Upgrade Your Relationship Diet

Cooking and love have more in common than you think. Done well and you’re sweet. But done wrong, it can leave a bad taste in your mouth. These new dating “recipes” have what it takes to put a fresh spin on love.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Cooking and love have more in common than you think. Done well and you’re sweet. But done wrong, it can leave a bad taste in your mouth. These new dating “recipes” have what it takes to put a fresh spin on love.
Corbis/Click Photos
Corbis/Click Photos

The fact is that you need your head and your heart to decide exactly what you eat and who you love.

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach but, hey, we’re hungry too. Hungry for a relationship that isn’t bad for us. If a healthy, balanced approach works when eating, what if the same worked for dating? Yep, just call us your love dietitian.

The food issue: the recipe requires 1,576 ingredients.

The love issue: your dream boyfriend criteria list makes that figure look kind of small.

Look, it’s OK. We know about the secret shopping list of attributes (mantributes?) you want in a long-term partner. We have one, too (and yes, it’s pretty much just describing Jamie Dornan, minus the whole being married and living overseas part). The biggest problem is that while some attributes are about as healthy as kale (must not be a psychopath), others are too restrictive (must be a Sagittarius- Capricorn cusp with Jupiter rising). “There’s got to be an ingredients list for a successful relationship,” says clinical psychologist Jo Lamble. “It includes chemistry, commitment, shared values, some shared goals, and bringing out the best in each other. Not someone’s age, weight, hair colour, relationship history or body type.” We’re not saying that Ryan Gosling won’t break up with Eva Mendes – but, until then, date safe and widely in the knowledge that anyone can cook-up a successful relationship (or dinner) with many other people (or ingredients). But sometimes, the best meals we make are those that are whipped up on a whim.

The food issue: cooking from scratch can be tiring.
The love issue: you’ve been doing all the legwork in the relationship.

Imagine trying to make pasta at home, but instead of a pasta machine, all you’ve got is a rolling pin. Sure, you could tough it out with just sheer power, but a little help would actually make the job a lot easier. “Generally speaking, women often initiate the social life and men, the sex (it can, of course, be the other way around as well). Whoever does the initiating most often complains that the other person is slack,” explains Jo. “But it can be hard to change this dynamic. I usually advise people to accept that whoever has the greater drive to do something (socialise or have sex) will still find it easier to initiate that, but they should be thanked for their efforts. The follower should also try hard to occasionally break the pattern.”

The food issue: your new diet isn’t going very well.
The love issue: a postthunderbolt love lull.

Date One blew you away, but Date Two set a new low on the meh-o-meter. “Our world encourages a perfectionism that’s out of touch with the natural order of things. Just as your body won’t be at it’s best consistently, neither will another person,” says Cribb. Like a diet, you get results after a number of experiences – not one. “Just as not losing weight one week shouldn’t stop you from eating well the next, one bad date shouldn’t stop you from accepting another,” she adds. But like a harmful diet, abandon any suitors who don’t bring out the best in you.

The food issue: you’re overly obsessed with calorie-counting .
The love issue: you’re obsessed with over-analysing every single one of your dates.

“In psychology, we are actually against dieting in the calorie-counting sense, because it asks your head to take over from your body’s natural intuition. The fact is, you need your head and your heart to decide exactly what you eat and who you love,” explains psychologist Gemma Cribb. With all of your food choices, ask yourself, “What do I really feel like eating?” followed by, “Is that really a bad choice for me?” Ditto, in your love life. “Who do I feel like dating?” and “Are there any obvious signs that they are a poor choice?” Stressing out about how much you’ve eaten – or if he has (or hasn’t) called – isn’t good for your emotional well-being. Just listen to yourself. Cribb’s advice? “Let your head tell you if you could imagine him as he is now in the future – they don’t change! And then just let your heart tell you if he makes you feel good and secure.”

The food issue: you’re a massive diet fad-aholic.
The love issue: you’re a total tinder date-aholic.

Ahh, Tinder – like a chocolate box of potential dates, it would be rude to only sample one flavour. How can you say no when new varieties just keep popping up? “As with your food, the key lies in savouring instead of consuming,” Cribb explains. “When you ‘consume’, you gobble up a tasty morsel – or in this case, a tasty date – to ease all of your boredom or curiosity. While the act gives off a temporary high, it quickly fades and then you end up just feeling empty.”

The food issue: you ate a whole block of chocolate.
The love issue: he’s wrong, but you just can’t resist.

The bad boy is the ultimate cliche, we know. But damn you biology/Harry Styles, why do we still want to go there? “It’s because there’s anxiety (or fear of rejection), and anxiety is often mistaken for excitement, like bungee jumping,” explains Cribb. “When you’re anxious, evolution has designed your brain to notice (‘look, a tiger!’) and attend to it (‘Where did the tiger go? Is he still around?’). Because we’re pack animals, we’re wired to seek approval, which might be why we’re drawn to winning over men who seem to be disinterested.” Just as understanding where your impulses come from can help you control stress-induced cravings, a greater self-awareness can also help you to break a bad boy habit.

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What’s his love appetite?

1 2 3 The founders of Tinder Advisor (tinderadvisor.com), which teaches men how to market themselves on the app, reveal when a guy’s hungry for you – versus when he’s just plain hungry.

1 He’s flirty, but not overtly sexual

“If a man quickly ramps up the conversation, there’s only one explanation: he wants to know if you’re up for a one-night stand. He’ll call you ‘sexy’ and subtly slip in innuendos. He knows this will turn most women off, but the ones that throw the ball back are the ones he’s looking for. On the other hand, some light, reciprocal sexy humour is normal. He’s probably just acting playful and might still be open to something serious.”

2 He asks for your facebook deets

“This means he wants to get a glimpse into your personality and social life to confirm if you’re a good match. He also wants to see more pictures of you. All of this signals that the man is picky, hence he’s less likely to be seeking a cheap short-term thrill.”

3 He plans the date in advance

“If he asks to meet the same day as you matched, without proposing an alternative, he wants a ‘heat of the moment’ thing. If he offers to meet later over the next few days, then he is genuinely interested in getting to know you. When a woman is unavailable, the man should be comfortable rescheduling to a later date. If he forgets to follow up, odds are that he was just acting on impulse and was not actually that interested.”