Holiday Food Anxiety and FOMO

The holidays are meant to be a festive time, but for many can be a cause of stress, anxiety, and sometimes weight gain. This time of year is often viewed as an opportunity to let loose and indulge in all of your favorite comfort foods.  For me, these comfort foods sometimes cause food anxiety and leave me feeling remorseful afterward.  

Do any of the following situations sound familiar:  

  • Purchasing holiday candy at the store because it might not be there next week. Perhaps finishing the bag, then buying more the following week, thinking “I won’t be able to find peppermint bark soon. Better get it while I can!”
  • Walking into the break room to see a platter of holiday cookies and feel the need to eat a cookie at 9 a.m. “Peanut butter Buckeyes are my favorite. If I wait until lunchtime, they might be gone!”
  • Attending a holiday party and overeating dessert because, “Pumpkin pie is only around once a year!” 

I admit that in the past I have been guilty of all these scenarios and more.  If any of these apply to you, then you might have a case fear of missing out or FOMO. Holidays can trigger FOMO around food, which stems from anxiety around the scarcity of food. In these scenarios, we purchase or consume food out of fear of not being able to have them later on. Since the holidays seem like a fleeting moment in time, they can create a ‘now or never’ mindset.  

This scarcity mindset can also come with a sense of urgency that causes us to make rash decisions regarding food. This leads to us eating foods we would not normally consume, overeating, or even hoarding food (like buying multiple bags of Reese’s Trees to stock up).  

The On Again – Off Again Cycle

Food FOMO can also lead to procrastinating with healthy eating and as a result, permission to overindulge. Overindulgence then leads to a desire to restrict food, usually in the form of a diet. 

Does this sound familiar, “Ugh, I can’t believe I ate so much at the holiday party? I am starting a diet tomorrow!  Wait, tomorrow is the cookie exchange.  I’ll start next Monday. Hmm…but I have that family dinner, and mom is making that special cake. Well, I might as well wait until the new year! Since I’m going to deprive myself, I need to eat all the things while I still can!”

We know that holiday foods are everywhere right now, but this cycle shows how the fear of restriction in the future can also encourage the scarcity mindset.  

Navigating Holiday FOMO

Remembering that a holiday is just another day can help you stay mindful of food choices.  Spoiler Alert: you can get any food, any day of the year! You can bake a pumpkin pie in June. You can buy peppermint cocoa 365 days of the year. Reminding yourself of this can help you make smarter choices.  

As I write this blog, two coworkers are sipping seasonal coffee drinks from the Student Center.  The old me would have felt like I was missing out.  Becoming aware of my own food FOMO has made me mindful of my choices.  Acknowledging that I can have a pumpkin spice latte any day of the year makes it easier to continue drinking my homemade coffee with satisfaction. This is my ‘abundance mindset.’ Try operating from a mindset of abundance, rather than one of scarcity, and FOMO dissipates.  

If you experience food anxiety or find yourself in a dieting cycle, it could help to talk to a professional.  Eagle Nutrition Services has registered dietitians and behavioral health specialists ready to talk with you.

About the Writer

Donna Shannon is a master of science dietetic student who is passionate about food and fitness.  Through her nutrition journey, she has learned that one size fits all approaches and deprivation diets do not work.  A recovering couch potato, Donna now teaches group fitness and competes in half ironman triathlons.