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The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness

by Dr. Douglas J. Lisle & Alan Goldhamer

Most people want to know what to add to their diets or daily routines to become healthier and happier. In The Pleasure Trap, authors Dr. Douglas Lisle and Alan Goldhamer suggest that we should instead be “subtracting our way to health” by cutting foods of excess from the diet. These foods are meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, oil, salt, sugar and refined carbohydrates. Replacements for these would be fresh fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

The Pleasure Trap is not a new book. Published in 2003, I bought it when I first learned about True North Health Center, a residential health education program that utilizes supervised water fasting. Goldhamer is the founder of True North, and Dr. Lisle is the Director of Research at the facility. The authors do not believe in the concept of moderation. They instead espouse thinking before acting and encourage an understanding of the motives behind our actions so that we may make better decisions. Both scientific and historical, the book is also somehow layperson-friendly. It seems to have a little something for everybody, regardless of your learning style.

In justifying why they make the dietary recommendations they do, Dr. Lisle and Goldhamer describe their “motivational triad,” a system where all living creatures seek to increase pleasure, avoid pain and conserve energy. These emotional factors are linked to instincts for survival and reproduction.

The authors outline a program of “Five Keys to a Healthy Path.”

 #1: “No Junk Food in the House!” If these high-sugar, “drug-like foods” are not constantly available, they won’t end up inside the stomach.

#2: The Weekly Menu. Having a menu plan and shopping list will help you avoid the temptations of commercially prepared foods to satisfy hunger.

#3: Cook in Quantity. Conserve energy by freezing foods for additional meals.

#4: Create a “Car Pack.” Instead of going to a fast food restaurant or eating junk snacks, prepare a lunch box of healthy snacks for your car.

#5: Getting Help. Hire a cook to prepare weekly portions of healthy foods.

This book is for you if you:

  • Wonder why you are drawn to eat certain things
  • Want to understand why you continually backslide—and how to reverse that trajectory
  • Have saboteurs in your life and you want strategies for managing them

Personally, I have read The Pleasure Trap three times. And each time I get something new out of it.


Please remember that your health is your own responsibility. Nothing here is to be construed as medical advice. This information is not meant to replace the guidance offered by your health practitioner.