Do you have an unhealthy fear of missing out (FOMO)? Sometimes fomo can be unhealthy, but you can use it to propel your fitness journey
Do you have FOMO?
Nope, FOMO isn’t a new texting or Tweeting blurb. I was recently reading an article by Precision Nutrition about goal setting and it mentioned a term that was new to me: FOMO, which stands for Fear of Missing Out. When I read that article, a light bulb went on in my head.
I have struggled with letting the fear of missing out control some my decisions and my feelings without even knowing it. This post is a little bit long – I have been working on it for some time now and it keeps getting bigger! But it is a must-read if you have a history of self-doubt.
FOMO: Why You Should Care
So what is FOMO exactly and why is it important when it comes to your health and fitness?
FOMO is the fear of missing out. I guess you could describe FOMO as a sort of self-inflicted “peer”-pressure. As it relates specifically to health and fitness, some people often make poor decisions about their health based on the fear of missing out on something big and new, and missing out on what everyone else around them is doing.
There may never be any actual peer pressure involved in these poor decisions. But if you are afraid of missing out on something, you may abandon a perfectly practical diet or exercise plan for the lure of a shiny new one because of the internal struggle of feeling left out.
A few symptoms of FOMO:
- Chronic self doubt
- Anxiety – unnecessary mental pressure to keep up with others
- Worry that XYZ (goals, plans, workouts) isn’t as awesome as someone else
- Worry that your diet sucks because it doesn’t have a great “label” (vegan, Paleo, low carb, slow carb, intermittent fasting, etc.)
- Constant rethinking of your ideas, plans, and goals
- Feeling crummy because you don’t fit into a fitness “group”
While there is nothing wrong with making tweaks to your diet and exercise plans as new research is made available, there are a lot of people out there who want to have the newest and shiniest things (including diet and exercise plans) because they are afraid of missing out on the next big thing or falling behind their peers.
What can happen when you let FOMO dictate your decisions about health and fitness? It can steal your ability to pursue your dreams with single-minded determination, and it can cause people to make silly health decisions (500 calorie HCG diets, anyone?).
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men?…” Galatians 1:10 (ASV)
What To Do If You Have FOMO
Set Clear goals
Your goals should be clear. When you know exactly what you want, you won’t worry so much about comparing your journey to someone elses. When you compare yourself to others, you essentially start working toward their goal, not your own. Use the chart below to help map out your personal goals so you can pursue them with confidence.
Know your “Why”
Now that you know exactly what you want, you need to be honest about the why of your goals. Want to run a marathon? Awesome! Train and run for the marathon for you, whatever your reason is, not because you want to keep up with Susie Sprinter.
That only makes your efforts feel like a burden. If beating Susie is your main reason to run, and you cannot beat Susie Sprinter in the race, than you will lose faith in the power of fitness and begin to hate it. Even for competitive athletes, there needs to be another impetus for training beyond simply winning, otherwise when competitions are lost, the training loses it’s luster and you can lose your love of fitness.
Education is supremely important. Learn more about your passions and goals: are they grounded in legitimate research? Choose carefully where your education comes from. Alwyn Cosgrove coined the term “exponential learning“: learn only from people who are constantly enriching their minds with high quality education.
What I can learn from a reputable health journal is much better than what I can learn from my neighbor who is trying to get me to try a radical new fad diet based on anecdotal evidence.
Confidence develops over time from all of the above. Once you know the who, what, where, and how of your life and purpose, you can walk with confidence and not be swayed by negative input or glittery distractions. And I speak from experience when I say that for some people (like me), confidence doesn’t just happen by itself. It takes practice.
If you want to try new diets or fitness regimes to experiment a little and find something that works best for you, perfect! Be aware of the difference between making changes because they are necessary, or making changes because we feel left out of the loop and we don’t want to miss out on someone else’s dream.
When we try to keep up with someone else’s health and fitness journey, we inevitably abandon our own dreams and end up pursuing someone else’s dream that is not meaningful to us.
A chart like this can help you pin-point your personal goals
The Flip Side: How FOMO Can Help You Achieve Your Goals
Great news! There is a flip side to FOMO and you can make it work for you. When you identify it as a player in your decisions, you can harness the power of FOMO to reach your goals. A healthy dose of FOMO can be a good thing, if you understand it.
How? If you are surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals who value health and fitness, their achievements can motivate us to work harder if we desire to live life to the fullest and step out of our comfort zone.
Case in point: a week or so ago, I jumped into a pool of near-freezing (36 degree) water to help raise money for Special Olympics. Why on earth would I do that? Part of it was a desire for variety and adventure, and a small part of it was I didn’t want to miss out on the fun my friends were having.
I was on the fence about doing it initially, but my husband talked me into it – and I don’t regret it! We had fun and got to support a great cause.
In this particular case FOMO worked to my advantage because several years ago I made a commitment to myself to step out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. My life “default switch” is to be a hermit, so I have to really work at adding adventure and variety to my life.
When a crazy opportunity comes my way, I have to practice switching OFF my “default switch” and step into something new. The fear of missing out on some crazy fun can help me to remember my commitment to cultivating a spirit of adventure.
How can you tell if FOMO is working for you and not against you? Look at how you feel: are you feeling adventurous, or are you feeling anxious or pressured?
So, what are some ways to harness FOMO?
- Surround yourself with like-minded people who will support you and who will challenge you in healthy ways.
- Make sure your friends support your decisions and goals. Positive peer “encouragement” is great, but avoid negative peer pressure.
“The fear of man brings a trap, but he who trusts in the Lord will be honored.” Proverbs 29:25 (NLV)
Take a Look at your life: Are you living a purposeful life, or are you driven by an unhealthy Fear of Missing Out?
Sarah Jane Parker is the founder, recipe creator, and photographer behind The Fit Cookie. She’s a food allergy mom and healthy living blogger based in Wyoming. Sarah is also an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ACE Certified Health Coach, Revolution Running certified running coach, and an ACE Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist