Dr. Doug Lisle wants his patients to know that there is a reason why they repeatedly make unhealthy food choices when they “know better”. He has a theory about why people who have studied nutrition and health and know what foods optimize health still eat unhealthy foods. He dismisses the psychological approach that suggests there is a deep, dark secret that makes people behave in a self-destructive manner.
He suggests an alternate reason that takes the blame off the patient and focuses it on simple biology. He uses the analogy of a moth who flies repeatedly toward a source of light. Why, he asks, do moths keep banging into your porch light? Why are they drawn toward the light of a bug zapper or a candle? Do they have a secret death wish?
Lisle contends that moths were programmed with a drive to fly toward light. This makes sense in a world where the only lights in a dark sky were the moon and the stars. Today, with all kinds of artificial light sources, including some that are quite dangerous, the moth’s natural inclination to fly toward light is counterproductive and may even be deadly for them.
How does this relate to the food choice intelligent humans make? According to Lisle’s theory, calories have historically been in short supply. To ensure adequate intake, he proposes, our taste buds were designed to prefer more calorie-dense foods.
Lisle wrote, “Scientific studies conducted over the last decade have concluded that our brains release greater concentrations of pleasure chemicals (dopamine and natural opiates) when the food we eat is of greater caloric density.” He calls this inbred draw to foods that pack a big calorie punch The Pleasure Trap. He wrote a whole book about it.
This information may not help you choose an apple over a bag of chips at a crucial moment, but it can help you understand that maybe what drives your behavior is more biology than psychology.
Dr. Doug Lisle is currently the Director of Research for TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa California.
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Author: Rebeca Espinoza
Rebeca Espinoza writes about health, fitness and weight loss for Spatz Medical, makers of the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon. You can find her on Google+ or at firstname.lastname@example.org.