The Pleasure Trap!

Jamie Sukroo - 30 Jan 2020

The Pleasure Trap!

I watched a great TED talk the other day given by Dr Douglas J. Lisle. You can check it out below (my summary and findings appear below that):

Dr. Lisle discusses what he calls “The Pleasure Trap”. The summary of the talk appears below:

  • Our feelings are signals to us – either good or bad (based on our gene’s determination)
  • We all have an underlying and ancient “Motivational Triad” (operating on autopilot) which explains why we do the things we do:
    1. We seek pleasure (primarily food and sex).
    2. We avoid pain.
    3. We aim to conserve energy at all costs.
  • Certain events or addictive substances (a Super-Normal Stimuli that is not meant to be in the natural environment) like drugs, gambling, junk food, box set TV etc. hijack the “Motivational Triad” and have subsequent damaging & self-destructing consequences for us.
  • If we focus on food choices:
    • The majority of westerners eat highly calorific, highly processed foods in favour of natural and unrefined foods found in nature. The reason is that they initially super activate the pleasure centres in the brain (point 1 of the Motivational Triad) and they are ready prepared for us to consume quickly (point 3 of the Motivational Triad). After a short time of consuming these foods we become immune to the pleasure they provide and we drop back to the normal pleasure zone. We become “habitualised”.
    • When we revert back to eating whole natural foods again after eating the normal highly processed/calorific foods they seem bland and we initially don’t get much pleasure from them (bit like coming off drugs).
    • It’s only when we persist for a while (several weeks) with a whole food diet that our pleasure for these foods returns to the normal range.
    • Fasting for a while (cue intermittent fasting) can reset your taste buds so that whole natural foods taste awesome again. Another way to re-set is a juice fast where you just drink vegetable/fruit juices to reset your sensitivity.
    • If all else fails – seek support of others who eat a whole food based diet. There is strength in numbers!

5 Take-Aways from Dr Lisle’s Motivational Triad:

  1. Exercise – choose sports or exercises that you absolutely love to do, require minimal set-up time & can fit into your schedule easily, and that you can ideally be distracted whilst doing them. I like taking the dog for a walk and listening to podcasts. I also like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on an exercise bike whilst watching Netflix. I bought a small exercise bike from Amazon and I stow it away when not in use. It means I can jump on it easily and because it’s hit I’m done in under 15 minutes flat!
  2. Eating – simply thinking and being aware of the Motivational Triad whilst you eat can pay dividends. I definitely identified times I was seeking a pleasure hit over eating healthily. I don’t want to be patronising here – but if you don’t have chocolates or junk food in your house it’s harder to mindlessly consume them. If you do have to buy them (for the kids or your partner) try to store them as far as possible out of reach. Locking them away in a cupboard can add more effort and allow your conscience to wake up. Also if you persist with a healthy eating plan it will become pleasurable in a few weeks as your body adjusts.
  3. Work/Business – very few people truly go the extra mile in terms of what is expected of them. If you aim to do more than what is expected you will be in the top 1% of workers and your boss will notice. You may not get a rise but equally you may not lose your job in the next round of redundancies. Very few people take the time and effort to start their own business (even a side hustle). Speaking from experience it is a very rewarding endeavour in which you have massive amounts of freedom and you are truly serving others (if you don’t aim to serve you will go under).
  4. Relationships – it is quite easy to get into a rut with your significant other. Carve out some time to have a date night every month or fortnight where you can reconnect.
  5. Spiritual – Practice meditation to reduce stress levels and increase endorphins. It requires little preparation and can be as little as 15 minutes per day. It will impact all areas of your life and will make you more conscious (and aware of the Pleasure Trap!).
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