Valentines day sigh for old romantics a wonderful day celebrating that crazy thing called love, for others it maybe bittersweet. I’ve heard Valentines day likened to your tax return – not to be ignored or done on the cheap! Whatever your circumstances there is always one person you can love unreservedly, self love.. Grab a mirror and take a look – Hellooooo Beautiful! Shmaltzy? Yeah maybe. I’d apologise but I’m not sorry. If you have loved and been loved then you have ticked one of life’s boxes so congratulate yourself.

There are lists available with a variety of suggestions of ways in which to love yourself. I’m happy to say food is generally in the top three. Food is a powerful way to love yourself, it can be personalised and shared or extended to next days lunch.
In every day life it’s easy to let things slip, the kitchen table or eating space becomes cluttered, forgotten and forlorn. Hey no judgement here my friend, I’m perfectly happy to eat pizza on laps and partial to a leisurely bed picnic at the weekend.

After way too many years in hospitality I have witnessed many a valentines meal, I could write a book it would be in the dark comedy section! For now I have written a little foodie list with suggestions of ways to love yourself, please join me.

Put a loving menu together.
By that I mean chose good quality food, granted it may require some loving preparation but you are so worth it. When you use ingredients that are natural and clean, your body will love you right back. Feeling hungry again after an hour because you’ve been riding the carbohydrate train and crashed is not love. Or worse feeling bloated or worse again awful heart burn, this is not true love. The longest relationship you will ever be in is with yourself so think long term.

Dress the environment in which you are eating
Mess is stress therefore not conducive to good digestion. Have a whizz round to make your eyeline pleasing and uncluttered. Add a plant or two, fresh flowers, even a favourite photo or a view that you enjoy. Put the remote control away, it’s all about you.

Dress the table
Get your table ready to ensure you can relax. You have set the menu so you know what you’re going to need. Eating without the interruption of having to get a spoon for example keeps you in the moment. One of the first rules of waitressing, back in the day, was to pre-empt the customers requirements. The customer visibly relaxes when everything they need is at the table plus this practice is time and energy efficient. I do look forward to enjoying the delights of Northampton’s many excellent restaurants.

Mood lighting.
Eating by candlelight what could be more romantic? This will always be my preferred choice, makes me wonder why I don’t do it every day. Safety first though, if a naked flame can’t be done safely there are battery operated candles available. With regard to candles I would steer you towards those without a scent as these can interfere with the taste of your meal. Fairy lights are also an option they can be hung around the room or grab a lamp with a low level lightbulb. Have lighting arranged dark enough to create atmosphere and light enough to see what your eating. We eat with our eyes after all and one of the reasons why we start salivating when food arrives at the table. Lots of suggestions – pick one.

Oh I love this song…
Like food, music is another powerful medium, it captures memories, can create atmosphere and energy. Music can determine the pace at which we do all sorts of things, exercising, driving and of course eating. Select calm background sounds to eat to rather than up beat music which can subconsciously makes you eat quicker. Ever noticed music choices relate to the establishment you are eating in? Fast food outlets always have fast music to encourage you to eat quickly and leave promptly.

Repeat after me – No I’m busy.
You and your time are precious, you have made preparations to your space, your menu, music, lighting – Fantastic. Now to truly enjoy these preparations you need to prepare yourself.
Block out your schedule, free yourself from any time pressures that could leave you clock watching and uptight. Now take a deep breath and turn your phone off – the answer phone will kick in. Get out, go for a walk, read a couple of chapters or audio book them in the bath, listen to your favourite podcast, do some calligraphy or write in a journal, do whatever you need to do to decompress from the day, meditate, get out of your work clothes into a favourite outfit.

Now you are ready to eat.
Mindfulness is a Buddhist concept, to practice mindful eating would certainly be a valuable way to love yourself but requires discipline and focus. Start by eating slowly putting your cutlery down after each mouthful.
Chew your food thoroughly while enjoying the textures and flavours inside your mouth. Your palate has purpose, sadly we often don’t give it the opportunity to perform. Let the food sit long enough inside your mouth to exercise your palate. Your sense of taste has always been indicative of your state of health or medication, more recently a symptom of the virus. Incredible how our bodies will talk to us if we take time to love it and listen. Mindful eating will help us to connect to the food we are eating and why we’re eating it. It takes 20 minutes for our bodies to communicate that it is full to stop eating. Crikey! I dread to think how much food I could wallop in 20 minutes so another reason to pay attention.

Whether your are in a relationship or not, whatever the demands on your time are, love yourself. You are not being selfish, you set the standard by which you are treated, so set the bar high. A very wise old man told me all you need is love, so I will say again the longest relationship you will ever be in is with yourself so think long term.
Happy Valentines

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