Valentine’s Day. Are we all feeling the feels yet? Anticipation or nerves, love or loneliness, excitement or exasperation. The holiday elicits many reactions, but I like to look at it in a way that I think we can all rally behind, no matter our Facebook relationship status.
Valentine’s Day isn’t just about showering the ones you love with affection. That’s cool if you want to do that, but there’s someone much more important out there deserving of a little TLC: you.
Yes, you. The same you who–you think–should lose or gain ten pounds or have a smaller nose or longer legs or bigger muscles. The same you whose voice makes you cringe when you hear it and whose actions you make a life of discounting.
The same you who is with you through thick and thin, who never walks away when the going gets tough, and who wears your scars like an open book.
It can feel daunting or even counterproductive to love yourself for exactly who you are in this moment, but it is the very foundation of health. You can practice self-acceptance and still strive to be a better person every waking day. In fact, that’s exactly what caring for yourself entails. When you are your top priority, everything changes.
Suddenly, you don’t choose salad because you “should” but because you want to nourish that beautiful, strong body of yours. You don’t trudge through an hour of torture at the gym as punishment, but rather you find ways of moving your body that make you feel alive. You sleep when you’re tired and meditate when you’re stressed. You eat when you’re hungry and stop before you’re stuffed because that’s what makes you feel best. You fill your life with people who build you up and learn to stand strong against the ones who try to knock you down. Including yourself.
There will always be challenging days and setbacks, but that’s what Valentine’s Day is for. It’s this one day of love stuck in the dead of winter that reminds us to be a little kinder to ourselves. It matters how we talk to ourselves.
The key to having a healthier Valentine’s Day lies not in resisting temptation but in acknowledging your own self-worth instead.
You may be thinking, who is this chick to tell me about my own self-worth? It’s true: I’m not a psychologist. But as a professional in the field of nutrition and fitness, here’s what I know: every single person who walks through my office door has spent a lifetime hating him- or herself. And my only wish for each one of them is not to reach their goal weight or learn to love broccoli, although those milestones are exciting; it’s to experience firsthand the liberation of breaking free of the shackles of “should” and harnessing the self-confidence that I know is buried deep down within them.
This Valentine’s Day do something radical. Be your own Valentine! In the end, it doesn’t matter how many people love you, if you don’t love, or at the very least respect, all of your potential. Everyone says that, but are you ready to practice it? Here are some tips to get you started.
Eat food because you want to, not because you feel you’ve earned it. You don’t deserve the treat; you deserve better. It’s ok to want a little chocolate on Valentine’s Day, and it’s not contingent on being “good” leading up to it.
Explore non-food strategies for coping with strong emotions. Valentine’s Day can stir up a lot of complex emotions: stress, loneliness, heartache. We’re taught from an early age that food soothes all of these “ailments,” and it becomes our only tool for coping. Expand your emotional toolbox.
Date yourself. Put on an outfit that makes you feel smoking hot or at the very least comfortable in your own skin. Buy yourself flowers. Take yourself out to dinner or on a nice evening walk. Treat yourself to a massage. Whatever it is you wish someone else would do for you, do it for yourself. Stop waiting. This is what you deserve.
Look yourself in the eyes (er, mirror), smile, and compliment yourself. You might feel silly at first. You might not know what to say. Tell yourself you’re beautiful. Do this every day. One day, in a week or a month or six, you’ll wake up and actually believe it.
Loving yourself takes practice, but it is by the far the most powerful step you can take toward improved well-being. You can eat kale salads and kill it at the gym all you want, but until you see your worth and treat yourself as well as you deserve, nothing will truly change.
Remember: You deserve better, and it all starts with you.