Well the holidays are over the pumpkin pies have been eaten and the Christmas trees have been put away either in the trash or up in the attics. Now its time for Valentines Day where elementary kids have their Valentines Day parties pass out Valentines’ cards to every student in their class. Valentines Day is also one of those holidays that sneak up on your waistline. People don’t think of it as a big eating day like Thanksgiving, Halloween, or Christmas but if you’re not careful it may be even more damaging.

Chocolates and other candies are featured and seen everywhere in stores. Boxes of chocolates are marketed for love ones. Restaurants prepare sweetheart specials to get you in the door.  Everywhere you turn you’re hit with the message that sugary, fattening foods are the way to your loved one’s heart. For anyone who’s trying to lose weight or avoid emotional eating, it’s a message that’s hard to ignore. It may be even worse for the recipient of that affection. After all, if your special someone buys you a box of chocolates, what would they think if you refused to eat it?

Don’t sabotage you or your loved ones fitness goals. This year, build a new tradition. Turn the holiday into something that’s good for you.

If you’re doing the planning, think about renting a special movie at home. Start with a romantic (but healthy) candlelight dinner at home. Share fat and sugar free chocolate Jell-O with fresh strawberries for dessert. Follow it up with one of the lower fat microwave popcorn. Cuddle up on the couch and get lost in cinematic romance while avoiding calorie meltdown because loosing a lot of calories can take longer then loosing just a few calories.

For those of you who can’t or don’t want to cook, going out is OK as long as you plan ahead. Call and make sure you can order dishes that aren’t deep-fried, drenched in heavy sauces or accompanied by fattening sides. You want your sweetheart to enjoy the meal, not leave stuffed, sluggish and regretful from eating too much or improperly.

Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to the traditional. Do something together outside.  In warmer climates you can go take a walk on the beach, build a sandcastle or play on a bicycle built for two.  Bring along a picnic of good-for-you snacks and convenient finger foods like carrots, low fat granola, fruit or sandwiches. Maybe you could even hit the gym together. Don’t forget a camera to take pictures of each other as you enjoy the day. Doing something new together can put a little spark back in a comfortable relationship and you’ll burn a few calories while doing it.

Skip the pre-ordered flowers and build a custom bouquet together. Start out at an antique or glassware store and find the perfect vase. Then go to a flower shop and pick a flower for your partner, while they pick one out for you. Surround them in an arrangement you build together with the pieces you enjoy most. You’ll learn more about each other’s taste and end up with something special and personal.

For those of you not celebrating with a loved one sometimes being single on Valentines Day can lead to being stressed. That stress can lead to eating more calories. Don’t attack the fridge if you feel bad. Use Valentines Day as an improvement opportunity and chance to meet new people. Start by making a list of the things you like about yourself. Maybe it’s your smile, your sense of style or a talent you have. Put at least 10 things on the list and carry it around. Use it as an affirmation to remind yourself that you’re a person worthy of love. Then call your other single friends and plan a night out. Visit a karaoke club or learn how to line dance. Plan activities that require participation and ban conversations where people complain about being single. Surround yourself with people who are excited about life.

Finally, recommit to those healthy New Year’s Resolutions you made a few weeks before. Get in a good workout before you meet your friends. The better you look, the better you’ll feel about yourself. Once you start liking the person you see in the mirror, other people will be more attracted to you.

Valentines Day is a time to get closer to that special someone and learn to love yourself more. With just a little planning, you can make it a special day without punishing your waistline or sacrificing your fitness goals.

By Brandon Ivey