Festive FOMO is the fear of missing out on all foods that are available; if you don’t stock up and eat all the food now, you won’t get it ever again. Or more accurately, until next Christmas.
This mindset leads eating foods you might not actually want, and is like the “fuck it effect” we find in the dieting cycle. But this time, it’s because Christmas is a hyped-up holiday with a ton of food, stress, and can be really overwhelming.
Before you read any further: I am in no way calling out “overeating”, not eating mindfully, or eating foods you’re not that into a bad thing. No way. This post is not to help you not gain control around food so you don’t eat them, but about how you think and feel about food.
So say you diet all year (or are being “healthy” or “good”, aka still dieting) then Christmas comes around and you give yourself temporary unconditional permission to eat. Which basically looks like “Yay it’s December 23rd I’m going to eat everything I want, because come January 1st I’ll be strict again”. Sounds like a good idea, right?
Nope, it’s actually pretty much the opposite of what Intuitive Eating is all about. Christmas is an external source that depicts what, how and when to eat. Which is totally fine; it’s normal to eat more and differently around the holidays, but it shouldn’t come with a side of guilt or a promise in your head that you’ll get “back on track” as soon as all the mince pies are off the supermarket shelves.
So before we start dealing with festive food FOMO, let’s talk about Christrmas foods.
Christmas foods: mince pies, stuffing, pigs in blankets, Christmas pudding, hot chocolates, yule logs (you get the picture…) are all put on a food pedestal. We build specific foods or specific events (aka the big dinner on Christmas Day) up to be something it’s not. If we’re dieting all year, and when Christmas comes, we think “YAY time to eat everything I want; this will be amazing”. But we’re left feeling short changed because Christmas food is still just food.
The urgency and FOMO amplifies because supermarkets are packed with deals on Christmas food, you feel pressure to buy everything well in advance but then because it’s the forbidden food effect, you eat it before you planned to, so that needs another trip to the shops. Repeat repeat repeat.
And during this time you’re also probably feeling stressed about present shopping, seeing your family and your in-laws, and dealing with work deadlines etc etc. You’re probably thinking about what foods you’re going to cut out in the New Year, or you’re thinking about joining a gym or starting an online class to lose weight.
So all of this comes together to form a nice little gift called “scarcity + deprivation”.
Now, becoming “over full” because you’re eating food you’ve put on a pedestal is completely normal. It’s a response to the deprivation - and leads to this “I need to eat it all now otherwise I’ll not have it for a whole year!” Or because your body doesn’t have a calendar, it thinks “I need to eat everything now because this person will not feed me like this ever again!.
So, if this sounds like you, and you want to put a stop to this mindset + just feel…. Cool with food at Christmas, here are a few things to do:
Ps. This is not a substitute for eating disorder treatment; please speak to your GP or contact @beateduk for the help you deserve.
1. Bring all the festive foods down from their pedestal by seeing them for what they are: yule log is delicious chocolate cake, party bites can be found any time of the year, stuffing and mince pies can too. You can go to any supermarket and find them at any time of the year. A good idea might be to write a list of every single food you dream about eating at Christmas time, and decide to work on unconditional permission to eat. You will make a “food shit list” containing these foods and work through them all so they can be less super exciting (post about this to follow, don’t worry).
2. After you’ve written a list of all your anticipated Christmas favourites, go through them one by one and think about what it actually is about them that makes you so excited. Are you connecting them to childhood? Certain emotions, like happiness or anticipation? After you establish what feelings are associated with the food, write down ideas of activities that also bring you those feelings. Like baking cookies, watching films, playing games with your family. Food can totally be involved here too, but this is about using food PLUS other things to make us happy.
3. If you’re eating all the foods you have access to now because you’re putting a time limit on how long you can eat them for, tell yourself: “I can eat X Y Z food whenever I choose to. I can have some now, some tomorrow, some next week, or next month. I don’t need to eat any right now if I don’t want to. This food will always be available”.
*Note: Depending on your personal circumstance, some foods might not be available all the time. I am not trying to downplay your situation. @intuitiveeatingldn has a great resource available on their Gumroad page for eating when your financial situation is tight.
4. You don’t need an all-or-nothing mindset; you don’t need to be eating nothing but chocolate and cheese for weeks, then nothing but soup and salad for the next 3 months. You don’t need to “make up” for what you ate during Christmas time by going on a diet or “new lifestyle” in January. This is part of the binge/restrict mentality which does not bring control, and will lead to feeling out of control with food.
I hope these tips can give you some relief, and I hope they are useful in the weeks to come.