Quantitative vs. Qualitative – When are Numbers Important?

Michael Smith Blog - Know The Cause
Going on a diet can be described in both quantitative and qualitative terms. Many people seek to limit the number of calories they take in increase the number of times they eat per day while decreasing the portions consumed – both quantitative changes in the dietary habits.


Some people on the other hand may be less concerned with the calories taken in but more concerned with the quality of food choices, i.e., choosing grass-fed, organic beef and organic veggies washed back with a water rather than a burger and fries with a soda.


The same terms can be applied to the motivation behind changing your dietary habits. Many people will choose to eat a certain way to lower or raise quantifiable data. Some people may seek to raise good cholesterol while lowering bad, or lose weight – both measurable entities. Other people seek to change the quality of their life by looking better or having more energy. Neither of these things are measurable with scales or tools, but their effect is certainly palpable, and in many cases far more important to the dieter. 


I definitely fall into the qualitative school of thought; if I look in the mirror and am happy with what I see, or if I can make it through a day lethargy-free and able to concentrate, I’m less concerned with what a scale says. Also, while quantifiable data is great for diagnosing certain things, it also gives a doctor (via an overzealous pharmaceutical sales rep) something to market to; if your cholesterol is too high, well you certainly need a pill to lower it. If you are overweight, well, you’re probably eating too much fat and you should simply eat less. But is this really true?


I read an article the other day that you can read too by click HERE. I thought that this line was interesting:


“But for participants who regularly ate whole-fat dairy products and nuts, both rich in calories, there was still an added benefit. Why? The team thinks there’s more to it. Perhaps hunger, fullness and how the body absorbs and metabolizes nutrients in food matters more than we think.”


This is in stark contrast to two popular nutritional memes. The first is the idea that it only matters how many calories you eat, and the second is the soon-to-be-dispelled-notion that fat makes you fat. Of course, Doug has spoken against these two things for years. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll focus on the first idea; modern nutrition and medicine deals in quantifiable data – in things that can be measured, diagnosed, and fought with pills. But what is the purpose of eating right? To feel great, to look great, to enjoy the world and people around you. These are the unquantifiable things, and they are the most important things. How ironic it is that some studies are coming out that claim quality of the food, not quantity is a key player in weight (and coincidentally overall health). 


I recently lost about 20 extra pounds that had crept up on me over the last year. Hectic lifestyle and slacking on my exercise got me there, and I knew it while it was happening. But bad habits can be tough to break. Nevertheless, Kaufmann 1 and a lot of walking helped me get back on track. One thing that I like about using measurable data, like the numbers on a scale, is that it can give you a bench mark, especially in the beginning when results are difficult to see or feel. But after I saw the scale slipping after a few weeks, I cared less and less about what I’d see because I felt better and better, which to me is far more important than the illuminated numbers on a bathroom scale.

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