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Nice Guys May Finish Fat Too

Now that my new book, NICE GIRLS FINISH FAT—PUT YOURSELF FIRST AND CHANGE YOUR EATING FOREVER, is out, I’m often asked whether nice guys have the same problems as nice gals. The answer is yes and no. There are many excessively nice guys out there who have the same traits and use food in much the same way as “nice girls,” but they don’t have the double whammy of family dysfunction and cultural expectations shaping their personalities and relationship with food.

When I think about the overweight “nice” men I’ve known and treated, their unhealthy family histories jump right out at me. Many had mothers who were narcissistic, frail, dependent, or entitled. As boys, they lived to serve and take care of their mothers because that’s how they received love and affection and avoided rejection. They often had to back-burner their own needs in order to please Mom or Dad. These guys are soooooo nice—sweet, kind, gentle, loving—with little of that caring, however, spilling over into how they treat themselves. Many also were raised by domineering or distant fathers who had overly high expectations of them. They grew up feeling inadequate and insecure. Always trying to measure up and falling short, they gave up or became overachievers. Either way, food became their comforting companion.

Whereas women are raised to be nice and faulted if they’re not, men are often brought up to be tough and strong and this is what makes it difficult for shy, sensitive, compassionate boys. For girls, niceness is highly prized. For these men, niceness is a trait they were pressured to unload, like cutting off part of themselves. In this society, gentle, sweet-natured boys are out of sync with the ideal of the rough-and-tumble male and may develop negative feelings about having these traits. When they feel badly, it’s not surprising that they use food to take care of upsetting emotions.

Life may or may not improve for nice guys as adults. I have heard some say they want to stop being so nice because women just don’t value their goodness. They want to be the bad boys women seem to be drawn to. C’mon, ladies, you know this is true for some of you. You often say you’re looking for a nice guy, but who do you dream about, date or marry? Not always Mr. Nice. So nice men are often stuck being who they are, with many attractive but undervalued qualities. From childhood, they don’t carry around a great self-image, and in adulthood they’re niceness seems only to work against them. Food makes things better temporarily, and so they grow fat. In the end, they have the same work to do as nice girls to grow healthier and make peace with food.