The Habit Society

⚡️ What’s on our plate

To: Society Members

Good Morning!

I’m not gonna lie to you people, this one was tough to write. Admittedly, we’ve been avoiding the ‘diet’ topic for the obvious controversy surrounding it. But since so many of you have asked us to explore it, here is my attempt to navigate the laser tripwires.

– ⚡️ Ashley

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What’s On Our Plate

⚠️ Before we start, one major disclaimer: Everybody reacts differently to different diets. This is actually called bio-individuality. We are all biologically different, and so we react differently to different foods. I’m not here to recommend a keto, vegan, or carnivore diet. I’m just here to relay the main principles of healthy eating that works for the majority of us. Secondary disclaimer: I am aware that this can be a sensitive topic for those struggling with eating disorders. If I’m describing you, please work with a professional in the field.

Ok, now I’m ready.

Ancestry

Listen To Your Ancestors

Even though we all thrive on different diets, we still share similar ways to become healthier. Let’s start off with one of my favourites in the industry: Max Lugavere. In his book Genius Foods, Lugavere ties everything back to ancestral principles, AKA: diet as it relates to our ancestors and therefore how our bodies have evolved to digest.

Here’s how our ancestors used to live:

1. Limited access to food

2. Food was not readily available at all times

3. Food was completely unprocessed and anything found in nature was low in sugar

In our contemporary society, most of us have an abundance of food, it can be ready to eat in a moment (thank you microwaveable meals), and we’re inundated with sugary ultra-processed foods.

While we can’t all go and live with the Pygmies, we can still take a few things from this:

1. Experiment with not eating 2-3 hours before bed and for the first hour (or two, or three) after waking up. This helps regulate your blood sugar, allowing for a better night’s sleep and fewer sugar crashes during the day.

2. Limit the habit of eating every 2 hours. We’ve been taught to have breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack, dinner, a snack. But, our gut needs a break (and so does our insulin… a topic for another day). See how you feel when you give your body a chance to digest. And, by eating protein-rich meals with healthy fats (we’ll get to that), you may not even be hungry between meals.

3. Eat more whole foods. Generally, the less processed and the closer it looks to something you’d find in nature, the better. Our bodies evolved to eat real foodnot a mix of flour, sugar, and some canola oil.

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The 3 Main Macronutrients

Protein

There’s a well-known concept called the Protein-Leverage Hypothesis, which suggests that humans eat to consume a certain amount of protein. So, if we’re eating a low protein meal, we’ll continue to eat until we’ve satisfied our protein needs, leading to overeating and weight gain. A mix of animal and plant proteins can be great. Think meat, eggs, chicken, fish, beans, and lentils (animal sources do contain essential amino acids that the majority of plant sources do not and are more bioavailable for our bodies to absorb and use). I definitely understand the ethical reasons to avoid animals (I was a vegan for most of my teenage years for this exact reason), but here are two things to consider: 1. If possible, opt for organic pasture-raised animals; 2. Crop farmlands also affect animals and can lead to vast amounts of ecosystem destruction.

Fat

The key is to have the good ones that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids: avocadoes, olive oil, walnuts, grass-fed ghee/butter. The ones to avoid are the Omega-6 seed oils, which are highly processed and inflammatory: canola, soybean, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed oils…

Carbs

Again, think natural. Sweet potatoes, wild rice, fruits, vegetables, sourdough bread. Ideally, limit white pasta and definitely Wonder bread.

Dr. Jason Fung: There is nothing inherently unhealthy about carbohydrate-containing foods. The problem arises when we start changing these foods from their natural state and then consuming them in large amounts.

80/20 Eating

It’s okay to indulge once in a while. What you do 80% of the time is what’s important. Restricting yourself 100% of the time often leads to binging and negative emotions anyways. Let yourself enjoy the pleasures. One unhealthy meal doesn’t make a significant difference, just like one healthy meal doesn’t. Create a system where you eat whole foods and you’ll be able to live a healthy lifestyle while enjoying life’s simplest pleasures (like a good ol’ fettucini alfredo).

To conclude…

Some people feel good on low-carb diets, some feel terrible. Some feel great on plant-based diets, some feel sick. Do what makes you feel best. Be your own science experiment. We are all different so take the time and put in the effort to learn what works for you.

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Patrick Owen

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.

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The Podium

Check out THS member J-A. She’s stepped up onto the podium for all of us to hold her accountable to no more snoozing and getting out of bed before 9am everyday. J-A, here’s a pro-tip: set your phone far enough so you have to get up to turn it off! Show your support on Instagram @fiftyshadesofja. Good luck!

Wanna step onto the podium? Fill out this form to tell us what you want The Habit Society to hold you accountable for. Every Monday, we will choose one reader to put on The Podium. What better way to start a new habit than with thousands of people holding you accountable?

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Share & Earn: Don’t forget to share your unique referral link to earn rewards like a personalized habit plan and a THS sweater.

Connect: Here’s another chance to join our plank accountability group.

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Watch: This sad but funny Tik Tok trend of pretending to put your dog on a diet:

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