Hey, would you like to come to this place, spend the evening at that place, have a mince pie, sausage roll, egg nog, mulled wine, taste my world-beating Christmas cake…?
And you’ll go because you can’t resist. You’ll feast like you’ll never see another meal, and you’ll consume frightening amounts of festive tipples because otherwise you’ll be missing out on all the fun, right? FOMO – shorthand for fear of missing out – is the acute and often unjustified belief that everyone is having way more fun than you, and that you're somehow being left out of all the said fun. And it reaches its annual high any day now. Small wonder. Apparently, the British cram 44% more social occasions into December than any other month.
But FOMO really is not your friend this month (or indeed any month) – especially if you want to maintain your weight over the holidays. Let’s take a look at how that festive FOMO usually pans out…
You’re committed to healthy eating at Christmas, and you go to a buffet party or event. The food looks delicious, but you are watching your weight, so your deprived mouth can only water. There’s a very subtle fear that you are never going to be able to have any of these delicious treats ever again. The fear of missing out activates your survival instinct to consume everything and anything. And so you go on a binge, and your healthy eating plans are obliterated. The self-recriminations start.
Here’s the thing you need to know about FOMO. We are culturally programmed to over-value losses and under-value gains so it’s really not your fault. So we put more importance on the food we may be missing out on, and less on our goals and wellbeing. The big question, of course, is what are you are you really missing out on? Nothing. OK, maybe some sweet or high-carb treats, some booze filled evenings and such. But eating and drinking these have a flipside: blood sugar imbalance/ energy crashes, poor sleep, almost certain weight gain (if you consume in excess) – and that’s without mentioning the negative self-talk for having over-indulged.
There’s another thing about this festive FOMO and it’s that it has you giving up taking responsibility for your actions around food and alcohol (you would have been able to resist, right, but it was the party season?)
FIX YOUR FOMO AROUND FOOD
There are several things going on when it comes to food. Your fear of ‘missing out’ on that delicious desert is the first. But also refusing food (though it should be a basic human right) is mired in emotional meaning both for you and for the host. The answer is not to find more and more creative ways to say no. If you have to own up to eating healthily around this time or being gluten or dairy free, this seems to compound the original offence of not wanting to eat. Can you get that it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t want to stuff yourself to the gunnels with sausage rolls and mince pies? It doesn’t mean anything about your relationship with food, or how you feel about the host. You just don’t want the sausage rolls!
Your action plan is this:
HAVE AN ACTUAL PLAN before you go to bed each night, plan out your food for the next day. This is never more true than at Christmas, when parties, chocolates, cookies and “treats” are just about everywhere.
DON’T TRY TO DIET JUST NOW Set a maintenance goal instead. This is much more realistic and it is achievable, even at this time of year. It will also give you the freedom to enjoy yourself without feeling deprived, or that you’ve failed, which in turn means you’re more likely to rebel (and this is code for heading straight for the box of chocolates without a second glance).
BE BALANCED Manage portions. Eat slowly. Savour each mouthful.
YOU EAT WELL AT OTHER MEALS. Lots of vegetables. Making sure you’re feeling full with smart carbohydrate choices and plenty of protein-rich foods. Then you head to your party, have one or two drinks, a few nibbles and – most of all – enjoy time with the people you love!
OH, AND DON’T GO TO A PARTY HUNGRY If you do, you’ll be fighting a loosing battle. Have a low GI snack before you go – just a little something that includes protein and slow release carbs (cottage cheese or unsweetened nut butter on an oatcake, for example).
KEEP FAMILY CHOCOLATES OUT OF SIGHT so you’re not tempted to tuck in just because they’re there. Ever heard of the ‘see food and eat it’ diet?
FIX YOUR FOMO AROUND ALCOHOL
Frequently, partygoers who are cautious about their alcohol consumption are viewed with suspicion. You can roll out the usual excuses for abstention: I’ve got a hangover from the party the night before, I’m on antibiotics, I’ve got a really important work thing tomorrow, and the like.
If you want to have a few glasses of wine, have a few glasses of wine. But make that decision inside of what you know to be your social schedule over the entire Christmas period. How does the amount of socialising stack up against your health goals? To be clear, you absolutely can honour all your social commitments but, in order not to find yourself tempted by the usual crash diet in January, hear this: it IS possible to go out, have fun, eat well and not have everyone notice you are being ‘healthy’.
If you cut back on the amount you are drinking at social events – even choosing not to drink at some events at all – you can feel the improvements almost immediately. On those nights that you don’t drink at all, you’ll sleep better, wake feeling more refreshed, you’ll have much more energy, and your mood will be better. The impact on your waistline will be positive, too – alcohol is a big contributor to belly fat and is brimming with unnecessary calories
Here are a few suggestions for cutting down – if that’s what you choose to do.
Decide how much you are going to drink (maximum) before you go out.
Consider telling someone else who will be there (friend or partner, perhaps), to help keep you accountable.
Don’t feel pressurised by others. It’s your life and you are the one who makes the decisions.
Have an excuse ready when you want to give it a miss (remember ‘no, thanks, I’d rather have …..’ is perfectly OK.
So, you see, the fear around missing out is just an illusion. And, actually (in social media terms, certainly) FOMO is a bit old hat. What’s trending right now is JOMO, the joy of missing out. Think what you will be gaining from taking on board some of my tips, enjoying yourself without over eating or drinking too much…