A friend of mine recently told me she thinks I have FOMO, a fear of missing out. I thought about it, and the concept resonates: I do often feel conflicted when I want to have some downtime but an interesting activity or event comes up.
I also have tried hang gliding, bungee jumping, skydiving; you get the picture—not because I’m a daredevil or an adrenaline junkie, but because I want to experience as many things as possible.
It had not occurred to me before that there is a connection between this feeling and eating. But when my friend nabbed me with the FOMO label, it made me think back to my childhood and other times in my life where this showed up, and how it could make eating healthy difficult.
My grad school classmates would laugh at me because I’d lug around pretty much my entire kitchen to feel prepared for a long day of classes. And it’s not just me. There is this pervasive fear of missing out when it comes to food. This is probably one reason that most people I work with are fast eaters; it seems built into our DNA and likely served us well for evolutionary purposes. "Better get to it before someone (be it human or animal) does!"
It also seems like that’s one of the reasons it’s so difficult to say no to those donuts your coworker brings in for an early office meeting, or a dessert you just have to try at that upscale restaurant downtown.
Or that, despite your best intentions of bringing your own healthy snacks to work, come 3 o’clock, the vending machine wins out over your trail mix or seemingly lackluster hummus and veggies. You don’t want to miss out on those flavors, the satisfaction, the buttery goodness, the sugar—right now.
So, are we doomed to feel like FOMO failures, or can we do something about this unsettled feeling? Here are a few simple tips to eat more mindfully and help us feel more grounded when a food FOMO moment gets the better of us:
Self talk is powerful.
I like to tell myself in those moments is that I’ve had X (brownie, ice cream, pizza) before, or something similar, and I know what it tastes like. I know I will have it at some point again—so I don’t have to eat it this minute. One research study highlighted in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that when people said “I can have it some other time” to themselves, it lessened the value of that food and allowed them to postpone eating it.
Keep in mind that the first three bites of any food are the most satisfying.
If you do want to indulge but you’re trying to reduce your portion size, try eating three bites and stopping after that—either by sharing, putting the food away, or possibly even throwing it away (although I also try to avoid wasting food—even indulgent ones!).
Think about the future.
When you feel tempted by certain foods, consider how much better your mind and body will actually feel when you choose healthier options, now and later in the day. You might think about having more energy in the afternoon if you choose a protein-filled snack rather than anticipating a late-day slump.
Feel the discomfort, move through it, and let it go.
This is kind of like grief or sadness, or any other uncomfortable feeling that you want to relieve. We naturally want to run away from yucky feelings. But when we sit with them instead of fight them (or in this case, eat the food), the moment often passes. And then, the need to eat this thing RIGHT NOW lifts, and we can wait another day—or longer.
Cindy’s love of food led her to explore its health benefits, and the more she learned the more interested she became. After several years as a writer and editor for magazines, she decided to make a career change to help support people in reaching their health goals. As a dietitian, she has worked in a variety of settings, including with refugees, as a health coach, at a retirement home and with WIC (Women, Infants and Children).
Seeing people have “aha” moments and make small and significant changes that profoundly affect their wellbeing is extremely rewarding to Cindy. She enjoys the process of communicating and sharing questions and answers with clients around their health and wellness concerns. Cindy’s approach is a blend of lessons she’s learned along the way, and she strives to think outside the box and help make the process a fun one for her clients. Want to set up a complimentary consultation? Email her at email@example.com!