Long ago and far away, when I was a chunky post-teenager, my grandmother offered to pay for me to participate in the Schick weight loss program. This was a thing that enjoyed a brief vogue in the mid-70s, when I was living in Los Angeles. Basically, along with a diet plan, it involved aversion therapy. Every week I would bring in some (junky) food that I particularly favored at that point, and chew it to the point of nausea (and then spit it out), while being zapped with shocks that were well past the amusing point and into the actively unpleasant.
At this point it seems like something out of a Philip K. Dick story or something–surely this didn’t happen to me? Maybe I was more willing to put up with this nonsense because I had read so much science fiction that it seemed familiar.
I was thinking about this because tonight I saw a news feature on something called the “Pavlok.” It’s a wristband, rather like a Fitbit, that when pressed delivers an electric shock–past the amusing point and into the actively unpleasant–in order to help the wearer beat a bad habit: smoking, nail biting, overeating, being on Facebook too much… The testimonials are impressive. Of course, Pavlov only works because when you feel the temptation to eat badly, or smoke, or bite your nails or pull out your hair, you push the button.
On the one hand, if you want something badly enough to spend $300 dollars on it, perhaps you will have the discipline to push the button every time a negative impulse strikes. On the other hand, my own cussedness suggests that at some point I would look down at the thing on my wrist and say “What the– You are not the boss of me!” and simply not push the button. Next, I would forget to put the thing on one morning, and find it gathering dust six months later somewhere in the jumble on my dresser.
Administering shocks to yourself may, in fact work for many people, but it still gives me Philip K. Dick flashbacks.
For what it’s worth, things that have worked for me have included Weight Watchers, stomach flu, falling in love, being too broke to get anywhere except by walking, and breastfeeding. Your mileage may vary, and probably will.