Healthy Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day
by Rachael Ebanks-Gold
Rachael is a nutrition and lifestyle coach for OurPath: a 3-month health behaviour change programme, focussed on building healthier habits for the long term. The nutrition and lifestyle coaches are all registered nutrition professionals and are there for support, guidance and gently challenging existing thought processes, to assist in the development of lasting behaviour change.
With the fast approach of arguably the most romantic day of the year, how do you plan on celebrating the love in your life?
Often we exchange indulgent gifts and experiences, such as seven-course meals, champagne and chocolate. However, whilst an occasional indulgence can be part of a healthy lifestyle, for those of us who are trying to establish healthier habits, this type of festivity could disrupt the momentum of our health kick.
So instead of going overboard with your favourite partner-in-crime, why not use this Valentine’s Day as a chance to tune into the health benefits of being in love, or as an opportunity to discover a stimulating new hobby together?
The Benefits of Bonding
Simply being in a close, meaningful relationship (romantic or otherwise) is good for us. From an evolutionary perspective, strong social connections helped us to stay alive in a world that was fraught with danger. Despite the relative safety of the world we live in now, the association persists in modern times, as strong personal relationships are linked to better health and longevity1.
With the emphasis on strong relationships being beneficial, it’s useful to know that engaging in enjoyable activities as a couple is known to have relationship-enhancing effects.
One study reported that joint participation in self-expanding activities (i.e. those that are novel, challenging and arousing) had a positive and significant association with relationship quality, specifically by reducing 'relationship boredom'2.
Similarly, in a small study of couples, taking part in shared activities that were satisfying and stress-free was associated with improved relationship quality and longevity3. Notably, these benefits were only extended to couples where partners were 'responsive and want(ed) to share relationship activities'. In other words, forcing your uninterested other half to go clothes shopping with you is unlikely to reap many rewards. Take the time to find an activity that you will both enjoy.
So let's consider the types of activities which might fit the bill this Valentine's day…
10 Novel or 'Non-Food' Activities
- Try indoor rock-climbing
- Take a salsa dancing class
- Go for a hike
- Go rollerblading
- Take a cooking class
- Go bowling
- Enrol in a language course
- Go ice skating
- Try yoga
- Have sex
Speaking of sex
A review of sex and its effect on health found benefits including, but not limited to:
- better self-reported mental health
- improved relationship quality
- lower risk of depression
- lower blood pressure reactivity to stressful events4
Kissing alone has its benefits too. A small randomised controlled study reported improvements in serum cholesterol, stress and relationship satisfaction in the intervention group, who were instructed to increase their kissing frequency5.
So forget heart-shaped chocolates - show your affection through simple touch.
The Food-Based Date: Considerations
If you still fancy going for a more traditional date, here are some things to consider.
- Make a healthy meal at home – think lots of veg, lean protein and a portion-controlled pudding.
- Go alcohol-free – soak up that happy, natural buzz of being together! Alternatively, try sticking to a moderate 1-2 drinks each.
- Have a 'blind dinner' - this is where you eat blindfolded, or in the dark. By shutting off your visual perception, the stimulation of your other senses will be amplified, leading to a fuller, richer and more mindful eating experience.
- Prepare fresh fruit for dessert. Strawberries dipped in dark chocolate – what could be more romantic?
So many options, but the main point is that being attached is good for you. Using that attachment as another motivation toward a healthier lifestyle makes far more sense than using it as another excuse to overdo it.
Whatever you decide to do, I hope your Valentine’s Day is filled with love, laughter, physical activity and a minimum of five servings of fruit or vegetables!
The views expressed in the Accu-Chek blog are not necessarily those of Roche Diabetes Care Limited or our publishers. The content is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely – you must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content. Although we make reasonable efforts to ensure that the content is up to date, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content is accurate, complete or up-to-date.
- Loving, T. and Slatcher, R. (2013). Romantic Relationships and Health. In: L. Campbell and J. Simpson, ed., Oxford Handbook of Close Relationships. [online] Oxford Library of Psychology. Available at: https://books.google.ch/books/about/The_Oxford_Handbook_of_Close_Relatio... [Accessed 23 Jan. 2019].
- Aron, A., Norman, C., Aron, E., McKenna, C. and Heyman, R. (2000). Couples' shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(2), pp.273-284.
- Girme, Y., Overall, N. And Faingataa, s. (2013). “Date nights” take two: The maintenance function of shared relationship activities. Personal Relationships, 21(1), pp.125-149.
- Brody, S. (2010). The Relative Health Benefits of Different Sexual Activities. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(4), pp.1336-1361.
- Floyd, K., Boren, J., Hannawa, A., Hesse, C., McEwan, B. and Veksler, A. (2009). Kissing in Marital and Cohabiting Relationships: Effects on Blood Lipids, Stress, and Relationship Satisfaction. Western Journal of Communication, 73(2), pp.113-133.