The Pleasure Trap refers to several inborn and genetic drivers that manipulate us and our behavior, in spite of the conscious awareness that it may not be the right direction or action for health and well being.
In the book The Pleasure Trap the authors identify three things that drive human behavior.
- SEEKING PLEASURE
- AVOIDING PAIN
- CONSERVING ENERGY
Specifically I am talking here about eating behaviors but the Pleasure Trap fits all types of things that we often call addictive. Think about it, the more taste sensation a food has, the more of it you are likely to eat, right? That sensation stimulates your brain to release dopamine which screams “ PLEASURE, THAT FEELS SOOOO GOOD, MORE, MORE…”
The over indulgence continues and demonstrates the second driver, avoiding pain. “I am suffering because I don’t have more of …(whatever)”.
This is the hook that the commercial food industry is banking on when they add chemicals , fats, salts and sugars to artificially stimulate the senses of taste and smell.
The other part of our over-consumption crisis is that humans have a primal drive to eat calorie dense food. This is connected to the third driver, conserving energy. It meant survival then. Now it means obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. In our day it means too many calories with too much stress and too little physical activity.
Become aware of these seductive drivers. Give yourself a nod for bucking the system when you can say “No thanks” to a second helping or taking ANOTHER one of those fabulous Christmas cookies. Food is meant to nurture us, not kill us.
What Can You Do to Give Yourself a Leg Up?
Read labels on prepared foods. Know what the strange names mean and empower yourself to avoid them.
1. Added sweeteners, both natural and chemical. These make up 25% of the calories in teen diets.
- Anything that ends with –ose means a natural sweetener added to the food. Did you know that Agave has more fructose than High Fructose Corn Syrup?
2. Flavor and Taste Enhancers
- Glutamic Acid is MSG
- Isolated Soy Protein amino acids are used to make MSG
- Autolyzed yeast
- Disodium Guanylate
- Disodium Inositate
- “Flavor” is undefined and can mean chemicals
- Packaged foods contain added salt almost universally.
- Sodium content should be ½ to 1 mg per calorie in the food. Minimum daily sodium intake for survival is 500 mg. Optimal daily intake is 1,500 mg. Maximum as defined by the Institute of Medicine is 2,300mg.
- I have been ranting about salt in my recent journal entries. Look back if you have not yet seen those.
- High fat stimulates olfactory awareness that says “this is a calorie dense food” so the primal drive to eat high fat food is triggered.
- Read labels for Trans Fat, which is partially hydrogenated oil (aka unnatural) and has detrimental effects on cell membrane and function, which literally means all of you.
- How oil impacts satiety can be both good and bad. If you eat more whole, plant based foods that are naturally low in fat you will want to add a small amount (1 ounce of nuts or seeds or 1/3 avocado for example) to feel satiated. Feeling full is partly nutrient driven but more stomach stretch receptor-driven.
- Satiety is feeling full. 120 calories of oil is 1 Tablespoon of oil which will not fill you up. 120 calories of fruit and vegetables is 1 Pound of food and that will fill you up.
Do your best to limit the food you buy that needs a label. Whole, real food is best.