What Can Non-Psychiatrists Do?


On the subject of mental health professionals and obesity, it is worth noting that a lot of obesity-causing behavior is based on the strange condition known as Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). In 2013 the Oxford English Dictionary, the ne plus ultra of literary reference books, accepted FOMO into its pages.

In the old days, people haunted by FOMO were described as always feeling that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence. In other places, the inhabitants are having more fun, or at least getting more out of life. Sadly, a lot of people transfer this particular feeling of deprivation to the realm of eating, and try to fill the emptiness with food.

As if that were not bad enough, FOMO leads to rude behavior like engaging with social media during classes, meetings, and family events. It is also linked to dangerous and life-threatening behavior, like texting while driving.

A pervasive problem

FOMO originates in unhappiness, in feelings of inadequacy and lack of autonomy, and in general dissatisfaction with life. To be afraid that someone else has more of something is a recipe for a terrible existence, because someone will always have more. There will always be people who can eat chocolate-covered bacon for breakfast every day and never gain an ounce of weight. We have to face that hard fact, and get over it.

Mental health professionals are uniquely qualified to address the problem, and plenty of advice is out there at every level of practice. Life coach Michelle, in recommending ways to defeat FOMO, repeats a slogan which, at first glance, seems as tautologically meaningless as “It is what it is.” Michelle says, “You do you.” Sounds easy, but the average person spends a lifetime learning how to be herself or himself, and a lot of people never make it.

The admonition “You do you” synchs up with advice from leadership coach Kristi Hedges:

We will always be missing something, but if we’re spending our time worrying about it, we’re missing everything. When you know what’s going on, you can name it and claim it. Then decide if that’s really how you want to spend your precious time.

Clinical psychologist Aarti Gupta agrees that the first step is to admit that FOMO is your problem, and then go on to admit the human impossibility of being in all the cool places at once or doing all the cool things at once. She also advises severely limiting social media exposure by setting strict time limits.

Journalist Eric Barker, who researched the subject for TIME, boiled it down to four principles. First, treat the sadness. There is no getting around the fact that you really do have to work on yourself, and many different kinds of therapists and counselors can help. Second, leave social media out of the equation. The supposedly perfect lives that other people serve up online are pretty much full of baloney.

What we feed, grows. Sometimes it’s necessary to make the effort and focus on the good stuff. This goes along with the fourth precept, gratitude. For people who need practice in summoning up gratitude, Barker’s recommendation is, “Imagine losing the things you’re lucky to have and you will appreciate them.”

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Do you have food FOMO?,” DiveDeeperDevelopment.com, 11/21/16
Source: “Do You Have FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out?,” Forbes.com, 03/27/14
Source: “Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out,” ADAA.org, undated
Source: “This Is The Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out,” TIME.com, undated
Image by stanciuc/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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