Doug Lisle, Clinical Psychologist
Over the past year helping clients shift their diets towards whole plant foods to improve their health & lose weight, I've observed that...
~ some took the ball & ran with it
~ some flirted with the effort but petered out
~ and some, despite the urging of their physicians, showed no interest whatsoever.
Once we know the medical advisability of dietary change, why do some folks have an easy time transitioning to a plant-based diet while others struggle or resist?
We think we know the reasons why, right? "I'm too busy." "It's too hard." "It's too different." We believe we make rationale choices. Actually, we are unconsciously behaving as our genes & biological instincts dictate.
Meet Doug Lisle, the brilliant clinical psychologist, co-author of The Pleasure Trap, & frequent presenter for plant-based luminaries like Dr. John McDougall, Rip Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell, TrueNorth Health Center & many others.
Lisle has helped hundreds overcome the blocks that thwart them from achieving their goals -- not only in the nutritional arena. He works with troubled teens, addicts, inmates, families. His approach, tested through his clinical research & work with thousands of patients, is founded on animal behavior & evolutionary psychology.
Here's the problem: Our bodies are out of sync with our environment. We still have largely stone-age bodies, designed for an environment of food scarcity & therefore exquisitely tuned to prefer high calorie-dense foods in order to survive starvation & deprivation.
By contrast, today we find ourselves in an environment of abundant highly caloric foods. A whopping 93% of the foods we consume according to the W.H.O. are engineered processed foods & animals bred to be ultra-concentrated in fat &/or sugar or salt. These artificially dense foods hijack our neural circuitry, exciting the dopamine receptors in our brain much as recreational drugs do. We can't help but respond to them preferentially. They taste better & more satisfying to us.
Only 7% of the foods we eat are unprocessed fruits, vegetables, beans & grains, low calorie, nutrient & fiber rich -- our original & optimal fuel for our health & longevity. Today's video by Dr. Michael Greger details how our bodies respond to a truly natural, fibrous diet that likely sustained humans for the first 20 million years of our evolution.
When we favor these unhealthy foods, they FEEL like the right choices because we are wired to favor them. In actuality, these concentrated foods are fattening us, sickening us & ensuring our early demise. We are addicted & tragically stuck in a dietary "pleasure trap."
Seeking pleasure (dopamine released by high-caloric foods & sex), avoiding pain (including social isolation) & conserving energy (choosing convenience) comprise the triad of instincts that govern all animal behavior, according to Lisle. Small wonder that changing one's diet is so tough! We must override our motivational guidance system in order to do the right thing.
Once we understand the mechanisms at play, it's clear why we are so drawn to certain foods, the power of these seductions, & the reason the convenience of take-out/eat out/prepared foods trumps shopping & cooking. The very idea of eating differently than our social milieu & the fear of social pressures that might arise if we do are unsettling & discouraging.
It seems the deck is stacked against us!
On the other hand, our health & long-term happiness are at stake. While chronic diseases take years & sometimes decades to manifest, thanks to these ultra-stimulating foods that have hooked our nervous systems, we are stricken at increasingly younger ages.
Our challenge is to recalibrate our biological receptors so that they can again respond to foods that we are biologically designed to eat. Thankfully, this isn't as hard as we might fear, though it requires some determination & discipline. It takes about 3 weeks to loosen the grip of food addictions & to be able to actually appreciate the complex, subtle flavors in natural unadulterated fruits & vegetables. You'll be amazed at how delicious they'll taste.
If your circumstances - & personality - are such that the obstacles to changing your diet feel too great, take Lisle's advice:
1) Planning & organization are key to success. Surround yourself with an abundance of healthy choices to reach for when you're hungry & that are
already prepared when you're tired.
2) If you are very novelty seeking, plan a diverse repertoire of dishes & mix it up.
3) If it pains you to stand out from the crowd, practice Lisle's advice on how to deflect attention from your choices, using humor & self-deprecation.
4) If you have no time to cook or talent in the kitchen, take advantage of low-fat plant-based meal plans like the McDougall's or Lindsey Nixon's, or mail-order entree options like Forks over Knives or PlantPure Foods.
If these don't cut it for you, employ a personal chef like myself & others to shop & cook in your home (Doug Lisle's personal choice). It may cost less than you spend eating out - & will certainly be far healthier.
Take a break. Sit down with a cup of tea & watch Lisle's illuminating videos. You'll be fascinated, entertained & grateful for the insights you'll gain into your own behavior & why it's so tough to keep foods that jeopardize your well-being at bay.
In his video Losing Weight without Losing your Mind Lisle explains the powerful chemical responses in the brain caused by the standard American foods, shows you why these products are irresistible, & how they disrupt our digestive apparatus that normally signal satiation.
Personality plays a role too. Certain folks have an easier time avoiding the pitfalls of "pleasure trap". Your personality may make you wonderfully equipped for your profession but very susceptible when it comes to making sustaining lifestyle changes. To see where your unique vulnerabilities lie & learn some coping strategies, see Lisle's video The Perfect Personality.
We swim in a culture of unhealthy choices that are heavy marketed, stimulating our desire & distorting what healthy eating looks like. An alien species that wanted to conquer humanity couldn't have devised a more insidious strategy to shorten our lifespan, overwhelm our medical system, & bankrupt our budgets. There's no conspiracy at work, however, just the drive of food service corporations to expand market share & increase consumer loyalty. Food producers in the 1950s initially removed fiber to prolong shelf life; today many have become extremely savvy at exploiting our food addictions. "Bet you can't eat just one!"
Take heart. Your future, your freedom, is achievable. While it does require planning & organization, learning a few new skills & a little audacity to be different, transitioning to a plant-based diet is not as tough as you might fear & gets easier as you go. The payoff in robust health, mental clarity & boundless energy is huge.