Profile: Patrick Owen, PhD
On the docket today, we interview McGill graduate with a doctorate degree from the School of Human Nutrition. He currently teaches two courses called the “Evolution of the Human Diet” and “Herbs, Foods & Phytochemicals”.
What are your top 3 non-negotiable habits and why are they your non-negotiables?
Everything’s negotiable and it really depends on what I’m going through at the time. While I’d love to say that cold showers, meditation, and exercise form the basis of my perfect day, there are days (or weeks!) where I’m not able to fit them in. So the bare-minimum, daily non-negotiables are 1) Time spent outdoors; 2) Protein at every meal; and 3) Playtime with my daughters.
What are your top 3 recommendations that everyone should implement to get a good head start on their nutritional (or general) health?
1) Stick to a sleep schedule. Wake up at the same time, even on weekends, and no snoozing! Consider this a kind of sleep training and expect a rough couple of days at the beginning. Soon after, your brain will recognize that you’ve given it a strict deadline to complete its REM cycles and you’ll naturally feel a strong pressure to fall asleep at an appropriate hour.
2) Eat protein at every meal. Animal protein provides a strong evolutionary signal that energy- and nutrient-dense food is available and accessible. It helps regulate your satiety signals and along with healthy fats, can really help combat cravings for sweets.
3) Get some sun. To calibrate your circadian rhythm, it’s best to get some sun exposure soon after sunrise. The health benefits of being outdoors extend far beyond getting your vitamin D requirements. Make sure to get at least 30 minutes of sun exposure, even in winter!
BONUS: Stay connected: Face-to-face interactions with friends and family are the best predictor of a long, healthy life. Maintain a social network and reach out to someone you trust whenever you need to talk about difficult issues going on in your life.
6. We’re strong believers in following habits that go in tandem with how we’ve evolved. You teach a course at McGill University called “The Evolution of the Human Diet”. Tell us about the basis of this course and how “evolution” comes to play.
I strongly espouse the Adaptive Mismatch Theory of health and disease, which is defined as the lag that occurs if the environment that existed when a mechanism evolved changes more rapidly than the time needed for the mechanism to adapt to the change. In my course, we contrast the differences between our modern environment and our evolutionary past, and how this mismatch leads to a variety of physical and mental health consequences. Beyond nutrition, we’ve also explored mismatch theory in relation to academia, the 9-5 workday, politics, dating, relationships, shoewear, social communities, hygiene, back pain, and more!
You’re missing out if you don’t check out the full interview here.