your valentine
Valentine’s Day may have its origins in dark places (think execution and honoring martyrdom), but modern-day intentions focus on romantic love and friendships. And whether or not you have a partner to celebrate with, turning a little of this admiration and love in on yourself is always a good idea. It’s especially a good idea when you’re journeying down the path of intuitive eating, learning body positivity, and breaking free from diet culture because this road less traveled can definitely be a bumpy one.
So what does it look like to make yourself your own valentine? Step outside of yourself for a moment and figure out what you’d love someone else to do for you or gift to you. Then go do that for yourself. What is it you know you like to do for others? Those things that bring others so much joy…the thank you cards, the flowers, the pretty presents, or the time you spend with them. Pick something and do it for yourself too.
Caution: This may feel a little awkward. If those weird guilt feelings start to creep in, don’t push them down. Feel them. Try to understand what it is that feels so weird about doing something nice for yourself. Is it because it’s something new and you’ve never done this before? Then decide that practicing this is in order so you get more comfortable with it. If it’s that you don’t feel you deserve it, dig a little deeper to understand why. The more you sit with these uneasy feelings
2. Treat yourself with kindness
With stores decorating months in advance of Valentine’s Day, media broadcasting commercials with unobtainable ideas of what love is “supposed” to look like, and social media portraying everyone’s love highlight reels, you’re bombarded with unattainable ideals and messages about love and how to show it. And this goes on for much longer than one day out of the year. And those messages may or may not be in alignment with your reality. Which can lead to a whirlwind of emotions.
And emotional eating may be a real challenge for you. But it’s nothing treating yourself with love can’t handle.
Maybe you feel jealousy when your significant other doesn’t buy the gifts or show the love in the same way as your best friend’s spouse. Maybe you feel uneasy about being around all that chocolate and candy because your journey with intuitive eating is just getting started or you’ve hit some bumps in the road and feel yourself backtracking. Or maybe you feel sad because you feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t have that special someone to celebrate with.
Whatever you’re experiencing, Valentine’s Day can lead to eating emotionally or feeling out of control around foods you’re not quite ready to incorporate back into your routine.
If this is the case, go back to the basics. Remind yourself what it means and feels like to honor your hunger. Take some time to revisit those mindful eating meditations and get reacquainted with your body signals.
Give yourself permission to eat emotionally, any food you want. Remember that removing the need to control what goes in also removes the power from the food. And it’s always okay to eat what you enjoy and enjoy what you eat.
3. Release the connection between your size and your health to make room to treat yourself with love
Do you believe you can be healthy in your here and now body? No matter what size you are right at this moment?
If you can’t answer yes to these questions, spend some time learning more about Health At Every SizeⓇ (HAESⓇ). HAESⓇ research shows that people in larger bodies are discriminated against and are treated differently that people in “normal” size or thinner bodies. This weight stigma actually causes more damage to health than living in a larger body. Your health actually has more to do with other lifestyle behaviors, genetics, and stress levels than how much you weigh or what foods you eat.
By disconnecting the size of your body from your actual health, you remove a common excuse for body dissatisfaction and make room for you to treat yourself with love. Body dissatisfaction often leads to roadblocks with self-love. No more roadblocks here.
4. Treat yourself with love through the gift of time
How often do you think about yourself when you think about giving the gift of time? Parents give the gift of time to their children, lovers give the gift of time to their significant other, and friends give the gift of time to each other. But you deserve as much of your time, or more, as others do. This is exactly what the age old “put your own oxygen mask on first” concept refers to. The idea that you can give of yourself to others without first ensuring you’re equipped to do so may be ridiculous, but too many people try to do just that.
And giving all your time away while leaving little of it for yourself sets you up to eat mindlessly and emotionally. The gift of time is perhaps one of the most meaningful ways you can treat yourself with love.
Giving time to yourself can look however you want. It might mean spending time with yourself doing something or it might mean doing nothing. It might mean granting yourself additional time to make a decision. Wherever you have to find this time, find it for yourself.
5. Do a little daydreaming
No doubt somewhere along the way someone has told you to dream big. Look anywhere on social media and someone is posting a meme or graphic touting this phrase. But while it may be a bit cliche or overused, it still holds true.
And although it’s a true statement with well intentioned sentiment, how often have you followed through with it? When was the last time you allowed yourself to really DREAM BIG? Take some time (see #4 above if you need help with this) and dream. Anything goes. No dream is too big. Write them down. Record them into a voice recorder. Or just sit with them and allow your mind to flow. Feel all the feels, experience the smells and visualize your dream as though it were really happening. The more you can experience your dreams with your senses, the more enjoyment you will get out of this activity.
Learning to experience your senses and feel your emotions is a key part of successfully eating intuitively.
Money can’t buy love and love is shown in all kinds of (big, little, perfect, imperfect) ways. And I believe love is not a once a year indulgence, rather a daily practice we can learn to incorporate in how we treat ourselves.