All These Measurements — But Who Sees the Whole Picture?
A café in Seattle. The man ahead in line carefully selects his beverage. He insists on having “fat-free milk” in his coffee.
The barista bends down to look in the refrigerator below the counter. She takes out four different kinds of milk and sets them in a neat row. The man critically inspects the labels. With a slow nod he chooses the one with 0.1% fat.
“Anything else?” the barista asks courteously. The man points at an ample chocolate muffin topped with a sparkling white glaze. The pastry is so large the barista can barely get her small hand around it. The man pays and with an absent-minded hum sits down at a nearby table.
It’s Hard to Count Your Way to Health
Many of us are fixated on numbers, as if it were possible to count your way to health. Calories. Quantity of carbohydrates. Fat percentage. Fiber content. Glycemic index. All these measurements can of course give useful information about certain details. But there is an obvious risk that we fool ourselves and miss the big picture if we focus too much on individual numbers.
The Bible speaks of those who “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” Today we strain at milk and swallow chocolate muffins — in Seattle anyway. The man at the café surely felt “healthy” through his choice of milk, which became an alibi for being immoderate on other fronts. In the same way perhaps we have a well-balanced lunch but, consciously or unconsciously, forget to count an afternoon cookie or snacks in front of the TV in the evening.
The Overall Attitude to Eating Behavior
“What should I eat?” is one of the most common questions we get from patients. Following various diets easily becomes a mathematical exercise where we feverishly count which combination of carbohydrates, fat, proteins, vitamins and minerals we should consume for optimal health. But the more we count, the more we risk ruining the experience of food.
We are happy to share research findings about how various details can affect health. Details are important, but a one-sided fixation on certain details of our lifestyle makes it easy to overlook others. That can give a false sense that we are living more healthily than we really are.
We think it is more effective to have an overall attitude toward eating behavior, formulated as personal questions that help you see the whole perspective. Common sense and health are strongly connected. Regardless of the exact percentage.
Do you see the whole picture or just the details in your habits?