Produce, don’t consume. Mindless consumption will make you unhealthy.

The word consume has it’s origin in the latin language, as the majority of words we use. Back then it was pieced together from the words “con”, which means “altogether” and “sumere”, which means “take up”.

Today the word consume has basically three meanings,

  1. Eat, drink or ingest.
  2. Buy /  utilize goods and services.
  3. Completely fill the mind of someone.

For this article I’d like to focus on the second one. We are consumers. Most of us are raised to be consumers. We not only consume (buy) food, we buy all kinds of stuff. Clothes. Furniture. Electronics. We also utilize a lot of goods and services, for example the TV, our phones and all of the Internet. You know best what you are consuming.

The opposite of this meaning of consume is to produce, which also has several different meanings, but the one that is relevant is “to make or create something (from components or raw materials)”.

We are all consumers.

As I said, today, most of us are consumers. Consumption keeps the economy going. Without consumption a lot of businesses would in fact go out of business and who would want that? Unfortunately there is a problem with consumption. In fact there are several problems, but one of the main ones is that it makes us passive.

Often consuming makes us feel like we’re doing something, but in fact we’re not. When watching the news we feel like we’re informing ourselves, but in fact we’re passively consuming information. We’re not creating or producing anything. We’re not even actively doing something with that information.

I don’t want to say that consumption is bad in general. Maybe it’s the kind of consumption. It’s not only what we consume, but also how we consume it. For me, there are two types of consumption. Mindless consumption and mindful consumption.

For reasons of simplicity let’s assume that there are three activity themes we can fall into: mindless (passive) consumption, mindful (active) consumption and production. If I had to put them in an order in respect to the value they provide it would probably look like this.

Why do we eat - ideally

In order to make this model more realistic, here are a few examples of activities and how I personally would order them.

  1. Producing a video
  2. Watching a movie with intention and try to learn  from it.
  3. Watching Youtube or Instagram clips.
  1. Writing an article/book etc.
  2. Reading an article book to answer a specific question in mind.
  3. Reading the news/articles for the sake of reading.
  1. Exercising/ working out
  2. Searching for exercises in order to build your workout routine.
  3. Watching workout video of hot girls, etc.
  1. Cooking a meal.
  2. Mindful eating.
  3. Wolfing down junk food.

These are just a few examples. There are endless more of them, but I think you get where I am going. I also am aware of the fact that there are things that can’t be moved to one specific category, i.e. Mindfully eating junk food, but I get to that specific example in a minute.

The main difference between consumption and production

So here we are, faced with those three choices. Now since producing seems to provide the most value of all, not only for yourself but for others as well, why don’t we do it all the time? That’s a good question and I thought quite a bit about it, but in the end, it came all down to one thing: difficulty.

Since a picture says more than a thousand words, here’s another (really fancy) graphic.

Why do we eat - actual

Makes sense, right?

It’s harder to write a book than to read the next best news article.
It’s harder to create a video than to watch one.
It’s even harder to watch a 3 hour long movie than to watch a 3 minute video on youtube.
It’s also harder to cook a meal than to go to McDonalds and buy a couple of burgers.

We prefer to do the easy things. I believe most of us do and unfortunately, our society as a whole is moving in that direction as well. Maybe not even the easy things, but the things that provide us with instant satisfaction.

What happens in your brain (simplified)

I’m not a neuroscientist, and all of this is likely to be extremely simplified, but I guess one reason why production is more difficult than mindless consumption is because of the dopamine that’s released in the brain. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.). Everything you do and enjoy releases dopamine in the brain, which lets you feel good. (It’s also responsible for runners high). Now if a 3 minute video releases dopamine and lets me feel good and a 3 hour movie does the same thing (after I finish it), why would I wait 3 hours?

Your brain probably thinks the same thing. Unfortunately if you’ve done this enough, a habit is formed and you’re watching the 3 minute videos on autopilot, not even thinking about choosing a movie.

Additionally, each time you do this the connection in your brain for this kind of behaviour (mindless consumption) gets stronger, so it gets harder to get away from this habit.

Now after this general introduction to this concept, I’d like to transfer all of this to health. I already mentioned some examples above, but I wanted to focus a bit more on this area.

Apply this to your health

You’ve learned that consuming also means eating, but that’s not what I’m referring to in the headline. Or at least it’s only part of what I’m referring to. I mean mindless consumption.

Eating junk food just because it’s easy.

Buying prepackaged foods just because it’s easier than cooking.

This kind of behaviour will make you unhealthy. I’m sure of that. You don’t have to jump to the production stage and prepare a 3 course menu every night. Instead you should primarily get away from mindless consumption. Of course not only when it comes to food, but in every area of your life, but especially when it comes to your health. The consequences of mindless consumption in that area can be disastrous.

Moving to mindful consumption is already a huge step. It’s no coincidence that there is a whole movement around the topic of mindful eating. And yes, even mindfully eating junk food is a big step. I know it sounds silly, but I’m sure it might help, especially when you eat slowly, to prevent overeating and be aware of how you feel afterwards.

We should all make an effort to produce more and increase mindful consumption and at the same time reduce mindless consumption.

Eat mindful, not mindless.

Don’t check random recipes, look for a specific one you’re actually going to cook.
Cook a meal instead of ordering in or getting take out.
It’s harder to produce something than to consume something, but trust me, you will feel better afterwards and it will be more fun.

Start producing!
Stop mindless consumption!

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