Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Pleasure Trap Book Club

Thank you to everyone who left comments on my last post with your food movie recommendations. I have added all of the available movies to my Netflix queue and look forward to watching them all. The first one that I just HAD to see was Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue, so I watched it this morning at 4:45 am, if you can believe it. I'll save my thoughts on this video for another post. 

Why? Because something interesting kinda popped up on the Internet a few days ago. It seems that Lindsay Nixon (The Happy Herbivore) had the brilliant idea of forming a book club. Our peep Natala Constantine over at The Engine 2 Blog thought it was a great idea and blogged about it too.

The first book Lindsay chose?  The Pleasure Trap, Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health and Happiness by Douglas J. Lisle, PhD. and Alan Goldhamer, D.C.

Well, there you go Lindsay, sucking me in to another project! I've been wanting to read this book for what seems like forever, so I couldn't resist ordering my own copy from Amazon. I was pretty stoked when it arrived unexpectedly the next day. I started reading almost immediately.

As best as I can, I am going to share my experience of reading this book with you. If I start to think that you are getting bored, as sometimes starts to happen with projects like this, I might stop talking about it. But I can't say where this will go, other than I'm starting right now.

The author proposes that people are motivated by three general things: to seek pleasure, to avoid pain and to conserve energy. Why? Because these three things "encourage behaviors that are associated with survival and reproduction." It's all embedded into the design of every living creature.

I'm just guessing here, but I think as the book plays out we will come to understand why those three motivations have conspired against us in the modern age and have caused the epidemic of obesity and poor health. And I'm also going to guess that Dr. Lisle is going to give us coping strategies for modern times so that we don't need to be another statistic.

But I'm getting way ahead of us. 

Back to the beginning. The first thing that really struck me was this sentence in Chapter 2, "Very often, in both human and animal life, the rewards of pleasure are not immediate. Pleasure requires work, effort, skill development, and risky competition."

So motivation cannot be sustained by pleasure seeking alone. We need to know if we are on the right path to achieving pleasure, we need signals. Enter our moods, happiness or unhappiness. Moods "work like the clues in a treasure hunt." They are subtle feelings, but they keep us going (or they stop us) in our hunt for treasure.

For me, and I think all humans, one treasure is achieving and easily maintaining a healthy weight.

But biologically, the treasure of food consumption causes pleasure also. "Pleasure was designed as the unmistakable signal of success for reaching survival and/or reproductive goals." If we don't eat, we are going to starve and if that happens, we won't be surviving, let alone reproducing.

It made me think of how difficult it has been for me over the past year to remain "plant perfect." There was a time when it was very easy. Some might have even labeled me as"orthorexic." A label that I would glad wear today considering how difficult it is for me now to make the best choices day in and day out.

Enter happiness.

"Happiness is not a final destination." You don't get there and stay there forever. But happiness signals to us that we are on the right track. We can get happiness from being productive, from being with friends, from feeling secure, and from feeling relief (amongst others).

At the time when I was really "on it" (and that did last a good, long while) I was very focused on the happiness that I got from eating plant-perfectly, even though the pleasure and the rewards were not immediate ones. I always had in the front of my mind all of the great reasons why I was eating so plant-perfectly. I derived a ton of happiness from making good decisions about food and the thought that someday in the future I would be rewarded with the size body that I wanted and good health.

As time went by, the good happy feeling that I got from saying "no" to the wrong foods faded a little. It didn't fade entirely, but it wasn't front and center. So it became easy to have a bite of this or that, and then a piece of this or that, and then two of this or that. Because the rewards of eating the wrong foods are so immediate (and oh-so-short lived!).

And now I can see how the mindset of happiness of plant-perfection has gotten somewhat away from me. Enough to cause me pain (emotionally). So I want my old plant-perfect, orthorexic-if-you-will, mindset back. It worked very well for me and had no downside other than some wisecracking friends and family. And that is why I'm very interested in reading this book and discussing it with all of you.

If you'd like to read this book along with us, may I suggest that you order a copy here? A teeny weeny bit of the money goes to help support HGK!

Do I sound like a nut case? Am I making any sense here? Thoughts? To leave a comment or see the comments section of this blog, please click on the title of this post (the orange text above).
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