Escape From FOMO


Advertising has taught modern humans that we are entitled to devour anything we fancy, at any time. As a species that sets a high value on novelty and variety of choice, we don’t have a problem with expending resources to develop more than 50 kinds of Oreo cookies, none of them good for us. Furthermore, if we don’t eat the currently popular corporate pseudo-foods, there is something wrong with us. We are missing out on the fun, and thus must be dull people, unworthy of esteem.

We have seen that the phenomenon known as “fear of missing out” (FOMO) turns up as a confounding factor in Dr. Pretlow’s work with young people. Of course FOMO is not the only dynamic at work in that endeavor, but it is an obstacle. We have been trained to perceive not getting what we want as almost the worst thing that can happen. It is, when looked at through a very primitive lens, tantamount to losing — and many people have been indoctrinated to believe that losing is beyond a doubt the very worst thing.

A FOMO villain

Social media are notorious for agitating every kind of FOMO. Power up any type of electronic screen, and there it all is, in living color — other people’s vacations, houses, love lives, jobs, cars, brunches, kids, achievements — so many things to feel bad about! If pictures of people you don’t even know can ruin your day, every day is preordained to bring emotional disaster. Life coach Michelle has an answer for that: Switch off social media.

How-to-sell classes all teach that a winning salesperson loves to hear the word “no,” because every “no” brings the ambitious peddler closer to a “yes.” Michelle gives that wisdom a new twist:

When I was on a diet I took great pleasure in saying no. It wasn’t about being smug, it was about taking pleasure from knowing that each “no” was taking me closer to what I wanted. Each “no” I racked up was another step forward and as I started to see results I took great joy in missing out on stuff.

Another hint is to seriously self-question:

Is your survival being threatened? If the answer is no then you can stop worrying about missing out.

Coach Jenny Eden also endorses the self-inquiry method. These are the recommended questions:

Is this a real or perceived food scarcity?
Is your body physically hungry right now?
What is driving your decision to eat right now?
Is this food readily available to me or is this a special or seasonal food that only comes around once in awhile?
Am I stuck in dieting mentality right now, which is telling me to restrict calories or limit what foods I eat?

Abolish the scarcity mindset and cultivate the abundance mindset, Eden says. Discover a mantra or a set of affirmations to repeat when the going gets rough, like “I will listen to my body and trust that I will know when I’ve had enough to eat.” Bring mindfulness to the table for every meal:

When you can slow down, invite gratitude for your food, appreciate where it came from and intellectually process the fact that this food fortunately will always be available to you, you can begin to have a more relaxed approach towards food.

Many health professionals at every level have contributed to the body of knowledge around dealing with FOMO.

FOMO escape hatches

Fitness coach Jill Coleman is all about attitude. Shifting one’s attitude toward anything generally requires practice, and patience to get through that deliberate repetition. We have seen that willpower will never be the magic bullet obesity cure. But even though it is not the whole picture, it certainly is an important tool.

Coleman asks us to regard willpower as a muscle, that a person can choose to exercise and strengthen. Also:

I can choose to NOT feel left out. I can actively CHOOSE my eating habits. I can CHOOSE to feel satisfied by my choices, and actually take pride in the fact that I don’t let my environment dictate my choices.

Dr. Kristen Bentson had health issues that led her to quit sugar and processed foods, and she never looked back. She writes:

Let’s be real, while it’s true that I’m missing out on the opportunity to talk about how good a dessert tastes, share a plate of fried mozzarella sticks, or taste a piece of candy I’m not battling the bulge, dealing with fatigue or doubled over with a stomachache. So in all reality, what am I missing out on?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Do you have food FOMO?,”, 11/21/16
Source: “Do you have Food FOMO?,”, undated
Source: “Do You Have FOMO Around Food?,”, 11/09/13
Source: “FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and Food,”, undated
Image source: nikkized/123RF Stock Photo

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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