I've never really met anyone who actually follows that path to its logical extreme if taken literally
I am rather surprised to read that commentary, because in my understanding this is a key part of Epicurean philosophy. Interesting how foci tend to be different.
I really understand your critique on focussing on desires and needs, because there are similarities to within many or most religions/philosophies. Usually, they try to minimalize their needs and dim them. Consequently, their own point of interesting seems to be more enlightened. Interestingly, many of those participants (e.g. monks) in those strategies will tell you, that they feel no lack of anykind or even better than before changing their lives. Ironically, some will report they feel more delightfull, more pleasurable.
How can this function when, as we think, these philosophies seem to be false?
I believe, every religion/philosophy that really produces pleasure to some degree, follwows to an uncertain degree unconciously the path of nature, as taught by Epicurus.
I think there is an error in holding Epicurus' (key) techniques for the same as the techniques/aims of the competitors in the philosophy market. They look very similar, but they may play a totally different role.
'Painlessness' (a term I first read in this forum and adapted ) is by my own words rather focussing on the important things in life and being open for the bright impressions of life without being disturbed about unimportant things. This is what Epicurus' differenciation between natural/unnatural/necessary might be about.