I don’t think there’s anyone out there who hasn’t experienced food FOMO at least once in their lives.
If you say you haven’t, you’re either lying or you’ve never been exposed to anyone else’s food. On the off chance it’s the latter, I’ll happily take on the challenge to try and get you to understand exactly what it feels like through the use of pictures in this article.
Food FOMO, aka a fear of missing out on food, is something I experience pretty much every day. Though it might not be so common for everyone, it happens when you see some delicious-looking food, making you think ‘I need to try that immediately’. Then, if you don’t try it, you’re left feeling like you’re missing out on something other people are enjoying.
It doesn’t matter if I’m hungry or not, if I have my own food that needs eating or even if it’s something a little out of my comfort zone; if it’s right there in front of me, I just don’t want to miss out.
Say, for example, my mum bakes a dozen cupcakes and insists they need eating, or we get pizzas delivered to the office. Despite the fact I’ve had both cupcakes and pizza many times in my life, I just can’t help but think that I should try them again.
In theory it would be easy for me to say no, and the more calorie-conscious of you out there will probably scoff at my inability to refuse, but to be honest I just don’t have the willpower. If everyone else is enjoying food, and I could join them, it only seems right that I give in.
Dr Kristen Bentson, a Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Practitioner who has explored the topic of food FOMO in the past, defined the feeling to UNILAD, saying:
Food FOMO is a feeling of deprivation or anxiety related to avoiding certain meals, snacks, and treats.
Most often, people don’t experience cauliflower FOMO. Vegetables are rarely the trigger.
People usually are aware of this feeling when the food experience they are missing out on involves cake, cookies, candy, cocktails, and other such ‘goodies’.
I know for a fact I’m not alone in experiencing food FOMO, because the rise of social media has made it very, very common.
I should not be looking at Disney World food pictures before bed, or any kind of food pictures for that matter. 😩 #IWantItAll 🥨🥞🥓🍔🍟🍕🌮🥗🍝🍦🥧🧁🍰🍫🍿🍩🍪
— Amanda Stephens (@arstephens10) October 14, 2019
Even if the food’s not physically in front of us, seeing those cheese-pulls on Instagram or Nutella-covered pancakes on Facebook is all that’s needed to make us jealous.
These kinds of posts are littered with comments like ‘NEED to go here’ or ‘we have to make this!’, making it clear we’re all prone to getting tempted by drool-worthy dishes.
As well as getting FOMO from your Instagram feed, Dr. Bentson said the feeling can come from hanging out in social settings such as ‘family parties, weddings, backyard BBQs, work-related functions, and in break-rooms’.
If you’re at home and focused on [eating healthily] a nicely prepared salad can seem totally appealing! But when you’re out with friends, and the appetisers, alcohol, burgers, and desserts start hitting the table, that’s usually the time the FOMO sets in.
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As most Brits will be aware of, for the last few weeks The Great British Bake-Off – or The Great British Baking Show, for the Americans out there – has been airing on Channel 4, showing bakers creating the most mouth-watering cakes.
Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith must have a field day trying them all but viewers at home are left experiencing both awe and misery at the fact we can’t have any for ourselves.
The FOMO is so real, in fact, that I know a lot of people have to stock up on snacks before the show begins to ensure they at least have something to keep them satisfied while watching the muffins, pies and pastries get passed around on Bake Off.
Got all of the snacks ready in preparation for Bake Off tonight pic.twitter.com/z20KNtwefT
— Ryan Mules 🌚 (@ryanmules) September 24, 2019
Figuring out what snack to get for Bake Off stresses me out every week
— Niks (nee-ks) (@nicolegheller) October 8, 2019
Time to run for the snacks, it’s Bake Off time…🧁🍫🍰🏃🏻♀️😅 #GBBO
— Teena Massam (@teenamassam) October 1, 2019
WHAT WEEK IS IT ON BAKE OFF I DONT HAVE SNACKS
— Andy Marsters-Haining (@TheMarsters) October 8, 2019
Getting treats in for the show is only the tip of the FOMO iceberg, as people will often take trips out to restaurants after being enticed by delicious-looking pictures on social media. It’s not necessarily a bad hobby, but it can be an expensive way to satisfy your cravings.
I once organised my plans on a trip to New York – which I promise was already booked – around a 24-layer chocolate cake I’d later seen online. I have no regrets, but I admit it was a bit excessive.
The thing is, it doesn’t really make much sense for us to feel food FOMO. As I pointed out earlier, often the food we’re presented with is something we’ve had before, or something we could easily get our hands on whenever we want.
