Think back to the last time you were at a social gathering or special event. Were there foods there that you usually didn’t eat? Did you end up over-indulging because you feared missing out or because everyone else was eating?
For many people, being confronted with certain foods elicits a fear of missing out, otherwise known as food FOMO. This can lead to feeling like we must eat the food in front of us, even if we’re already full. This often ends in eating until we’re past comfortable fullness and feeling shame or regret for eating so much.
While food FOMO can be frustrating, it can be managed. Read on to learn what food FOMO is, what causes it, and how to get over food FOMO for good.
What is food FOMO?
Food FOMO, or fear of missing out on food, is the feeling you get when you choose to eat something because you’re afraid you’ll never get to eat it again. Some of the thoughts that may be going through your head when you have food FOMO include:
- “I’ve never tried this before, and I’m curious about what it tastes like.”
- “If I don’t eat this food now, I might never get the chance to eat it again.”
- “I’ll start my diet tomorrow, so I’d better eat this food now before I’m not allowed to eat it anymore.”
- “Everyone else is eating it, and I want to feel included.”
Food FOMO can make it challenging to decide what to eat because the desire for food becomes all-encompassing in the moment.
At Nourish, our dietitians can help you improve your relationship with food so that you can reduce food FOMO and make more conscious food choices. Appointments are virtual and covered by insurance. Book your first appointment.
What drives food FOMO?
Before learning how to manage food FOMO, it’s important to understand the factors that drive it.
Social media and food trends
A systematic review looking at the impact of social media on the food choices of teenagers found that social media led to the consumption of more “unhealthy” foods. This was partially due to celebrity influence, which made teenagers more likely to recall “unhealthy” foods that had been advertised to them.
These findings make a lot of sense. After all, spend any time on social media, and you’ll be bombarded with new and exciting food trends. You might find that seeing a picture of something delicious on Instagram or TikTok makes you think, “I need to eat this food right now,” and that if you don’t have it, you’ll be missing out on something that other people are enjoying.
Dieting inherently involves restriction, so if you have a history of dieting, you may be more prone to food FOMO. Why? Because in your mind, you’re only one diet away from never being “allowed” to eat that food again.
Unfortunately, food restriction can trigger food FOMO and make you more likely to crave whatever food you’re restricting. It becomes a vicious cycle of binging and restricting. This is evident in the research, with studies showing that having an “all-or-none” approach to eating and inflexible diet rules leads to increased binge eating.
If you come from a family where food was scarce as a child, you might have missed out on meals if you didn’t eat them fast enough when food was available. This can lead to the development of a “scarcity mindset.” This is the idea that there are finite resources available, so if one person takes more, that leaves less for everyone else.
Having a scarcity mindset around food can lead to symptoms of food FOMO because you might believe that you’ll miss out if you don’t eat the food right away. In fact, studies show that food insecurity is associated with binge eating, which may be driven by food FOMO.
Strategies for managing food FOMO
While food FOMO can be frustrating, there are several strategies you can use to overcome it.
One of the biggest drivers of food FOMO is food restriction. If you’re constantly on a diet, there’s a good chance you’re restricting certain foods or food groups. This can fuel the scarcity mindset that leads to food FOMO.
Rather than focusing on restricting food, try to center adding health-promoting foods to your diet. By taking the focus away from restriction, you may find yourself more relaxed around food.
Remember, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” diet. By allowing yourself to enjoy “fun” foods, you remove the forbidden aspect of those foods, making it easier to enjoy them without overdoing it.
Many people find that when they eat something due to food FOMO, they tend to devour it because they feel guilty about it. This can lead to eating more food than feels comfortable.
The next time you want to try a food you don’t get to eat often, try to slow down and eat mindfully. Savor the flavor and the texture of the food. You’ll likely find that by slowing down, you’re more satisfied and able to stop eating when you’re comfortably full rather than over-stuffed. Research supports this, with studies showing that eating mindfully leads to decreases in food cravings, body image concerns, and emotional eating.
Think of your “whys”
The next time you find yourself experiencing food FOMO, reflect on why you want to eat. Ask yourself:
· “Is this truly the only chance I’ll get to eat this food?”
· “Am I physically hungry?”
· “Am I stuck in the dieting mentality and restricting which foods I’m allowed to eat?”
By reflecting on why you’re eating, you may find it easier to say no to foods you’re only eating because you’re scared to miss out on them.
Eat enough during the day
Many people believe that they should “save up” for an event where there will be a lot of food. But this strategy often backfires because hunger can make it difficult to stop eating when you’re comfortably full. In fact, studies have shown that hunger can be a driver of binge eating.
The next time you attend an event with lots of food, make sure to eat regular meals and snacks before the event. By going into the event well-nourished, you’ll be more likely to be able to identify the foods you genuinely want to eat versus the foods you’re only attracted to due to food FOMO.
Work with a Dieitian
If you’re truly curious about experiencing new food flavors, there’s no problem with allowing yourself to have that experience. But when food FOMO starts to take over your life, it’s important to address it.
Are you struggling with food FOMO? You don’t have to go it alone. At Nourish, our dietitians can help you improve your relationship with food so that you can reduce food FOMO and make more conscious food choices. Book your first appointment.
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