Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thoughts on The Pleasure Trap

Many, many weeks ago, the fine people over at Happy Herbivore were doing a book club. The selection was The Pleasure Trap by Doug Lisle, Phd and Alan Goldhamer, D.C. This book happened to have been on my radar for quite some time, and I was inspired to finally read it. I promised that I would share my thoughts as I made my way through the book.

Well, that didn't quite work out.  But I bring up The Pleasure Trap again because it is an extremely important book, one that every single reader of HGK should get their hands on.

The basic premise of the book is that humans operate under a basic motivational triad: the pursuit of pleasure, the avoidance of pain, and the conservation energy. There's A LOT more to the book than that, but for our purposes, I want to focus on that.

Here's how that motivational triad operates in our lives: let's say you get home from work, tired and very hungry (sound familiar?). Why is it so hard to start making a healthy dinner, and not start snacking, at that point in the day? Why is it almost impossible to eat celery sticks while you are ravenously hungry? Why do you want to grab something tasty and high in calories (maybe your kids' dinner food or other less desirable food that you have around) as you are getting your dinner together?

Because the motivational triad is at work. Humans at their evolutionary core want to have pleasure (good tasting food laden with salt, fat and sugar), avoid pain (the pain of hunger and exhaustion) and conserve energy (grab what's highest in calories that is easiest to access rather than use up valuable energy to make a healthy dinner).

That jar of peanut butter you can't put down? Perfect. High in calories and extremely pleasurable with it's salt, sugar and fat. It would be very difficult for many humans to resist.

It's important to actually read the book though, because the way the authors explain human history is fascinating, fun and easy to read. And you want to internalize all of this knowledge if you struggle with food addiction.

A couple of things to take away from the book:

(1) It's not our fault. It's how humans are wired, and it makes sense to be wired this way given our history of alternating periods of feast and famine. We are here today because our ancestors were the ones who could eat a lot and pack on the pounds when food was plentiful. Without that ability, they would have starved when there was famine. Our problem is that in modern times, it all feast all the time. And biologically, we are wired to eat tasty food that is high in calories when it is available. And it's always available . . .

Why is that so important to understand? So that we can forgive ourselves and move on to helping ourselves instead of beating ourselves up. Many people eat more when they are stressed out. Being angry with yourself is a stress inducing feeling. Bad feelings and stress lead many people to eat more. Letting go of this idea that we are defective and bad can only lead to less stress, more positive thoughts and thus less overeating as a result. This revelation is probably my number one take away from The Pleasure Trap.

(2) The only defense against our nature is to be prepared. That includes getting rid of anything in your kitchen that you can't resist when you are hungry, angry, lonely, tired, bored, etc. (all painful feelings that humans want to avoid). So clear out your kitchen now completely of those trigger foods if you haven't done so already. 'Cause under no circumstances are you going to be able to resist them at some point, no matter how much plant based food you are eating.

It also includes having the food that you want to eat at the ready. It was reading The Pleasure Trap that made me see that preparing dinner ahead of time is the best way to go to ensure my continued success on a plant based diet. I finally took action on that. Sure, it does take planning, preparation and a good chunk of my weekend, but what's the alternative? Give in to my nature and stuff high calorie food into my mouth when I am cooking dinner at 6 pm on weeknights? Not when I have alternatives.

Have you read The Pleasure Trap? Have you seen any lectures from Doug Lisle? How did the experience effect you?

Chef Aj says that The Pleasure Trap is 101 reading for anyone on a plant-based diet. If you haven't read The Pleasure Trap, what are you waiting for? Why are you resisting?

You can read more about The Pleasure Trap here:

And if you order the book through that link to Amazon, you help to support HGK. Thanks to everyone who purchases books and anything that Amazon sells through the HGK Amazon store. Your contributions help keep HGK going!

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