Rule #1: Establish your ideal love weight.
Everyone has different wants and needs, most based on past experiences and future aspirations. You might really like the shy, quiet guy who works in accounting—the one who wears a zipper cardigan and, gasp, Merrells. But your best friend thinks you should date the chatty trainer who flirts with you at the gym. Going along with what other people think is best for you—but what does not feel right in your heart and gut—is not what we are going for here. In a restaurant, we may ask for suggestions, but we don’t let others tell us what to eat; we choose from the menu ourselves. Bat away the white noise and the cultural pressure. Ask yourself, “What do I want in a partner?” You need to choose for yourself first and worry about the peanut gallery later.
Rule #2: Clear out your cupboards and sweep the fridge.
Once you decide what you want in a relationship, you must make an active plan to achieve it. As with any successful diet, that plan starts by setting realistic goals and continues by sticking to them and monitoring them. And if it’s not working—if you find yourself cheating or slipping up—then be brutally honest about why.
It’s time to start tracking the data on your own love life and then review the results. Be your own data analytics expert. Buy a notebook to dedicate to this one thing. Sure, it sounds old-fashioned, but studies prove that you retain more information by physically writing it down, pen on paper, than tapping it out on a keyboard. Of course, if you really can’t imagine writing by hand, then you can always start a diary on your computer or iPad. Either way, make this your purpose-driven love journal and make writing in it a ritual that takes you outside your day-to-day to-do lists and other “notes to self.”
Rule #3: Begin a dating detox to reset your metabolism.
A good nutritionist will want to know your daily food habits. Do you applaud yourself for your self-restraint around all food until 4:00 p.m. and then become unhinged, scarfing whatever you can find until you feel so depressed you renounce food forever—until you start the cycle up again the next day? Do you restrict yourself to one chaste glass of wine a night, which you sip obsessively on the quarter hour? Or do you convince yourself that splitting a bottle is so much more economical than buying by the glass?
Nutritionists will also grill you to find out if you actually consume enough healthy calories to keep your body satisfied and functioning properly. And they will certainly ask about your medical history—such as, does obesity run in your family? Have you ever had an eating disorder? What is your BMI?
Do the same thing for your love life.
In your real (or digital) notebook, answer the following:
- Have you ever been in love?
- Who was your first love? Was it mutual?
- Did he (or she) treat you well?
- Did you treat him (or her) well?
- How many people have you dated? For how long?
- How did each relationship end?
- What types do you go for?
- How many long-term (more than three months) relationships have you been in?
- Do you like monogamous relationships?
- Have you ever cheated (be honest)? Why did you cheat? How did it make you feel? How did it end?
- What is the happiest you have ever been in a relationship? What about it made you happy?
- When is the last time you felt that way?
Rule #4: The treadmill won’t run on its own. Climb on and press Start.
Dating apps are genius because they will help you locate potential partners. But only you can figure out which ones are worth meeting.
It is far easier to settle in on your sofa and swipe through profiles, either with friends or alone. You can scan hundreds of possibilities, write a profile to poke or message them all, and respond to those who do the same to you.
But you still have to meet that person and have a real connection if these tools are going to work, which is why you should try the gamut of dating apps and settle on the one that feels right to you, whether it’s Tinder, Match, Hinge, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, JDate, or any of the other dozens that are out there.
Apps are like cars; they need to be handled with care. They are unparalleled for broadening your horizons and taking you on journeys you might not have imagined, but you need to proceed with caution. You need to know what gear you’re in and to make sure you signal exactly where you want to go so others know, too.
Rule #5: Choose the right recipes for your dating type.
STEP 1: CHOOSE AN APP THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU
Deciding what dating app or website to use can be daunting. You don’t have to stick to one, either; it’s okay to mix it up, though you don’t want your profile out there on every single site. What makes sense is to choose a lead one that most clearly answers your current needs
STEP 2: MAKE YOUR PROFILE
Now that you’ve chosen the app, it’s time to get into the game. The most important weapon in your arsenal is your profile. Think of it this way: your profile is to dating as your résumé is to your job search. It is your chance to market yourself and put your best foot forward. It is the one space in the dating process where you can completely control the messaging. And while it might not be easy—most women
still have a hard time bragging about themselves—try to have a bit of fun with it.
STEP 3: GET GOING
Think of going on dating apps as January gym behavior, which is fitting because January is also the busiest time of year for online dating, as it kicks off the postholiday cuffing season (the time of year when people look to get into relationships, as they’re more eager to be paired up between October and February when it’s cold, and relatives ask demanding questions from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day). It’s all well and good to join a gym in January, but if you don’t push yourself to go as much as possible in that first month, you won’t make it a habit and get into the swing of things. Start working that online-dating muscle pronto—and stick with it! If the gym analogy doesn’t work for you, think of this as a cocktail party where you made the effort to put on lipstick and brush your hair. Since you are already there, you might as well make use of it and talk to people.
