The Pleasure Trap

I've mentioned in a few past posts, I am a huge fan of Dr. Douglas Lisle, an evolutionary psychologist who helps us "nutritarians" understand why it's so hard to go against the grain.  He follows Dr. McDougall's plan, and works Dr. Alan Goldhammer at the True North Health Center.  These are all very similar to Dr. Fuhrman's plan:  a whole foods, plant based diet with no oils, very limited refined sugars, and very limited salt.   This makes us very different from everyone else!

I had read Dr. Lisle's "The Pleasure Trap" once or twice before, but I finally sat down to watch the DVD over the last few weeks.  It consists of 3 lectures.  They were probably given at one of Dr. McDougall's Advanced Study Weekends, which are awesome (I've never attended but I purchased the online lectures from the last one and they are really interesting).   Anyway, back to the Pleasure Trap, I think the DVD is much better than the book!   Normally I prefer reading books, but I didn't get nearly as much out of the book in this case.  There are three concepts he gets across in the DVD (and book probably) and I only got one of them out of the book (duh).  These concepts are part of his, I think he calls it, the motivational triad, where all animals, including humans:
1. seek pleasure
2.  conserving energy
3. pain avoidance

You can see how each one of these can get us into trouble in today's artificial food world.  

1.  We seek pleasure.  We evolved to get pleasure from sweet and high-caloric foods because it helps us 2, conserve energy.   Of course, now we have an overabundance of highly addictive sweet, high fat, and high salt food.   The Pleasure Trap is a consequence of this.  This is:  if we don't eat these sweet and processed foods, we get plenty of pleasure from fruits and whole foods, and we have our ups and downs and obstacles and just go along and are sometimes happy and sometimes not.   If we start eating highly processed foods and drugs (caffeine, chocolate, sweets, even white bread), we get great stimulation and surges, great pleasure hits.  But here is the kicker:  we get used to it and after a while, the pleasure from eating these things comes more from the cessation of pain when we are withdrawing from them (e.g., before we have our morning coffee).  So after a while, we just have our same ups and downs and aren't getting anymore pleasure than the guy eating fruit and squash and rice and beans.  While it might not be easy, we can break this pleasure trap, and eat the healthy diet and get just as much pleasure.  To help people break the cycle, you can go to these health immersions that Dr. McDougall and Dr. Fuhrman offer, or go fast for a week at True North, then eat their food for a week, and totally reset your taste buds.  

2.  Conserving energy.  It's good to recognize that this is an intuitive motivational drive.  Now we see the problem with fast food drive up windows.  Talk about an easy way to get 1000 calories quickly!  Our ancestors never had it so easy.  This is also why we crave high-calorie foods.  We intuitively seek them out.   The way to address this is to consciously fill up on low-calorie foods.  Fortunately these are usually nutrient-dense, even while being low-calories--things like vegetables of all kinds.  After a period of abstinence you can lose your taste for fat.  I even find sugar is too sweet for me now.  even dates.  I love the sweetness in carrots (but then our local carrots are really good!).  

3.  Pain avoidance.  Oddly enough, you would think this is the least related to food issues, but for me, at the stage I'm at where I like eating this way and knowing how to do it in my sleep, this is the issue I am working on, and it's nice to understand better that it's because I'm a normal human that I struggle with this.  and that is, social pain!  We have a very strong evolutionary motivation to be accepted by our peers and fit in with them.  Our egos are designed to tell us where we stand in the hierarchy and who are friends are (I'm paraphrasing and might not have got this right, but it sounded fascinating!).  For me, going off plan is never about the taste of the food.  I don't like the taste anymore!   But I still do it occasionally, and for the dumbest of reasons--because the person in line in front of me is doing it!   It's about being one of them.  I thought about this at my meditation class last week.  Sometimes I look at unhealthy people and I think, I don't want to be like them, and yet, I do.  So I embraced them in my mind and I said, I am you and you are me and we are all the same (you tend to have these new agey thoughts when you meditate, ha!).  And when I think that way, then I can avoid the food.  I realize, I'm not rejecting them when I reject the food.  And hopefully they aren't rejecting me, which is what really counts from an instinctive perspective.  I think men and women are different on this in some ways in that men are more prone to the hierarchy and have to learn how to do their healthy-eating thing in a non-threatening way to the alpha brother-in-law they are spending the weekend with; and women are more prone to wanting to be accepted and to not offend and we have to learn how to interact in a way that we still feel we are accepted and fitting in.  Dr. Lisle describes different ways to respond to other people depending on their attitude.  I need to stop writing now, so I'll leave that for you to find out when you watch the DVD.