Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Pleasure Trap, by Doug Lisle

This is a must-read book for anyone who has read a headline about an "obesity epidemic" and wondered why. It has its flaws -- in particular, it is a bit on the wordy side, even though it is a thin book. But still worth reading.

The authors start by explaining that all creatures are motivated to reproduce, gain pleasure, and avoid exertion. Then they explain satiety: the notion that how much an animal eats is automatically regulated by fullness indicators. This includes humans of course. With this simple and clear background under our belts, we move to the really interesting part.

It turns out that our response to certain foods precisely mimics our response to addictive drugs. An aside: the absolute best way to understand Dr. Lisle's point here is to watch one of his videos; I suggest his 2012 TEDxFremont talk at

Whether you see yourself reading this book or not, that video is really worthwhile. Watch it. Its discussion is actually much clearer (at least to me) than the book's.

An interesting comment in the book about the addictive nature of some food components (e.g., salt, sugar, fat): "Most people think that if they were to consume a diet of whole natural foods, they would not enjoy their food - or their lives. Indeed, most believe that they would suffer if they consumed a health-promoting diet. Like those addicted to drugs, they cannot imagine a better life, free from the drug-like effects of magic food."

Let's imagine this book convinced you to change your food composition to one less unhealthy. How would you deal with the skepticism of colleagues, friends, and family? The authors provide strategies to help deal with this effectively and kindly. (There's also another video from Dr. Lisle on social disapproval.)

They also address what they call the "myth of moderation." I guess you wouldn't tell a chain smoker to only smoke a couple of packs on the weekend. Or a drug addict to only get high on Saturdays. Their model of addiction to specific food components motivates these analogies.

Bottom line: great book. Also search for Dr. Lisle's videos online; they're usually interesting and amusing.

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