Tuesday 6 February 2018

Valentine's Day - Who Said It Was Only For Couples?

   Valentine's Day is probably one of the most controversial of all holidays, isn't it? In fact, most of you probably immediately thought, with various degrees of hostility, 'it's not even a holiday'. Well, no, it really has been commercialised to all hell to the point that its origins are as good as lost. And above all else, it's loathed by most who are single. I understand that, of course; we've all been in that situation. But it's a shame. Not because it becomes a day of misery, but because its purpose is so rigidly accepted. It's not questioned or interpreted any differently. It's either adored, or it's loathed. And sometimes an individual's standpoint can change with every passing year, depending purely on circumstance.

   I'm a very firm believer that you should show your affection to your partner all year round, and the only occasion that it should be expected and indeed enhanced are personal occasions like anniversaries. Not Valentine's Day. In fact, Seeg and I have been together for nearly 8 years and have only celebrated Valentine's Day twice.
   But, let's put romantic love aside for a moment and consider something else.
   When was the last time you showed care and affection for yourself?


   Most of you reading this are probably of the same mind as me: that the best thing you can do for yourself is keep active and eat right; bring your body to its optimum health. Feel good inside, feel good outside. But I admit that I tend to push myself too hard, sometimes to injury, superficial or beyond, sprained ankles to chronic migraines (I preferred the sprained ankle), and not because I love my body. It's because I don't. I'm extremely guilty of self-hate. I avoid any reflection of myself sitting down because I look slimmer standing up, and I hide from any unflattering angle, turning a blind eye to how I really look and effectively envisioning myself as looking worse than I do because I refuse to face up to it in case I see something I don't like.
   So, it has to be said again: when was the last time I showed any care and affection for myself?

   Valentine's Day is so often used to express love and affection for others - partners or friends. Though, in Japan, Valentine's Day is actually reserved for women to give gifts to men. The reverse happens one month later on March 14th - tactful, I think, if Valentine's Day matters to you, as the woman sets the bar of expectation!
   But why do we overlook ourselves? Are we afraid of being selfish? Single, involved, married - it makes no difference in this case, because every single one of us has ourselves, and our bodies and minds - especially in this toxic, social media-dictated world - need the extra care, we need to take the time for self-affirmation.
   So perhaps, this Valentine's Day, you should take some time for yourself. Regardless of having a partner or not, take the opportunity to love yourself.

♥ Love your Body
    Yoga is often hailed as being the best body-loving workout. And it's right, in a way; it involves strength, mobility, flexibility, but also stretching, and internal massage through twisting which can aid digestion, hormonal regulation and boost mood. It's brilliant on so many levels.

   OM Yoga magazine featured a wonderful self-love yoga sequence by Lucy McCarthy (issue 81, page 30), short and sweet - about 7 minutes - and suitable even for the beginner yogi. Do it in the morning to start your day with a little bit of self-awareness, and again before bed to reconnect and bring yourself down after your day.
   Wear something that you feel comfortable in. It doesn't have to be fancy, shiny or red, but wearing things that you feel confident in can make a huge difference to your mood. Break out your Pepperberry sweaters! I'll be sporting my twist-front jumper with my favourite jeans - it looks good, feels good, and while I have a few dresses that I look smashing in, the jumper-jeans combo is much lower maintenance.
   End your day with a private Epsom salt bath to restore chemical balance in the body, especially if you're in the second half of your cycle when your magnesium levels drop and you're feeling particularly bad about yourself. It can also help stave off muscle cramps, and help to recover if you had an intense workout that day. Throw in a LUSH bath bomb and some candles (note: candles don't go in the bath), and you're all set.

♥ Love your Gut
   Fill your meals with some good, body-loving food - lean meats, steamed veggies, a small amount of starchy carbs like rice or potato, and lots of warming herbs and spices to really boost your dishes. Sip on green, black and herbal tea, without sugar or milk, and be sure to get in your daily cup of matcha.
   And don't shy away from a cup of hot chocolate - but make it with raw cacao rather than sugar-laden chocolate, as it's a heart superfood, and Aduna's super-cacao in particular has been scientifically proven and verified by the EFSA to support heart health. If you're not keen on dark chocolate, which pure cacao is, add a little honey. For an authentic Mayan chocolate (xocolatl - 'bitter liquid'), add cinnamon and chilli. Yes, really. Cayenne pepper will do. Alternatively, go for a more commercialised version with cinnamon and orange.


   Breakfast - banana, maca and blueberry protein pancakes to kickstart your energy levels for the day
   Lunch - soba noodles
   Dinner -
   And, of course, don't deny yourself a little bit of something you love. However healthy you eat day in, day out, it's unhealthy to cut out the things you love. Personally, I don't drink alcohol, I don't drink caffine and I don't eat fast food, simply because I don't like it, not because it's unhealthy. But that doesn't mean I don't have a vice. I do. It's sugar. I've been a health and fitness blogger for four years and have never once given up sugar because I would lose my mind. Cut down on it, sure. But I still have it two or three times a week in small sittings. Bar one: movie night wouldn't be complete without cookies or chocolate.
   Hotel Chocolat is my favourite. Decadent, smooth, creamy, and true to every claim of taste and texture, all while being low in sugar, high in cocoa and tainted by nothing artificial or unsustainable at all. Truly. It's the most guiltless indulgence you can have while still eating real chocolate. And if you're worried about going overboard or are looking to keep treats to a minimum, just pick up a selector - it's only 6 chocolates!

♥ Love your Mind
   Congratulate yourself on your recent achievements - be it career, financial, the decision to opt for a healthier meal, or even just eating breakfast if you were the type to skip it (skipping meals is never the answer). Consider the things you dislike about yourself, too. It might sound counter-productive, but rather than obsess, think about why you dislike it. You will very likely discover that you have no good reason. But admitting the things you dislike about yourself and actually thinking about the reason behind it rather than blindly villainising it is, truly, the first step towards making a change. If it's your weight or your outlook, it's in your hands. If it's the spacing of your eyes or your guffawing laugh, let it go. Because, honestly, absolutely no one cares. Some things really don't deserve a moment of the attention we focus onto them. We just need to figure out what those things are.

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day, and dedicate some time to yourself. Because, honestly, you deserve it. No one puts up with as much of your neurotic crap than you do.


OM Yoga magazine, monthly issues available in store
online, and by subscription.


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