“What A (Re)Volting Development!”


I recently came across an article in The New York Times about a new product designed to discourage bad eating habits, particularly those that can cause weight gain.  The product is a wearable battery operated device called Pavlok (obviously named for you-know-who and his dog) which enables the user to give herself an electric shock whenever she takes a bite of a food she wants to avoid. Supposedly, after a period of time of almost electrocuting herself, she will no longer crave the food that might kill her in some other way.

Apparently, this is just a high-tech upgrade of the old-fashioned method of having your spouse give you a good slap on the kisser as you’re about to knock down that Hershey Bar or Cheez-It.  Maybe it’s designed for people who live alone.  And it’s only $199.  Way less than the cost of a wedding ring, let alone a catered affair.

This particular approach is part of a broader regimen known as aversion therapy.  It seems there are countless behaviors you can try to modify by causing some pain each time that you begin to fail yourself. For example, if your posture isn’t what it should be, there’s a device that you can wear which will shock you if you begin to slouch. Evidently, high voltage is the coin of the realm when it comes to change.

I myself, do it another way; I reward myself with chocolates whenever I stand up straight.  Works each and every time. Really. Which, as I think about it, is how we often encourage behavior modification in children. Along with countless, “Good Jobs”, we also hand out M & M’s or other goodies for various successes, not the least of which is in potty training. (There . . . I’ve used the words “potty training” in my blog —- meaning any chance of being taken seriously as a writer has gone . . has gone,  how shall I say . . .  down the toilet.) Obviously, sometimes positive reinforcement is preferable to electrocution . . . especially when you’re dealing with small children..

One of the interesting tidbits in the article was a story that the creator of the Pavlok told of  having once hired a woman to sit next to him and slap him on the face whenever she saw him using Facebook, so he could increase his productivity. I thought that was a really interesting use of aversion therapy.  Since I know that I also waste time, and a lot of it, I was wondering if I could somehow incorporate this approach into my own life. But given how often I’d need to be “punished”, I don’t think I can afford to pay someone to slap me each time I give in to sloth. I suppose I could figure out a way to give myself an electric jolt in each of those instances but unless there’s a real breakthrough in extending battery life, the thought of being tethered to an electric cord is . . . is . . well, shocking.


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