This is what Steve (not his real name) really wants to know. He’s been unhappy with his body for much of his life. He used to compare his body to other people’s bodies; now he’s comparing his food habits to other people’s habits.
Steve already knows two things:
First, he can’t assume that other people actually have a “normal” relationship with food. He doesn’t know the whole truth of their lives, and Steve might be surprised to learn he’s not the only person capable of sneaking, hiding, concealing, or lying about what he’s really doing with food.
Second, if other people aren’t secretly doing what Steve is, he still doesn’t know what they are thinking about doing. One proven route to misery is comparing your insides (thoughts and feelings) to someone else’s outside (observable behaviors and actions). If Steve could see what others are thinking, he might recognize quite a bit of his own thoughts in his friends’ heads.
Here’s what Steve is slowly learning: the difference between normal and healthy.
Whatever Steve sees around him is the norm, but upon closer inspection, he may also notice that it is filled with self-hatred, compulsion, loathing, and fear. Bluntly stated, if normal is being as miserable as his friends are around food, is “normal” really what Steve wants?
The desire to “be normal” often appears when you are a beginner. When you first learned to drive, play the guitar, or binge, it was time-consuming, difficult, and slow: now, you’ve practiced it so often, it’s become easy.
Whatever we can do while only half-awake, we call normal—even if it is self-destructive, harmful, or unpleasant.
For Steve, treating his body and himself with respect, patience, and kindness is incredibly abnormal. If he can persevere long enough to make these values his new normal, I suspect that his habit of comparing his body (and his food habits) with others will to fade.
If you stand at the junction of “normal” and “healthy”, how do you choose?