The Pleasure Trap – Everything in moderation. The myth of moderation

There are a few particular misconceptions about moderation with regard to dietary and lifestyle practices, such as the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, junk food, and drugs.

Cocaine, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, amphetamines, chocolate, junk food, oil, sugar, and other magic pills are supernormal stimulants.

These magic substances produce such a high release of dopamine that nothing else matters (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, p. 83). The use of cocaine releases ten times more dopamine than sex.

The more dopamine, the more pleasure. The natural dopamine releasers for the human species are usually plant foods and sex. The problem with artificial dopamine releasers, such as alcohol, drugs, and junk food: they make us addicted. The body gets used to these stimulants.

This process is called neuroadaptation (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, p. 84). You get to the point where you have to consume more of it to feel good at all.

Our natural motivational mechanism strives for survival with the highest value at the same time that it requires the least amount of effort. This mechanism lures us in the direction of foods with extremely high caloric density (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, p. 90). Foods with a high caloric density are junk foods, oil, and refined foods.


The secret is not in how much we eat, but what we eat

The industrialization has made our food taste better than ever. In principle, there's nothing wrong with something tasting overly delicious. The problem? Our natural mechanism of moderation is upset in the body by these artificial foods and stimulants.

The result: the diet makes us sick. It brings us obesity, diseases like heart attacks, diabetes and destroys the environment.

We are not condemned to be overweight because of our genes. We have unique natural mechanisms that are there to balance our caloric intake. This mechanism allows for food satiety. Not too little, but not too much either. So just right to be neither underweight nor overweight. However, this mechanism only works if we consume food that was designed for the human species.

This means a diet dominated by fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. With our "normal" Western diet, we bypass this mechanism. Eating less is not the solution either, but rather an adequate diet for the human species. This diet dominated until industrialization appears. Industrialization has brought us far, but unfortunately, it has also destroyed much that is natural. The solution to stabilize the weight is therefore simple, but not easy in terms of our "normal" food.


The oil love

A misconception is that vegetable oil is healthy. Oil is like sugar. It is processed food and hardly resembles its original state. Once upon a time, there was an olive and what remained was only fat. Our natural mechanism of satiety gets disrupted to due changing the calorie density in an unnatural fashion.

Have you ever wondered why oil and sugar are so cheap?


Is it difficult to eat healthy?

Many think they will be overtaken by an ailment if they give up junk food and eat healthy instead.

Like drug addicts can't imagine having a better life, free from this drug-like magic food. When junk food is consumed in moderation, neuroadaptation results. One gets used to it and plant-based food becomes less palatable because less dopamine is released. The majority of our Western civilized people are neuroadapted to a diet that is high in fat, sugar, and salt while low in fiber.

The good news? Withdrawal from the standard industrialized diet takes about 30–90 days (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, p. 89). After that, natural foods such as grains, vegetables, and fruits taste just as good to us as junk foods. Our neuroadaptors have virtually readjusted themselves.

The catch? It takes self-discipline and much more dominantly, we don't know what it feels like to live without junk food and other stimulating substances. Especially in a society dominated by them.

We think these things make life worth living. But here you are being fooled by yourself. Yes, especially the social pressure does not make it easy for us to get out of this standardized diet. What do the others say, am I then still socially compatible? Don't they think I'm a weirdo then? Am I a weirdo if I no longer drink alcohol and give up meat?


The myth of moderate consumption

The human mind is designed to juggle many competing priorities in order to make the best possible decision in each situation (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, p. 164).

"Everything in moderation" would be true regarding consumption if the products we consume had a natural effect on the central nervous system.

When are you no longer thirsty? When have you had enough sleep? When have you eaten enough? When unnatural stimulants of the industrialized world are integrated, such as cigarettes, drugs, refined foods, junk food, alcohol, caffeine, etc., our central nervous system is misjudged (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, p. 165). Unnaturally high dopamine is released.


Is a little of it ok?

How many cigarettes are healthy and moderate? Answer: none. How much cocaine is healthy and moderate? None. The same is true regarding high pleasurable foods.

As Dr. Alan Goldhamer used to say, "just because something is less bad than something else does not mean it is good."

A little alcohol only kills a few brain cells after each consumption. Only insidiously, it reduces cognition and results in only a small risk of dying from liver disease or stroke (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, p. 165).

Every single unhealthy behavior has a destructive effect on the body to some degree. Optimal health and the maximum given to your body by genetics is only possible through optimal healthy behavior. Now, do you have to become perfect to achieve excellent results?

Of course not. You alone decide what risks are worth taking for you. But remember: Optimal results are not achievable without optimal behavior. And in this case, optimal behavior is a phenomenon of the extreme, due to our industrialized world. Even what seems appropriate in our world in terms of today's artificial diet and lifestyle temptations can be self-defeating (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, p. 166).



The myth of moderate change

When choosing the healthy path and aiming for a healthy diet, for example, we always hear step by step. This will lead us in the right direction. If we do a little more exercise, eat a little more vegetables, then we achieve what is important. No reason to become fanatical right away. It's not good for body and mind. That's pretty much how it's always drummed into us.

While this concept actually makes sense for many areas of our lives, it is highly misleading in terms of dietary changes, abstaining from stimulants, or lifestyle changes. Here we come back to the pleasure trap.

Our artificial diet and other stimulants get in the way. To think that small changes are easier and more pleasurable is a myth in regards to diet and lifestyle change. The truth? Only many and radical changes make it possible (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, pp. 167-168).

An alcoholic usually stays away from alcohol only if he or she is completely abstinent. Moderate alcohol consumption can spell doom. After all, we don't tell an alcoholic, "enjoy alcohol moderately, sip it from small glasses or spoon it with a small spoon." Everyone knows where that ends. This "moderation" is doomed to failure. It's the same with diet and stimulants.


Discipline yes, but not in this case

Disciplining yourself to limit yourself to eating only 5 fries, drinking one milkshake on special occasions, or one coffee is an exceptionally difficult task. Much like the alcoholic who tries to drink only one beer a week.

This again is the problem of artificially created diets and stimulants. The body is not designed for this and is not able to manage these things naturally. Diet and lifestyle traps often seem easy to control and harmless. However, they are actually difficult to manage and can have worshipful consequences.

The main problem with junk food, coffee, cigarettes, and so on is that their danger is camouflaged. Our senses are deceived by them, due to their calming and satisfying effects. True to the motto: what feels good at the moment is good. However, just knowing that it is so is not enough by itself.

To achieve real changes regarding diet or abstaining from other stimulants, radical and extreme behavioral changes are generally recommended (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, p. 169).


What are radical and extreme behavioral changes?

First of all, you must accept and understand that our standard diet, alcohol, cigarettes, and other stimuli are only an illusion. Actual approaches in the right direction are, for example, to remove all junk food from the house. True to the motto: It's in your house, it's in your mouth. Other approaches are going to bed at the same time every day, exercising every morning, etc. (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, pp. 170-171).

It takes the majority of smokers an average of eight attempts before they can actually quit. Therefore, don't immediately bury your head in the sand if it doesn't work right away.

Also, a change in diet is one of the hardest tasks a person will ever face in their life. It requires insight from you, motivation, dedication, effort, and perseverance (Lisle & Goldhammer, 2003, p. 172). It is worth it and will enrich your life in all circumstances.

The concept behind the pleasure trap helps us to understand our physiological mechanisms and how to make the right choices.


Feel free to contact me if you need help with this.

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Lisle & Goldhammer, (2003), The Pleasure Trap - Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness, Health Living Publications: Tennessee