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flowersWhat is FOMO?

The word FOMO was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. It refers to the “fear of missing out”, loosely defined as preoccupation with or anxiety regarding the idea that if we don’t take advantage of every opportunity offered to us then we may lose out in some important way. A recent study defined FOMO as “…the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you”.

Where does FOMO come from?

The authors of the study found that FOMO is likely to develop in people with “low levels of satisfaction of the fundamental needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness…(as well as)…those with lower levels of general mood and overall life satisfaction.” But I believe that most people are at risk for FOMO, because we simply hate to miss out on anything!

How does FOMO show up and how does it affect us?

FOMO shows up in a variety of ways including:

  • Constantly checking social media
  • Feeling the need to read every email that comes your way
  • Keeping notifications turned on (on your phone, computer and other devices) so you never miss an update or a post
  • Being driven to participate in every meeting, committee or event at work or elsewhere
  • Constantly questioning your choices and activities (“Should I be doing this, would I be better off in a different job, with different friends, at different social events”, and so on) instead of being in the “now”, focusing on where you are now, on what you’re doing now, and on who you’re with now
  • Feeling the need to attend every event you’re invited to
  • If you’re on vacation, you may feel the need to visit every single place of interest or do every available activity, instead of taking some much-needed rest
  • If you’re at a party or other social event you may find yourself looking around the room to see which interesting-looking people you haven’t talked to yet, instead of focusing on and connecting with the person you’re talking to right now
  • If you’re at home for the day and the phone rings, you may feel the need to answer every call instead of resting up or doing what you need to do
  • If you’re reading a book and not enjoying it you may feel the need to press forward in case it gets better – the same goes for a “so-so” movie
  • If you’re reading the newspaper and the news is depressing you may continue reading it anyway so you don’t miss any details

How does FOMO get in the way of successful weight loss maintenance?

As you can imagine from these examples, if you’re consumed with FOMO you’ll have little (if any) time or energy to do the kind of self-care that successful weight loss maintenance requires. You’re simply too busy or exhausted for regular exercise, you have no time or energy to plan and prepare healthy meals (you’re more likely to eat on the run and grab anything that’s available), you don’t get enough rest, there’s no space in your life for relaxation, and your stress level is sky-high.

If you’re constantly checking social media, especially Facebook, it may seem as though everyone else is living a perfect life with exciting vacations, constant fun, and constant meaningful connection. In comparison, our own lives may seem duller or emptier. We may get down on ourselves and our lives, putting us at risk for emotional eating to compensate.

Reading every email or post that comes your way can put a serious dent in your productivity. You have to work harder to catch up, or you never feel like you get enough done. You’re at risk for exhaustion or burnout, which in turn can put you at risk for comfort eating in an effort to boost your energy.

Constantly questioning your choices and activities reduces your ability to enjoy and engage in anything. Your life feels less meaningful as a result. This reduces your resolve to take good care of yourself so that you can fully engage in a life that feels purposeful.

You may also be dealing with food-related FOMO. Food-related FOMO can result in eating when you’re not hungry, especially when “free food” is available (some examples might be the plate of cookies that’s always on the conference table at work meetings, the donuts that show up in the break room on Fridays, or the offerings at a party or gathering). You may finish everything on your plate even when you’re quite full, just because it “tastes so good”. Special holiday dishes that people make only once a year are another trigger for those with food-related FOMO.

How to get over FOMO?

The best way to get over FOMO is by building a sense of JOMO – the joy of missing out. Here’s how:

  • Set small daily goals that are not overwhelming – some initial goals might be: put your phone in another room for 5 minutes, or take the risk of doing nothing, even if you start with one minute a day.
  • Think about what you’re gaining by checking your email every few hours instead of every 5 minutes (increased productivity, increased focus, being able to work less because you’re accomplishing more).
  • Remind yourself to do only one thing at a time.
  • Slow down your mind and your life, and notice how good it feels.
  • Ask yourself – how will saying “yes” to this activity/person/meeting and so on move me in the direction of my deepest purpose and my most important goals.
  • Develop the habit of stopping to “smell the roses” on a regular basis. Become mindful to what you’re experiencing right now. Savor it with all of your senses.
  • Cultivate a sense of gratitude for what you have, instead of thinking about what you want next.
  • Focus more on the relationships you already have, than on getting new contacts.
  • Pat yourself on the back every time you politely say “no” to anyone or anything.

Coaching can help you eliminate FOMO from your life, so you can Stop Regaining the Weight you Lost. Contact me to schedule your free initial consultation and let’s discuss your needs:

With your continued health in mind,

Dr Doreen.

Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.

Coaching services provided by Dr Doreen are not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.