The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health & Happiness by Douglas J. Lisle and Alan Goldhamer was an interesting read. It had a lot of great information in it but I also found it tedious. It took me much longer to read than it should have and I found myself dreading it at times. The biggest issue for me was the condescending way I felt they pushed their agenda.
The book does a great job of explaining the psychology behind why we make the often harmful choices we make and fall into The Pleasure Trap. It also perfectly describes Western medicine and its shortcomings.
As someone who has struggled their entire life with Crohn’s disease, there were so many things stated about the way Western medicine is practiced that I have personally experienced. For most of my childhood, I was given harsh prescriptions without any actual investigation into why I was having these symptoms in the first place. I was told that the horrible side effects from these drugs were a necessary evil. But why? I wasn’t getting any better. In fact, I was getting worse and worse as the years went on. Eventually, I made what many consider to be a radical choice and abandoned the medications and started to implement changes to my lifestyle. I eventually achieved remission without medication and have maintained that remission for almost a decade. A feat my doctors told me would not be possible.
I 100% agree that the human body has incredible capabilities for healing itself. I’m living proof of that. I also agree that providing yourself the optimal environment for healing is so important (but not required). That’s why retreats are so powerful. You get our of your normal environment, full of your usual means of distraction and self-medication, and join a group of like-minded individuals working toward a similar goal. The positive energy from the group can be so motivating and inspiring. Breaking free from the pleasure trap is so much easier when you aren’t still confronted with the pressures of normal life. The hard part is when you go home and attempt to integrate your new lifestyle with your old life.
I’m not a vegan and I don’t expect anyone else to be…but that’s exactly what the authors expect. I had issue with how they constantly wrote about how eating meat is horrible for the body and we should go back to eating more like our ancestors but they reiterate over and over that our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. Our ancestors also ate meat. So maybe it’s not the meat consumption that is the issue. Maybe it’s just how the animal lived before it came to the plate that’s the problem. I agree that factory farming has had so many negative impacts on our health and our environment but I don’t believe that translates to eating meat is bad. It’s the quality of the meat sold in stores that’s the problem.
There also wasn’t much mention about the dangers or challenges of living the way they suggest in the book. Ask most people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) about the diet pushed in this book and they will ask why you are trying to torture and kill them. For some, simply eating more fruits and vegetables isn’t so simple. When you have IBD, eating fruits and vegetables can send you into the hospital. The authors make it seem like it’s all or nothing. Eat like we say or you’re killing yourself. But it isn’t that simple. It took so long for me to get to the point where I could eat raw vegetables. Baby steps brought me into remission but they even discourage making changes incrementally. As if it’s reasonable to expect a person to just up and change every single thing about themselves, the way they think and how they live.
My biggest take away from this book and something that I always discuss with my IBD clients is the need to remove the causes of issue. For people with IBD, that means understanding what causes their inflammation. Generally, the main sources of IBD inflammation come from eating trigger foods and feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. Once I learned what to remove from my diet (that I was eventually able to add back without issues) and how to better manage stress, my quality of life greatly improved. I feel like a whole new person with a whole new life. Not because of the addition to things but because of the subtraction of things.
Like I mentioned above, there is a lot of great information about human psychology in this book. However, I felt like the actual agenda of the book was to push their specific lifestyle (and their water-only fasting clinic). This book is worth the read but not one that I’ll be reading again.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
If this book sparks your interest, join my online book club!