Admittedly, a lot of the food on social media is very extravagant, but most of the time it’s just a glorified version of pasta, a burger, chips or chocolate cake. Often we’re just focusing on how good it looks, rather than how it would actually taste or how we’d feel after eating it.
Though we don’t want to admit it, if we consumed everything we saw on social media we’d most likely just end up feeling stuffed, unhealthy, and a little bit poorer than when we started out.
Still, it can be hard to convince ourselves we don’t need something when it’s right there in front of us, and the opportunity to have food at the click of a finger (on a Deliveroo ‘confirm order’ button) has only made us more likely to give in to the FOMO.
Dr. Bentson explained why, despite the illogicality of our cravings, we continue to feel food FOMO, as the ‘social and emotional power of food can’t be underestimated’.
She explained often FOMO can be ‘perpetuated by food pushers’; those who are enjoying a tasty treat and encourage you to try it, too.
Someone tell @sethbainbridge to stop feeding me cuz everytime he offers food you know I’m not gonna pass up the offer, so maybe if he stops offering I won’t eat so much 🤷🏼♀️😂😂😂
— +Mads+ (@maddydamron) October 14, 2019
The doctor said:
Taste is a powerful sense, but there’s something more than just taste that dictates FOMO.
If your goal is healthy eating but the people around you have a goal to eat or drink for pleasure, it’s rare that the pleasure seeker is going to respect and honor your desire to purposefully eat nutrient-rich foods and skip the junk-filled options.
In turn, they’ll probably make comments and attempt to make you feel like you’re missing out so that they don’t feel guilty about their own poor choices.
It’s natural to own those feelings and subsequently experience FOMO.
But no matter how much our mouths might be watering, it is possible to fight the temptations. Hard, yes, but possible. Dr. Bentson offered some tips on how to improve our willpower when it comes to food, pointing out ‘the food you eat is either working for your health or against it’.
Sidenote: yes, the above picture is just of broccoli. It’s not exactly something I personally dream of eating every day but as I’m trying to get everyone to understand food FOMO I’m just covering all the bases.
The doctor explained that getting over food FOMO is ‘all about mindset and understanding that you are in control of the way you think, feel, and act’.
If you make the decision to love vegetables, fruit, and other wholesome natural foods, you will love them.
Mindset matters. If you think you’re being left out, or deprived, or you’re anchoring to the importance of momentary tasty pleasure, you’ll experience FOMO.
Dr. Bentson went on to point out that although it can be difficult to resist tempting foods when they’re in front of us, there is a lot to gain by successfully overcoming the feeling we’re missing out.
As the food we’re often enticed by is of the unhealthy variety, the doctor encouraged focusing on ‘the abundance of delicious, nutrient-rich foods that will have a positive health effect’.
You can totally be an organic, no sugar added, whole foods ‘foodie’.
If you think about all the good that can happen by simply saying no to highly processed, nutrient-devoid, or sugar-laden foods; rather than feeling like you’re missing out, you’ll feel like you’re gaining health and vitality.
My fear of missing out on food is happening again… 🤷🏽♀️🙄 do I want just toast.. or jam on toast.? strawberry or apricot but what if I prefer cereal… actually there’s a blueberry muffin in the cupboard… FAB it’s 10:24am and I’ve had it all, can’t just be me🤦🏽♀️🙈😬🥴 #piggggy
— Siany (@Sianykasey14227) September 18, 2019
Dr. Bentson also advised personalising social media feeds so we’re not met with pictures of hearty takeaways, lavish breakfasts and indulgent desserts whenever we go for a scroll.
The doctor continued:
Social media can also drive food FOMO, so being mindful of the company you keep both online and in real life is important.
If you’re with people who are eating really healthy or filling your social media feed with positive health role models, you’ll probably not feel the effects of junk-food FOMO.
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Some people will be better than others at controlling their cravings but Dr. Bentson’s advice is good to keep in mind if (or when) you do find yourself unnecessarily accepting food that’s offered to you, or spending pointless amounts of money on an Insta-worthy dish.
The doctor summed up her argument by saying:
Let’s be real, while it’s true that you might be missing out on the opportunity to talk about how good a cookie tastes, share a plate of fries, or taste a piece of candy, you’re not battling the bulge, dealing with fatigue, or doubled-over with a stomach ache. So in all reality, what are you missing out on?
i need to Stop being tempted by food
— grilled cheese (@minolovemail) November 2, 2018
Food will always be around to entice us, but it’s definitely worth using willpower to try and resist, instead of blindly indulging in those things we don’t really need.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t treat ourselves every now and again, but resisting those everyday temptations – just like the ones pictured throughout this article – is definitely worth a try.
There’s no doubt we’d feel better for it!
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to [email protected]
Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.