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  • Writer's pictureAnna Rathbun, NC

How to Beat the Pleasure Pain Cycle

I love apple fritters. Today I love the idea more than the warm, sticky sweetness. During my college years I knew which shops were open at midnight. Eventually the pain in my gut became greater than the pleasure of the apple fritter. I retired those midnight runs to Sam’s donuts in favor of a tart green apple with almond butter - most days. Everything we do is motivated by providing pleasure and avoiding pain. What makes a personal health plan successful is how we define pleasure and pain.

Deprivation causes pain

If you’re not sick already then an apple fritter may be the ultimate in pleasure. Deprivation may be the deepest pain. We develop emotional and physical attachments to pleasurable foods which makes deprivation painful. Too many pleasurable apple fritters and eventually the gut, feet, knees and head can became the source of pain. You may seek relief with a harsh New Year’s resolution: no more apple fritters and exercising every day. Pretty soon you have the pain of deprivation and foot pain from too much walking combined with the pain of failure. There’s just not enough pleasure to sustain a deprivation diet. That is why 92% of New Year’s Resolutions fail in the first few months.

Healthy meals cause pleasure

Health programs that succeed start by filling you up with so many pleasurable meals that eventually you forget about the apple fritter, most days. The pleasure in real food leaves you satisfied and energized. After a week or so your body pain subsides so that eventually you want to go for a walk around the block. Wow, maybe today you feel strong enough to walk to the beach! Both food and movement have now turned to pleasure.

Why it's good to eat bad

In a nostalgic moment you turn to an apple fritter for pleasure. Oh yeah, it still tastes good, but within a couple hours your knees begin to ache and you have no desire to walk. Hmm, has the apple fritter turned to pain? I love the art form of a good pastry, but the idea of ingesting one simply feels painful.

Healthy body causes pleasure

Eventually you may find a tart green apple with almond butter pleasurable. You will have the strength to enjoy walking to the beach with your new working knees. Eventually the sight of an apple fritter will bring great nostalgia along with memories of pain.

We set our goals and jump for the sky even though we love to have our feet on the ground. How much healthy pleasure can you fit in one day? I help my clients use this approach to gain energy and freedom while stopping pain and fatigue. Health should never be about deprivation, it simply isn't sustainable.

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