When I was little, my mom likes to tell me, I would walk around the house with a little baggie filled with a snack like apple slices, and WHILE I WAS EATING, ask, “What can we have now?” I’d also finish my own dinner, and then happily sit on my dad’s lap and eat half of his, too. More recently, 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. Behind all of these snippets is a common theme: the fear of missing out on food, or a bit of food anxiety. I still feel somewhat anxious if I think I’ll be hungry anytime soon, so I go places armed with snacks or on the lookout for a healthy place to grab something on the go.
Someone recently told me I have FOMO, a fear of missing out—and it’s so true. And she wasn’t the first person to mention this to me. I often feel conflicted when I want to relax and have some downtime, but some interesting activity or event comes up, and friends ask me to join them. I also have tried hang gliding, bungee jumping, skydiving, traveling solo, you get the picture—not because I’m a daredevil or an adrenaline junkie, but because I want to experience and do everything, pretty much.
It had not occurred to me before that there’s a connection between this feeling and eating. But when she said this to me recently, it made me think that there is this fear of missing out around food. This is probably one reason that most people I counsel are fast eaters; it seems built into our DNA and likely served us well for evolutionary purposes. Better get to it before someone else does, especially when that food is new to us.
It also seems like that’s the reason that it’s so difficult to say no to those donuts your coworker brings to the office, or a dessert you just have to try at that nice restaurant downtown. You’re never going to bake that at home, and you just HAVE to try that flavor combination—otherwise you’ll dream about it all night 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 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 help us feel more grounded when a food FOMO moment gets the better of us:
1. One of the mantras 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. And, I will have it at some point again—I don’t have to eat it this second.
2. 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 limit 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!).
3. When you feel tempted by certain foods, consider how much better you’ll actually feel when you choose healthier options, and how you’ll feel later today if you eat things for your highest good rather than simply to satisfy your taste buds.
4. 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), we can often see that the moment passes. And then, the need to eat this thing RIGHT NOW lifts, and we can wait another day—or longer.