FoMO is the Fear of Missing Out. If you didn’t already know this, did you have a flash of concern that new acronyms are emerging outside of your awareness? That’s how I felt. I had this idea that cool people are talking about interesting things on some fascinating website I don’t know about, and I’m getting more uncool with every passing minute. Soon there’ll be another meme that I don’t understand, and I’ll have to Google it. The culture is leaving me behind! When I was younger, I used to worry about parties I was missing; now it’s acronyms. That’s FoMO.
FoMO can get us into a lot of trouble. It’s the root cause of sleep procrastination, as we postpone going to bed and buy more screen time with chronic exhaustion. FoMO causes us to mess around with our phones when we should be concentrating on our friends and family members who are actually in the room. That’s sad. FoMO also causes us to mess around with our phones when we should be concentrating on our jobs, or driving our vehicles, and that’s scary. Advertisers use FoMO to wear down our willpower so we’ll spend money, as though this sale is the last sale and that stuff is the last cool stuff we’ll ever see. We don’t realize that our fear of missing out on one thing actually does cause us to miss out on other things. Sleep, money, peace of mind, true emotional connections, profoundly fascinating conversations, deeper levels of mental focus, time for fitness and organization, creative inspiration… We trade it all for fleeting moments of curiosity or envy or distraction.
FoMO is thought to revolve around social engagement. That’s one piece of what I’m calling food FoMO. Research indicates that people eat more in larger groups. There are a variety of factors involved here, but clearly one of them is that celebrations involve tastier food. Those of us who love to cook also often tend to be “food pushers.” I’m totally guilty of this. I watch plates with hawk-like intensity, noting exactly which people skipped which dishes, who took seconds, what vanished the fastest, and what got scraped after dinner. Social pressure can make it virtually impossible to eat sensibly, especially for people with the Obliger tendency. FoMO comes into play most strongly with desserts. I’ve noticed that when I make multiple desserts, almost everyone takes servings of all of them. Including me. That’s why I had to stop doing it. I realized I really didn’t need to serve two cakes, a pie, two types of cookies, and two flavors of frozen dessert at a dinner for six. I was using get-togethers as an excuse to indulge and follow a different set of guidelines than I do on an ordinary day.
The other aspect of food FoMO is the near-universal belief that “I can’t deprive myself.” What, never? We’re going to feel deprived if a single piece of dessert gets past us one day? We’re going to chase after every crumb of every muffin like a pigeon in a parking lot? If we ever find ourselves in a commercial bakery, we’re going to sit at the end of the conveyor belt and let cookies fall into our mouths until our esophaguses rupture? We have to let go of this deprivation thing.
I live next to a grocery store that is open from 6 AM to midnight, seven days a week. Across the street from that store is a 24-hour convenience store. I have a fridge, freezer, pantry, and small vegetable garden. I’m surrounded by food every second of the day. I’m virtually guaranteed to be asleep between midnight and 6 AM, so there is never a time when I couldn’t just run out the door and be eating a package of Birthday Cake Oreos five minutes later. There is no missing out – not for me. It’s much more important to me to worry about the billion people who are missing out: chronically malnourished or dying of hunger. For the last couple of years, I’ve taken the $1 a day I used to spend on soda, and auto-paid to sponsor a student in Zambia. I keep her picture stored in my phone. It really helps me to keep perspective when I’m contemplating eating a stale brownie bite or some other mediocre, ubiquitous wad of empty calories.
I just got back from my third trip out of town in six weeks. First, there was my nephew’s high school graduation. Then, we went on vacation with my stepdaughter and mother-in-law for a week and a half. Two weeks ago, we took off for my birthday. Today I weigh .1 pound less than I did on June 3, the day I got to my parents’ house for the family visit. My weigh-in was precisely the same on the day we came back from Canada as it was the morning we left. This no longer freaks me out. It’s not a random coincidence. When I was obese, I didn’t keep a food log, and my eating patterns were completely stochastic. Now, it’s fairly predictable, because I eat basically the same volume of food each day no matter what’s on offer. I’ve successfully wrestled down my problem with food FoMO. At every given meal, I’m eating what is in front of me, while literally millions of other meals are being eaten by other people all around the world. (The other several billion are in different time zones). There are servings in restaurants that are probably 2-3x more delicious than what I’m having. That’s okay. It’s okay because what I’m eating is perfectly adequate, my own cooking gets better every year, and in my opinion, restaurants are getting better every year too. Future Self is going to get to eat and cook some truly terrific stuff.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.