Monday, March 5, 2012

Normal vs. Healthy

There are several ED-related buzzwords that make me cringe a bit each time I hear them: "triggering", "fear food", "thinspiration", "meal plan". Today, however, the words I am focusing on are "normal" and "healthy". I don't like either of these words because I believe their definition varies from person to person. Too often, society tries to measure everyone against someone else's vision of normal and healthy.What is normal for me or healthy for me is not necessarily normal or healthy for you. But, more importantly, what is normal for me, isn't necessarily healthy, period.

I realized this a few moments ago while enjoying my lunch which consisted of a mandarin orange, one of those 100-calories bags of popcorn, and a handful of chocolate candy. By no means is this lunch the nutritional ideal for anyone, but, for me, it's quite normal. In other words, within the context of my life,this was not an unusual lunch for me to have (usually I eat breakfast, try to skip lunch, then eat dinner, only to end up snacking on a variety of nutritionally-derelict items). While this might be normal for me, it is not healthy, even though I do little to change my behavior. It seems I need to be reminded that behaviors aren't normal just because they are repeated over and over again.This is an important concept to keep in mind during recovery. It is easy for us to fall into patterns, to repeat certain behaviors, and become oblivious to them. But we need to be self-aware enough to identify which behaviors are "normal" in the larger scheme of things, and which behaviors feed from eating-disordered thoughts and impulses. Next, we have to fashion a plan to remedy these behaviors if they are damaging or if they interfere with our recovery, our health, or the quality of our lives. I can guarantee that my substandard lunch was the product of my eating disorder. Now, what am I going to do to fix it? Stop skipping meals. Stop restricting. Eat well-rounded meals with proper nutrition to avoid absent-minded snacking and hunger-induced binges.

I also have to remember that eating disorders are not normal. Of course this seems like common sense, but after you've lived with an eating disorder for a number of years (whether you are in recovery or you are not) your life begins to feel somewhat normal because it's all you know. Even if you aren't happy with the way your life is progressing, if you're sad, if you're tired of being sick--whatever-- it begins to feel safe and normal and the desire to change things lessens. The need for total recovery fades and you begin to live this pieced together sort of life in which you are partly recovered and partly broken. You step in and out of both realms, trying on both masks and constantly swapping one out for the other. But in order to ever be truly happy, or truly healthy, or truly normal in the most basic sense of any of those words, we have to self-aware. We have to look inward, notice our patterns and behaviors, and work hard toward changing those which are negative, destructive, lazy, neglectful, or hurtful.

Otherwise, we're living life half-full.


  1. Your habits sound very similar to mine. I eat nutritionally void light snacks to try to avoid real food. My non lunch has become my normal even though I know it's really not.

  2. Yes yes yes! I couldn't agree with you more! I wrote an article here about my interpretation of "healthy living v. eating disordered living." I realise that we've disagreed on philosophy via one of your prior posts, but I truly think that at the end of the day, we can come together on a single objective that to each exists their own. Thanks for writing this. It really impressed me.:)

  3. I can't explain how your post alwais make me feel... not alone. I really can't explain it, it's overwhelming.
    Thanks for sharing. Thank you.



  4. There is no such thing as normal. It took me a long time to realize this. But at the same time, as you write, ED is not normal either. I consider myself to be in recovery from my anorexia, even though it feels like it's still there with me, only now it's quieter. One site that really helped me was - hope it might help someone here. Reading others' stories about ED makes me feel less alone, and in a way, more normal. So thank you :)

  5. you know....i love it when you post.

    and can i ask if you can come coach me on how to start this process? seriously this is exactly what i am dealing with -- routines, patterns, and "rituals" that are not necessarily ED involved or related behaviors (restricting/bingeing...) but like you said they come from it.

    i feel VERY attached to eat asparagus every night, and i usually eat the same dinner every single night. 99.9% of the time. i also feel the need to vacuum every single day. <--see? totally unrelated to ED but NOT normal and the obsessions stem from malnutrition i am sure.

    you do have to work hard. i know that. because as i attempt to do this i feel sooooooooooooo lazy and say "tomorrow"

    1. @Missy, I also vacuum every single day, sometimes twice daily. I very much look forward to a posh New York apartment with exposed brick and gorgeous hardwood floors. :)