Common Vs. Normal


There’s a trend I’ve noticed that I find concerning.

It’s when we people use the words “common” and “normal” interchangeably as if they are the same thing.

The word common means that something occurs often or is prevalent.

The word normal is less straightforward to define, because it can mean different things in different contexts. But if we are using it in a biological sense it means naturally occurring and free from disease. And from a psychological angle it means free from mental disorder; being sane.

Where I see the problem is that damaging behaviours or thought patterns that have unfortunately become common in our society, are also becoming normalised. That because they are occurring so frequently, we think they are ok.

A poor relationship with food is a prime example of this.

Over the last couple of years it feels like it’s more common place for people to talk about their struggles with food.

And I think this is great. Disordered behaviours feed off secrecy and insecurity, so the more open people are, the better. I want a world where people aren’t stigmatised or shamed because of struggles with food.

But it’s with issues like this that we need to be aware of the difference between “common” and “normal”. Because if in our attempt to make people feel less alone and ostracised we normalise this behaviour, rather than just pointing out how common it is, we have a problem.

It’s not normal to despise the body you live in, despite it being common.

It’s not normal to starve yourself in an attempt look more “aesthetically pleasing,” despite it being common.

It’s not normal to exercise when your body is telling you no because it’s exhausted or injured, despite it being common.

It’s not normal to fear food, despite it being common.

When something is common, we recognise that we are not alone and others also deal with this too. When something is normalised, we stop seeing this behaviour or thought pattern as a problem and instead accept it as normal.

So let’s help people to stop feeling isolated, but not by keeping them stuck where they are by normalising it.

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Chris Sandel is the founder of He is a nutritionist, working with clients on a one-on-one basis, as well as creating online trainings and products about health and nutrition. He is the author of The Health Trap: Why "Healthy" Eating Isn't Always Healthy which is available on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

Chris has three free emails series. One is on how to quit dieting. One is on simple tests you can do at home. And the other is his take on the world's healthiest foods.

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