'Food Fomo' stops half of adults from trying to lose weight

More women would rather go without sex than miss a Sunday roast


Half of UK adults (49 per cent) say they’ve put off trying to lose weight due to ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) – with missing out on favourite foods and social events fuelling this fear.  

Foods people fear missing out on most are chocolate (29 per cent), takeaways (24 per cent), fish and chips (21 per cent) and fry ups (18 per cent). 

More than three quarters of people say they get pleasure from eating their favourite foods (77 per cent) and two in three (64 per cent) feel passionate about the food they eat. So much so in fact that more women say they fear missing out on their Sunday roast (35 per cent) than going without sex (21 per cent).

Showing how much pleasure we get from food, the survey of 2,000 adults[1] commissioned by the UK and Ireland’s largest weight-loss organisation Slimming World, found seven in 10 (72 per cent) say food brings them joy. Of those, 31 per cent say eating food prepared by someone else makes them feel loved, 64 per cent say it’s the taste of food which brings them joy and 41 per cent find food nostalgic as it brings back happy memories such as family traditions or routines.

Dr Amanda Avery, health and research consultant dietitian at Slimming World, says: “Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures so it’s no wonder food FOMO is a very real factor for many of us when it comes to losing weight. As the research shows, in many cases certain foods can have a powerful pull on us, evoking memories and emotions and rekindling flavours and pleasures experienced in the past. Often, finding the desire or motivation to alter deeply ingrained habits around the way we shop, cook and eat can be challenging and that’s where support can be crucial to help slimmers.”

For women who want to lose weight, living a healthier lifestyle (42 per cent), eating the foods they love (33 per cent), feeling full, satisfied and not hungry (30 per cent) and still being able to socialise (16 per cent) were all important factors when choosing an approach to follow. 

The survey, carried out by Censuswide, also polled members of Slimming World’s 13,000 community weight loss groups and online programme. The vast majority of members (88 per cent) say they enjoy eating food as much or more than they did before joining Slimming World and 91 per cent agree you can lose weight while enjoying your favourite food. Of the members questioned, four in five (83 per cent) say you can enjoy social situations while losing weight. 

Slimming World’s approach combines support to change your mindset around food with a flexible healthy eating plan, called ‘Food Optimising’, which can be tailored to your lifestyle. Members, who attend a weekly group or access support online, learn how to create healthy versions of their favourite foods or meals, such as roast dinners, fry ups or fish and chips, so they can lose weight without ever feeling they’re missing out. 

Dr Avery says: “Changing habits takes real effort and without support, it can be easy to give up. Being part of a community where you’ll meet other people on the same journey who share their ideas, experiences and advice has been shown to help keep motivation high. There is no need to give up your favourite foods or miss out on the pleasure they bring you though – it’s just about finding new ways to prepare and cook the meals you love. Within Slimming World groups members receive in-depth expert support, led by a Consultant who’s lost weight on the programme themselves, to reshape the way they think about food and activity.”

Professor James Stubbs, Appetite & Energy Balance, University of Leeds, agrees the fear of missing out on our favourite foods or feeling deprived goes beyond hunger. He says: “It is overly simplistic to assume that we eat just because we are hungry.  Recognising how food meets different psychological needs in different people helps us explain why people eat what they do when they know it may undermine longer-term weight and health.  Typically, people might start to feel deprived of different ‘rewards’ that food gives them when they change their dietary habits for weight loss purposes. What this research shows us, is that our relationship with food can be complex and understanding our relationship with food at an individual level is important in helping people navigate to a healthy diet and healthier weight in a way that fits into their own lives.”



[1] The research was conducted by Censuswide, among samples of 2,000 nationally representative UK general consumers along with a self-selecting sample of 1,802 Slimming World members via Slimming World’s member website. The data was collected between 16.11.23 - 21.11.23 and 16.11.23 - 22.11.23 . Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles.