I love Halloween. And I mean I love it.
Ask my daughters — they’ll tell you. I love dressing up, I love trick-or-treating, and I adore binge watching scary movies.
Unfortunately, I also used to love binge eating Halloween candy.
During the weeks leading up to the holiday, I used to be torn between vowing to eat no candy at all and also not wanting to miss out on all the fun.
I wanted to stick to my diet and be “good,” but I also didn’t want to pass up such an integral part of a holiday tradition. I mean, eating candy comes second only to scaring yourself silly on Halloween, so how could I not indulge? And what kind of mom doesn’t eat candy with her kids on such a fun holiday?
So as much as I tried to control my urge to binge, I always heard that voice in my head, reminding me how sad it would be if I didn’t join in on the one night a year it was acceptable to OD on sugar. And so almost every year, I binged on Halloween candy.
(Shameful side note: I would also do things like steal the good candy out of my kids’ bags when they weren’t looking or hide their bags in the days after it was all over so I could continue my binges. “Mom, have you seen my Halloween candy?” “Nope, sure haven’t.”)
The fear of missing out has recently become a popular concept — to the point that now the phrase has its own convenient little acronym.
But FOMO, as we now like to call it, is a huge problem if you want to live healthier and ultimately lose weight. That’s because once you decide that an event is something you’re afraid to miss out on, you’re going to go all out when you show up for it.
The moment you become afraid to miss out, you’ve lost control. If you feel fear, you’re no longer in the driver’s seat — you’ve given away your power. And power means you get to choose. If you can’t choose, then you can’t make healthy choices . . . so you binge instead.
In fact, once FOMO enters the equation, you can’t even choose whether or not you’ll attend an event — now you have to attend because you’re afraid you’ll miss something if you don’t.
The sad thing is, the event you’re afraid of missing out on probably isn’t that great to start with. And then you wreck all your good habits and previous healthy choices by going totally crazy while you’re there.
So if you’re trying to lose weight, FOMO is not your friend. Here’s the lowdown on exactly how to eliminate it:
Find the balance. FOMO pushes you into all-or-nothing behaviors. There’s no point in girls’ night out if you can’t drink with your friends, so you have three margaritas at dinner. Halloween just isn’t the same if you don’t eat candy, so you gorge yourself on it. You afraid Italy won’t be any fun if you don’t eat pasta, so you eat it at every meal (and the bread, too).
Instead, turn all-or-nothing into allowing. Find the balance. Skip the drinks at girls’ night out, and have a good glass of wine by the fire when you get home. Don’t try not to eat carbs your entire trip to Italy — allow yourself to have bread at dinner after a day of walking the city. Don’t try not to eat candy on Halloween — set aside a small pile after trick-or-treating, and allow yourself to eat it after you’ve put the kids to bed.
Knowing that you’re giving yourself the opportunity to indulge a little bit keeps you from the all-or-nothing mindset that usually results in a huge binge. And then you don’t miss out on a thing.
Enlarge your perspective. What happens with FOMO is that you’ve narrowed your perspective to the point that all you can see is that one thing and, therefore, miss the big picture.
Feeling like you’re going to miss out on something exaggerates the importance of the event in question and limits your ability to see past it. So the big picture includes the multitude of girls’ nights out you’ll have this year and the slew of family trips you will take in your lifetime.
Whatever it is you’re afraid to miss out on will be happening again next week, next month, or next year — and you can always recreate it the next day if you really want to.
Halloween’s coming next year, you can be sure of it. And honestly, it’s not like you can’t buy a bunch of candy at the grocery store and binge on it anytime you feel like it.
(That’s actually how I conquered my Halloween binges: I decided I would buy some Godiva chocolates and binge on those instead. And you know what? I never did binge. They were so delicious, one or two did the trick. Turns out a hundred miniature Snickers bars really aren’t that satisfying.)
Consider the real consequences. The pleasure you’ll get by throwing caution to the wind at the party is way less than what you’ll gain by taking control. In other words, the suffering you’ll experience if you miss out on something isn’t nearly as bad as the binge that’ll sabotage your health goals. Not to mention the emotional pain of feeling like a failure after you lose control.
When you’re feeling FOMO, you’re not in charge. You’re allowing circumstances to control you and preventing yourself from making choices and taking action. You’re putting yourself in a powerless position that ironically makes you more likely to binge.
Don’t think about what you’ll miss if you don’t do something — think about what you’ll gain by choosing differently: self-control, confidence, and the knowledge that you can decide to do something and then follow through.
You’re too powerful to waste your energy being afraid to miss out on gorging yourself on Halloween candy, downing pitchers of frozen margaritas with your girlfriends, or binge eating your way through Europe. And these really aren’t things to be afraid of missing out on anyway, are they?
FOMO is an illusion, and the moment you start to believe it you’ve lost control. These are the big lies: you’re not really missing anything, and you always are in control.
And deciding that you’re not going to buy into FOMO anymore is the perfect way to prove this to yourself.