This month we review a book that focuses on the many traps in life that prevent people from achieving good health and happiness.
The Pleasure Trap:
Mastering the Hidden Force
Health and Happiness
By Douglas J. Lisle, Ph.D. & Alan Goldhamer, D.C.
Healthy Living Publications, 2003
In explaining what life is all about, the authors begin with the motivational triad, a system that encourages all creatures to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy. These emotional factors are linked to the creatures' physical tools for survival and reproduction.
With pleasure as the ultimate goal, the path to this pleasure needs constant reinforcement with moods of happiness. Happiness provides the feedback to let the creature know that it is headed in the right direction toward pleasure.
In seeking pleasure humans fall into traps with drugs. The pleasure that is induced by recreational drugs leads to a desire for continued use that results in addiction and abuse. In order to reduce pain, modern medicine has focused on prescription drugs that may harm the body as they reduce pain.
Through much of mankind's history people suffered dietary deficiencies. Now the abundance of food and the pleasure associated with eating has provided still another trap that has led to the "Diseases of Kings,"-- heart attacks, strokes, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, gout, and cancer. Dietary excess with an abundance of animal products and high fat, high sugar processed food is the underlying cause of the "Diseases of Kings."
Throughout the book the authors emphasize "subtracting our way to health" by cutting the foods of excess from the diet. These foods are meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy products, oil, salt, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. Replacing these foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
In sidebars they discuss the successes of Drs. John McDougall, Dean Ornish, and Caldwell Esselstyn in helping patients to reverse heart disease by replacing the diet of the kings with a plant-based regimen.
In coping with this dietary pleasure trap, the authors outline a program of "Five Keys to a Healthy Path."
Employing these strategies is a part of the program that will help people set their internal compasses back to True North where they recognize the pleasure traps and avoid their temptations. Other important aspects of achieving True North are sufficient sleep and regular exercise.
Lisle and Goldhamer are both involved in True North, a health center in California that promotes "water-only fasting." At True North the doctors have applied the subtraction principle to achieve positive results in supervised water-only fasts in over 5000 cases.
According to the authors, "Fasting is a way to help the body restore optimum health. It should be noted that our patients did experience one major 'side effect' of the fasting experience--weight reduction." One other "side effect" of this program was a reduction in blood pressure in 174 patients.
In an era where many people have "headed south" with obesity through dietary excess, it is refreshing to read a book designed to help people restore their inner compasses that naturally lead them to their True North. The Pleasure Trap is not a simplistic approach to health, but instead, a guide to a lifestyle that says less is not only more, but better.
Reviewed February 2004