STEP 4: MEET IRL
Give yourself a goal for how many dates you’d like to have each week. It’s a numbers game, after all. The more people you meet, the more opportunities you have to find someone you actually can spend time with. Or hell, someone you would be thrilled to be with.
Rule #6: You won’t get skinny by eating the same old sh*t.
Dating is like exercise. You dread it. You don’t feel like it. You would so much rather sit on the couch in cozy pj’s and binge-watch Gilmore Girls. That is in part because we make such a big deal out of it! We have spun the concept of dating into something so high stakes that it drains any of the fun out of it. Stop the whirling in your brain for a moment and think about it strategically.
Analyze when you are at your best. Are you good at small talk and making others feel at ease? In that case a blind date may be a good occasion to shine. Or are you freaked out by the thought of talking to a stranger with the added pressure of a friend having bigged you up beyond all recognition? In which case, ask matches if they want to go bowling, try a food and wine pairing course, take a walk, or go to a concert—dates where you have something right in front of you to discuss. To take the pressure off, try a group date with other single friends and perhaps some couples. Make a game plan that puts you at your best front and center.
Rule #7: Stop with the comfort foods. It’s okay to be a little hungry.
Once you start to live with a healthy love diet, you want to be able to resist temptation in your weaker moments, so you need to create an environment where you can’t fall back into those old bad habits.
If you love donuts, but you know that they will inspire remorse after the initial thrill of eating them, keep them out of the kitchen. Don’t drive by the donut shop on your commute, and delete the number of the bakery that delivers on your speed dial.
The donut is a metaphor for your ex—warm, sweet, familiar, and loaded with trans fats that clog the arteries and eventually lead to a blockage of the heart. If you’re in a friends-with-benefits situation, then ask yourself who is really getting the benefit. The ex and the FWB are the equivalent of relationship snacks. They stave off hunger in the short term and give you a sugar high for a brief and comforting moment; then comes the inevitable blood sugar low, followed by the crash and burn. Next time around, your hunger grows more acute.
Rule #8: Alcohol is not a food group. Respect your limits.
Question: According to FBI and police officers, what is the most common date-rape drug in the US?
Dating and meeting people is hard. You’re not in control. You’re nervous about being judged and criticized by others, and you’re being self-critical. Alcohol protects you. Or at least that’s what the first couple of glasses feel like. It’s social armor. And then there is peer pressure, which, contrary to what everyone thinks, doesn’t stop at the end of your teenage years. It continues throughout your adult life. Everyone else drinks! Why wouldn’t you join in on the fun?
The problem is it’s easy to lose control. Of course, no one ever deserves to be taken advantage of—whether merely buzzed or blackout drunk. But women process alcohol differently than men. “If a man and a woman have anywhere near equal the number of drinks, the woman will get more affected and more quickly,” says Sharon C. Wilsnack, PhD, an expert on the effects of alcohol on women. Men are typically bigger than women, but beyond sheer size, men have more muscle, and women more fat, which means alcohol runs through men whereas it stays in women longer. Men also have a more active stomach enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks alcohol down. “It’s more concentrated when it enters the woman’s bloodstream because it hasn’t been metabolized to the same extent it has been for men,” Wilsnack adds.
Rule #9: Hookups are like french fries.
In many ways, your sex life is one of the most important parts of this diet. That’s because of all the emotions tangled up with it. It’s disappointing to have bad sex with a good person, confusing to have good sex with a bad person, and depressing to have bad sex with a bad person. Hookups are like french fries: delicious in the moment, but they often lead to remorse.
The goal is to have good sex with a good person. So let’s start by analyzing your own sexual history. Break out the journal and answer the following:
- When was the last time you had good sex? Who was it with?
- What were the circumstances?
- Did you have an orgasm? Did you see that person again?
- Now, think back over your history of sexual encounters.
- Have you ever had casual sex? How often do you have it?
- Do you have sex to figure out if you like someone?
- Do you have sex drunk? How often?
- Do you regularly have orgasms?
Some of these questions are intense to start off, but for all the white noise and cultural analysis around hooking up, an illusion persists that sex is casual. That it is no big deal. That everyone is having it, all the time. None of that is true. In fact, a 2016 study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found that millennials are more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive as Gen Xers.
Rule #10: Porn is like chewing gum—all artificial flavor.
Healthy sex is a key ingredient for any love relationship, and like everything else in this diet, it circles back to mutual respect. If I were to swap a food pyramid for a love pyramid, respect would be your fruit and vegetables. Those are the essential nutrients without which it’s hard to stay strong and build a viable immune system. So if porn is something you and your partner both like and you can use it in a way that helps you get satisfaction and aids your sexual communication, then all power to you. But using it as a guide for how to find pleasure or intimacy is like eating at Taco Bell 24/7 and assuming this is as good as it gets.
Porn could not be further from the real work and intimacy of a relationship because you are a spectator, a voyeur, not a participant, watching other people’s scripted, artificial, and often violent sex lives. The only way you are going to truly figure out what excites you is by first asking yourself, then experimenting, and then communicating with your partner.