Holidays, shopping, work, travel, friendships, gym equipment, clothes, books, bags, watches, hobbies, exercise and food. A few of the things we consume every single day. There is of course more to add to the list. But let’s start there. You can judge consumption on some simple parameters. Excess, like porn, is easy to call out. You’ll know it when you see it. I am going focus on our consumption of food and exercise. When I say consumption, I mean how you spend your time, energy and money.

There is a necessary amount of exercise. The minimum dosage you need to get to remain healthy. This dosage keep joints functioning as optimally as when you were at your most active. This ‘necessary’ dosage can be nudged higher to maintain a higher quality of life or support a more active lifestyle. Things can tip into unnecessary when you run or exercise or lift for sport. Unnecessary is not necessarily undesirable. Nor is it counterproductive. It can be incredibly empowering.

A lot of content posing as fitness education are people who are into bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting and calisthenics. Running distances that are no longer about maintaining a healthy heart. Lifting weights is no longer about maintaining muscle or joint healthYou don't actually have to do most of what you are watching. The dosages and choices are unnecessary for you to remain healthy and functional.

Then comes counterproductive. Just insane amounts of activity for activity’s sake. Taking chances that you need not take. Activity where risk far outweighs rewards. You risk injuring, hurting or killing yourself with certain endeavours. You compromise long term health for the sake of short term performance. Useful adaptations are sacrificed at the altar of more activity. 

Food falls into the same three traps. But society has normalised counterproductive consumption. The necessary amount of food provides you all the nutrients and energy you need to get through an active day. Your muscles, organs, bones and every cell get all the protein, fat, carbohydrates and micronutrients they need to thrive. No more, no less.

Unnecessary gives your body more energy than it needs. This is shunted away as adipose tissue in the body. Food choices that lead you to consume far more or far less protein, fat or carbohydrates than you need are also unnecessary. It is unnecessary to exclude food groups on the basis of morality or false claims of being better for your health. Unnecessary becomes counterproductive with time and consistency. Counterproductive food consumption inevitably results in obesity, heart disease, poor joint health and all forms of avoidable lifestyle disorders. We know it will hurt us. But we do it. Because we can. Society neither disincentives or disagrees. Your insurance premium does not go up if you take extra helping of calorie dense food everyday.

You don’t always feel the pain of bad choices. The fear isn’t there when most of society chooses to kick the can of good health choices down the road. Better quality of life is not part of most conversations. Shame is out of fashion and you are shamed for shaming. Lack of resources is the only factor that keeps you from crossing the lines of necessary, unnecessary and counterproductive consumption. Sadly we have all the resources to cross those lines and most of us do when it comes to food. Doing what is necessary is you choosing to make better choices.

The necessary, unnecessary and the counterproductive