Understanding the Transition to a Low Fat Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet

One of my favorite presentations during my plant based nutrition certification through the T. Colin Campbell foundation was by Dr. Doug Lisle regarding what is known as The Pleasure Trap. This helped me to understand why people would constantly say to me, “you eat vegan? I could NEVER do that!”. This is also why people start their transition into a whole foods plant based diet and then quit just shy of success.

There is a hidden force that undermines our health and happiness. It is something called the Motivational Triad. This will explain how food cravings can both serve and mislead us.

When you understand how the pleasure trap works, then you will have the power to beat the system and reach success. We can now expect the process and push through until our body adjusts to the healthier food and we truly end up enjoying it!

Why is it, that when we know what the right thing is to do, (the right foods to eat, in this case) it’s so hard to do?

 “If you do the wrong thing it feels right and when you do the right thing (after having been doing the wrong thing) it feels wrong.”

~ Dr. Lisle

Our evolutionary instincts (guidance system) are to EAT – SURVIVE – REPRODUCE

 The Motivational Triad is as follows:

  1. Pleasure (Feels Good!)
  2. Pain (Feels Bad!)
  3. Energy Conservations (Be Efficient!)

We all have the same motivational triad. We are all hard-wired to unconsciously make decisions using this triad. By nature we seek out pleasure, try to avoid pain, and attempt to do both by expending as little energy as possible.

The pleasure trap occurs when you take someone and put them into an environment they were not designed to handle. This explains why FOOD is now the #1 pleasure trap among us.

What are some of the most popular foods? Chocolate, hot dogs, cheese, French fries, chips, burger, pizza and donuts of course!

Sugar, fat, and salt… foods that we were DESIGNED to seek out (but not as they are today) These processed foods have a very high caloric density unlike whole fresh plant foods. These calorie dense foods are much more attractive biologically because they support the Motivational Triad by giving us pleasure, quickly eliminating anxiety that accompanies hunger, and by being so calorie dense they give us the BIGGEST bang for our buck which supports our biological need to conserve energy.

The most important thing to realize is that we quickly become addicted to processed food and when we eat this food it triggers a pleasure response in our brain, however this pleasure response deadens with time and the same exact junk food does not taste as good to us as it originally did. This makes us want/need a little bit more and a little bit more and… Think about a time when your senses were dulled. Perhaps someone walking into your home and smelling something good cooking but you can’t smell it because you are right there in it… and your senses have been dulled.

When we try to eliminate fat, sugar, and salt from our diet, we will most likely go through a painful withdrawal. Whole unrefined foods are not going to taste very good to us initially because our senses have been dulled. Fortunately, we now understand the process

This process takes 8-12 weeks for our bodies to reset what pleasure is. At first there is a reduction in pleasure. Be aware! Then our taste buds adjust to enjoy the new diet. Our bodies are designed to crave this kind of foodwhole plant foods!


Dr. Lisle believes that the leading cause of weight gain is OIL. For example, Apples are 300 calories a pound. Oil is 4000 calories a pound. Oil is a huge part of a standard American diet!

Here is an interesting statistic – Between the ages of 20 and 40 women gain about one pound per year. NOT by massively overeating, but by systematically eating a LITTLE bit too much at a time.

There are only 3 species on the planet with weight problems; do you know what they are?




It’s rather troubling that these three species are found within our homes and are fed by us.

Conversely, in NATURE when food is abundant, animals still do not get fat! Animals follow the Law of Satiety which states that Animals eating to full satisfaction (satiety) in their natural habitat will – over time – eat neither too much nor too little for optimum health.

Dr. Lisle believes that weight problems are NOT because of psychological issues, but weight problems can CAUSE psychological issues.

If you are overweight you are eating foods that are too concentrated.  Simple as that.” 

~Dr. Lisle

When there is fiber deficiency and fiber damage the result is over consumption of calories due to artificial concentration in our diet.

Which is more filling: A pint of Ice Cream…. Or a half-gallon of raw salad, three ears of corn, two baked potatoes, and a pound of cherries?

If we are trying to lose weight, the key is not deprivation, but eating plenty of the right kinds of foods so that we eat to satisfaction with a large amount of whole, unprocessed foods. So the key to losing weight doesn’t mean, NOT eating as much as we want!

If we eat an appropriately calorie dense diet of whole unprocessed food our body will take us where we need to be… we do not need to try and consciously eat less.

Trying to deprive ourselves of the proper volume of food will lead us to problems in that our biology will kick in and push us to seek those calorie dense (fat, sugar, salt) foods that we need to avoid. WE MUST NOT GO HUNGRY or we will set ourselves up for failure.

Dr. Lisle suggests that we take these steps when we sit down to eat and make this our new religion:

1.     Eat our salad first

2.     Then eat our veggies

3.     Then eat our concentrated carbohydrates

To successfully escape the pleasure trap and transition into a whole foods plant based diet we can try the following:

1.     Eat a low fat plant based diet for 70-90 days and let nature readjust our taste buds

2.     Fast – do a water fast for a few days and we will be dreaming about carrots!

3.     Juice for a few days, omitting salt, and fat leaving only carbs to reset the taste bud receptors and heighten our taste bud sensitivity

4.     Go to prison… meaning a medically supervised health center where they will be strict, but help us to fast through the addictions (when all else fails)

All of the above methods take our fat, salt, and sugar receptors offline and essentially reset them.

The other important thing we can try is to get ourselves really hungry, go all day without food and then sit down to a healthy meal that we know we liked before and this will really reset those taste buds: Monday morning, don’t eat for a while. Go all the way to Monday night. What will happen is that the sensitivity of our taste receptors will increase, our motivation for eating is going to rise, and then once we have a meal that we know is healthy and that we have liked before, we increase the likelihood that we will actually enjoy that meal. So getting hungry is a quick way to try to move through this trap.

The ideas in this post are all part of Dr. Lisle’s theory. You can read more about Dr. Lisle’s theory in his book, “The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that is Undermines Health and Happiness.” Click here to purchase from the Karmatarian store… it helps support this site. Thank you!

Watch Dr. Lisle as he talks about How to lose weight without losing your mind! It’s fascinating information that everyone needs to know, but settle in, it’s a little over an hour in length!

Enjoy the Journey,

~The Karmatarian

2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Maureen said,

    I LOVE this! It is so very enlightening. I had just been thinking of about how to eat healthy all the time, so that I have optimal health. Thank you so very much for info!

  2. 2

    Christa said,

    Hi Maureen! Thank you so much for posting. I hope this information helps you and also those who need encouragement to keep going! You are the best! XO

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