Your Brain has been Hijacked
Updated: Feb 27, 2018
You know those people who pass on dessert because they're already satisfied. Or who find the chocolate brownies too rich. Or the people who take ages thinking of what their favourite food is, then come up with some answer that doesn't sound too convincing. Well, hi. I'm that person.
I know. (Eye roll.) Those people. But I wasn't always like that. If you know my story at all, you'll know I struggled with the exact opposite problem. I would drive out of my way to go get junk food and candy. At the grocery store I would tell myself I wanted mixed nuts and always end up with chocolate covered almonds. I couldn't resist chips, dessert bars, Halloween candy... and then discounted Halloween candy. Instead of one cookie at Tim Hortons I would buy six, and I'd never go on a trip without stocking up on junk food first. The reason being, I was caught in the pleasure trap.
The Pleasure Trap (coined by Dr. Lisle), is a place where many of us are stuck. We enjoy the processed, super palatable, modern foods- crunchy, salty, sweet, fatty, rich, and our brain says yes! Our brain thinks it has hit a gold mine of pleasure while conserving the most energy and it takes note in order to go find that food again. But with repeated pleasure stimulation, the part of our brain that responds gets a bit overwhelmed and begins to down-regulate the receptors. In other words, it creates a situation where the brain is no longer capable of getting as much pleasure as it once did from the same foods. The brain habituates to that amount of pleasure and now eating those processed, super palatable foods doesn't quite give you the same reward as it once did. The bigger problem however, is that now eating anything that's less exciting than processed foods (say, whole natural food), actually registers as less pleasurable than it would have otherwise. And there's the trap.
What once gave the brain lots of pleasure (processed foods), now only gives it a little. And what once gave the brain an adequate and natural amount of pleasure (natural, unprocessed foods), now gives little pleasure. So we turn again and again to over processed junk foods in hope that we'll get the same amount of pleasure as before, and when we don't, we just eat more, always hoping. Enter: overeating; enter: binging.
The good news is that dopamine receptors (the part that registers pleasure) grow back if they're not inundated with super stimulating foods. The bad news is that during that time, eating regular whole foods will feel less pleasurable, which the brain will interpret as doing something wrong, since its ultimate goal is to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy (the motivational triad).
So when you're trying to understand the kind of person who doesn't care that much about food, you have to understand that they're mostly eating foods that are naturally pleasurable, but are not SUPER pleasurable- things made from whole ingredients, not processed or loaded with sugar or oil or refined flour. And their brain responds appropriately, in the normal range of pleasure. It says, this is good food, find it again in the future, I'm happy.
It's possible for anyone and everyone to enjoy whole, natural, mostly plant foods with great pleasure, and not even be interested in dessert, but only if their dopamine receptors are functioning normally. And if you've been overeating or binging on processed foods, then likely yours are not. There's still hope though. Transitioning back to normal pleasure ranges can be done. And the best news is that when you're in the normal pleasure range, you'll start registering pleasure beyond food as well. A hard days work, accomplishing a goal, a great conversation, or helping someone, will flood you with pleasure too. And your brain will be ready to enjoy every last drop of it.
The foods lining the shelves of our society are giving us false pleasure, and trap our brain's motivation loop. This false pleasure also damages our body, our mind, and prevents us from honouring our true intuition and natural cues.
If you think you're caught in the Pleasure Trap, then we should talk. Book a free call right now and let's make a plan for you.