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doug-lisleDoug Lisle, PhD, is an evolutionary psychologist, Director of Research at True North Health Center, and co-author of one of the most important and – to me – challenging books on human happiness and health, The Pleasure Trap. The other author, Alan Goldhamer, was a recent guest on this podcast, and credited his desire to beat Doug at basketball as the motivating factor behind his own search for the truth about health.

I say The Pleasure Trap is challenging to me because there’s a lot about evolutionary psychology that I don’t want to believe. I don’t like the thought of all our desires and motivations ultimately reduced to the imperatives of survival and mating.

So when I asked Doug about being a guest on the show, I told him that I wanted to have a spirited debate. He agreed gleefully (I’m guessing I’m not the first person he’s come across who prefers a different interpretation of human nature to his own).

But when it came time for the conversation, I had other things on my mind. Specifically, pain.

You see, The Pleasure Trap posits three legs on the stool of human motivation:

  1. Seeking pleasure
  2. Avoiding pain
  3. Conserving energy

The book, as you might guess by the title, focuses on the human search for pleasurable experiences that can be had as cheaply as possible. As in McDonalds drive-thrus and Snickers Bars and pornography.

Since our society messes with us by making pleasurable food so easy to obtain at such low cost, we get fat and sick.

But what about pain? Are we also suffering from a deficit of discomfort and danger and physical hurt?

And how does our willingness to endure pain (or not) influence our self-esteem?

And how does our self-esteem influence our willingness to resist the hyper palatable foods that are killing us?

We ended the conversation with a cliffhanger – Doug had to jump off the phone for an appointment, and offered to join me for part two, to explain why we have such trouble performing the actions we commit to doing. Stay tuned…

Meanwhile, in today’s conversation, we covered:

  • Doug and Alan’s “superhero origin story” as reclusive high school students, trying to get strong on weights, peanuts, and orange juice
  • the book that influenced Doug’s father when it came to healthy eating
  • the fateful Yosemite backpacking trip that got Doug bent out of shape about food
  • Steve Plant, natural hygiene, and the works of Herbert Shelton
  • how Doug cured his daily stomach agony after basketball practice with a plant-based diet – in one day!
  • pain as a short-term motivator
  • pain avoidance as a long term motivator
  • the difference between real problems and “BS problems”
  • the importance of conscious calibration of life problems
  • the wisdom of Louis CK and the Dalai Lama
  • why “psycho-excavation” is the wrong approach to dietary lapses
  • healthy living as a submarine two miles deep in hostile water (no “happy happy fun fun” from this guy! 😉
  • blaming the wrong things for our eating problems
  • the dynamic balance of our survival and reproductive programming
  • rites of passage as sexual advertisements of hardiness
  • mazes, cheese, and fights – how male rats prefer a good fight to a good meal
  • the dynamics of esteem and self-esteem
  • the role of our internal audience
  • self-esteem as the outcome of an embrace of gritty little behaviors
  • chasing daily microgoals rather than big wins
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.

Links – Doug's practice site and teaching clearinghouse

True North Health Center

The Pleasure Trap, by Douglas J. Lisle, PhdD, & Alan Goldhamer, DC

Psychodietetics: Food as the Key to Emotional Health, by E Cheraskiun

Louis CK video (4 minutes): Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy

The Art of Happiness, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, MD

The History of Natural Hygiene and Principles of Natural Hygiene, by Herbert M. Shelton

Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, with Howard Jacobson, PhD

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Thanks to Podcast Patrons

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for your generous support of the podcast.

And thanks to iTunes user MomAthlete for her totally awesome review of the podcast. I'm gonna share it, but know that I'm blushing big time:

“One of the best podcasts for plant based information that I have found. Howard is smart, funny, humble, and intelligent. I love listening to him and his guests. He gets experts in the plant powered field, more than any other podcast. LOVE, love, love. Five stars, and if there were 10, I'd give him those!”


Check out my online TV show, Triangle Be Well. This week I talk about what conversations to have with your doctor if you want to stay well and not end up sick and medicated for no good reason.

Watch it here.

I can help you navigate the medical system and adopt a healthy lifestyle

I'm available for one-on-one consulting and coaching to help you navigate the medical system, make informed decisions, take control of your health destiny, and achieve true wellness and not just medical management of disease.

Ask your questions or share your feedback

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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website,


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2 comments on “Doug Lisle on the Evolutionary Uses of Pain and Sacrifice: PYP 160

  1. Judith M Donovan says:

    This podcast will not download on iTunes. Can you look into it for us?

    1. Howard says:

      Hi Judy,

      No idea why not – I’m not in the least bit technical, and I haven’t heard from anyone else with the same issue. My suggestions are to try again, and if it continues not to download, try getting a different podcast app like Stitcher or Overcast. Hope this helps a little bit…

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