Are You Overweight Because You’re Just Too Nice?

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How to handle your friendships to prevent overeating, from Karen R. Koenig, author of Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever

How does my niceness regarding friends drive me to eat?
There are a few ways you can get yourself into trouble here. First, by not having enough companions and confidants, food becomes your best buddy. Instead of calling on Connie, Alicia, Steve, or Shana to help you sort out a mess you got yourself into or to pull you up and out of the doldrums you’ve been in ever since your last fling ended badly, you surround yourself with chums named Ben, Jerry, Uncle Ben, Mrs. Smith, and Sara Lee. Whenever you regularly substitute food for people because you don’t have enough intimates in your life or because you fear burdening or depending on others, something is seriously wrong. Your choices keep you isolated and give you no real help. In fact, they compound your problems.

Another way dysfunctional relationships propel you in the direction of your pantry is that by not depending on people, you overstress yourself. And you know where you turn for soothing and solace when that happens. Due to your quest not to make waves or enemies and be all things to all people, the pressure becomes so unbearable that you reach out to the closest thing available when you’re about to explode — food. You need instant gratification and comfort and there it is beckoning to you from so many cute little bags and boxes. By allowing yourself to become overstressed, you set yourself up for a fall — off the wagon and into the cheese dip.

One final way that seriously flawed friendships may cause you to seek out sweets and treats is how your networks view eating and weight. In certain circles, food and fat are the enemy and, trying to fit in, you may place yourself in a position of trying to lose weight too fast or become thinner than your body should be. Pressure to be included can be intense and, rather than friends helping you to become comfortable with your body, you may be surrounding yourself with people who subtly and not so subtly give you the message that you need to be fit to fit in. Conversely, if your friendships are cemented by food and revolve around eating, you may not have the guts to try to make some changes in what you do when you’re hanging out or to break away from the old gang. You may be too frightened that you’ll hurt feelings or that people will think you’re selfish or arrogant just because you want to take care of yourself!

No More Nice Girl Manifesto for Friends

DO

  • Extend yourself toward people you like and care about.
  • Expect friends to be emotionally healthy, self-aware, and working on resolving their issues.
  • Require that friends be good listeners, go out of their way for you, provide validation, understanding, sound advice, and solicited (and if you are harming yourself, unsolicited) feedback.
  • Seek out people who can put aside their needs and desires and who have your interest at heart.
  • Encourage friends to share their honest feelings with you in a tactful, appropriate way, even if their words hurt.
  • Anticipate that communicating authentically with friends does not come automatically but takes time, commitment, trust, guts, and energy.
  • Surround yourself with people who can take feedback so that you don’t have to sit on your hurt and stuff your feelings with food.
  • Have enough friends that all your eggs aren’t in one basket and have different kinds of associations for varying needs and activities (going out, heart-to-heart talks, etc.).
  • Allow that friends aren’t perfect and neither are you.
  • Expect that friends will share equally the work of forging a spectacular relationship.
  • Know that you will make and lose friends throughout life and believe that you will always have good friends as long as you want and seek them out.

DON’T

  • Keep friends just because you feel bad for them or are afraid to cut them loose.
  • Accept ongoing excuses from people who cannot live up to your reasonable expectations about friendship.
  • Keep on doing for people who don’t give back to you in return.
  • Take an ongoing part in relationships in which a friend wants you to be her mother, can’t admit to being wrong, is a perpetual victim, or has to have the last word.
  • Wear blinders, ignore red flags, or avoid seeing the truth about alleged friends.
  • Believe you don’t need friends and can take care of yourself emotionally without them.
  • Spend a lot of time with people you don’t enjoy or who don’t add to your life.
  • Try to fix friends’ problems; instead support them in fixing their own problems.
  • Let other people pressure you into staying friends with someone for his own reasons when it is not in your best interest.
  • Pal around with people who aren’t introspective and self-reflective, can’t laugh at themselves, and refuse to go into therapy if they have severe dysfunctions.
  • Keep company with friends who see themselves as living under a black cloud, because they’ll only make you feel helpless and push you into a caretaking role.

Well, that’s it. An area of your life has gone under the microscope and you’ve survived. You now know how to sidestep being too nice with family and friends. Of course, you can’t go out and make all the changes you need to de-nice yourself and improve your relationship with food today, but you’ve got tomorrow and the day after and the day after that.

To do today

Call a person who you’d like to get to know or get to know better to say hello.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen R. Koenig, the author of Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever (Copyright © 2009 by Karen R. Koenig), is a cognitive-behavioral therapist and author of three books on eating and weight. A national speaker, she regularly teaches workshops on eating to groups around the country. She lives in Sarasota, Florida.

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