Here we go again. Another “candy holiday” is upon us. And while St. Valentine’s Day might be all about celebrating love, for some reason love always seems to equal food. We get (and give) chocolates and sweets as gifts. We go out to eat and splurge on mounds of food that we wouldn’t ordinarily eat (oh, and throw in some dessert, too, because it’s a special day!)

If you’re trying to lose weight, just one night of reckless eating and drinking can easily derail a whole week’s worth of progress. Or worse, it could start you down the slippery slope of no longer paying attention to what you eat. After all, that giant heart-shaped box of chocolates might take a day or two to finish.

We all do it. If we’re happily part of a couple, we love to celebrate that. If we’re single, we either party it up to celebrate our freedom, or we dive a gallon of ice cream and binge watch Netflix to console ourselves for not having a date. It’s truly one of the weirdest of holidays.

The actual day itself is still a week away, though. So, let’s take some time to plan. I don’t want you waking up on February 15th feeling like crap. And I certainly don’t want you to undo all the good work you’ve been putting in. Whether you’re part of a couple or single this year, here are a few suggestions for ways to embrace all the love in your life—without over-indulging in food.

 

Gift Alternatives to Cheap Chocolate and Junk Food

When it comes to gifts, think about what makes the other person feel wonderful and loved. A gift certificate for a personal trainer might make one woman swoon (because she’s been wanting one for a while), but it might make another one feel terrible (becase you must think she looks fat and needs more gym time.) I think this is probably why flowers are such an easy go-to gift this time of the year. They’re safe. Be creative, but make sure you don’t accidentally upset the one you’re trying to honor.

Your time is often one of the best gifts you can give. How can you spend some quality time together? Or can you give that overworked mom a weekend away all by herself so she can rest and rejuvenate? Could you simply take 30 minutes and write a heartfelt love letter to the woman or man of your dreams? Tell them how you really feel.

You can be romantic and still stay away from the junk food and the chocolates. Give something unique this year. (And drop a not-so-subtle hint for what you’d like to receive.) Here are a few ideas for you.

  • Facial
  • Massage
  • Manicure / Pedicure
  • A full day at the spa
  • Concert tickets
  • One month of CrossFit
  • Gift certificate to his/her favorite local business
  • Hire a housekeeper for a day
  • Hire a babysitter for the day
  • One hour with a personal trainer
  • Paint Nite gift certificate for two
  • Family photo shoot
  • Write the story of how you met
  • Write a love letter!
  • Coffee shop gift card
  • A new cell phone case
  • A gift certificate for a tattoo or piercing
  • A weekend away at a bed and breakfast
  • Plane tickets for an exotic destination
  • A day off from the everyday chores (you cook dinner and do the laundry for a change.)
  • Detail her car
  • Pick them up from work in a limosine and whisk them away for a secluded rendevoux
  • One month of classes for something they’ve always wanted to try like aerial yoga, pottery, or belly dancing. (Make sure you’ve got the kids covered that night.)
  • Write something beautiful on 12 note cards and mail them once a month (so they feel loved all year long).
  • Create a special video telling them how much you care about them. Or get a bunch of friends to make quick videos and then edit them all together into a tribute video to how amazing they are.

 

Surviving Dinner Out Without Sabotaging Your Progress

Other than Mother’s Day, this is the biggest day of the year for restaurants. It seems like absolutely everyone goes out for dinner on Valentine’s Day. You could choose to stay home and cook a special candle-lit dinner, just to avoid the crowds. But if you’ve got reservations already, here are three ways to make sure you enjoy the evening and stay on track with your health goals.

  1. Stick to one alcoholic drink: Besides the calories and sugar in the drink itself, decreased inhibition = increase in unwanted calories. Stick to just one and you’re less likely to cave in to dessert.
  2. Avoid the bread, pasta, and chips: Anything that comes before your meal is likely there to fill you up.       And it’s almost always carb-heavy. Carbs hang onto water. So if you give in to those yeast rolls before your salad, you’ll be bloated and feel like crap! It’s perfectly okay to ask your server NOT to bring out any extra food before your meal.
  3. Pick your favorite choice of meat & veggie: There are lots of special meals you can eat that don’t include loads of pasta or sugar-laden sauces. Choose lobster, tri-tip, sirloin, pork chops, prawns—any basic meat dish. Then go for any vegetable with just butter and seasoning. You’ll wake up feeling so much better.

Remember, Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating love. And Food does NOT equal Love. Food is fuel. Stick to these guidelines, and you’ll love yourself even more in the morning.