Making Lasting Dietary Change

Humans are hardwired to avoid pain and seek pleasure in the present moment. So most of the time we choose instant pleasure (unhealthy food) over future pain (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc). It’s hard to initiate a ‘fight or flight’ response to something 30 years in the future.

The way to deal with this before you experience actual physical pain is two-fold:

1. Associate pain with your present unhealthy eating habits. Learn what food does to your arteries, imagine having a heart attack or getting a scary disease. Really feel what this would be like. Go to the cardiac ward of a hospital. Watch videos of the animal abuse and death involved in the meat and dairy industries (if you already haven’t – no need to keep re-traumatizing yourself). Learn about the environmental impacts of meat and dairy.

2. Associate pleasure with your new eating habits. By going 100% plant-based your taste buds will adjust instead of always being tempted by the unhealthy foods. Develop a taste for healthy foods and you will experience pleasure eating these new foods. You will get ‘cravings’ for potatoes or the sweet juiciness of a grapefruit, or a spicy curry or a hot salsa.

People don’t make the required changes because they experience more pleasure with their current eating habits than pain. Even being overweight and having health issues can be dealt with by medication. And being uncomfortable in clothes is not enough pain for many people to make changes to their habits.

Also, you may need to revisit these associations over time because they can weaken. For example there is such a disconnect between food and animals that buying certain fast foods can seem harmless enough if you don’t think about it too much. There are often no visual cues that you are eating an animal. Keeping strong associations with the health and animal issues can help keep you on track especially during the maintenance phase (after you’ve lost the fat).

This is a great video by Tony Robbins that explains the pain and pleasure principle.

Leave a Comment: