Can Shock Therapy Help You Lose Weight?

The Pavlok band uses shock therapy to help you break bad habits

pavlok shock therapy band review

Would you be willing to undergo shock therapy to lose weight? Some dieters are using a shock therapy band to break bad eating habits and slim down. The Pavlok shock therapy band is available, but is it worth the cost and the discomfort? 

How Does Pavlok Work?

To use Pavlok, you have to do a little bit of homework before you attach the shock therapy band. First, you target a bad habit that you want to diminish or eliminate.

The habit must be very specific. 

For example, you may want to learn how to eat less food all day long to lose weight. It seems like a reasonable habit to change. But you can't shock yourself constantly throughout the day. So instead, you would target a specific food or a specific eating pattern that you want to manage and use the device to eliminate or reduce that habit. 

The Pavlok shock therapy band is worn on your wrist. When you participate in the habit you are trying to eliminate, like eating that specific food, you press a button on the top of the band and a shock is administered to your wrist. You continue to shock yourself every minute or so while you're eating that food.

So how does the shock feel? It's really up to you. You can change the intensity of the shock by connecting your device to the Pavlok app. When I first tried the device, the shock nearly caused me to fall out of my chair.

But I had it set at the highest level - more appropriate for a large man. I'm a very tiny woman so it was too intense for me. On the lowest setting, the shock felt more like an annoying pinprick.

Shock Therapy for Weight Loss

On their website, the makers of Pavlok provide a list of 21 scientific studies to support their product.

It is important to point out that the studies do not investigate the effectiveness of Pavlok. The research provided evaluates various forms of aversion therapy. Unfortunately, most of the research is either very old (dating back to the 1960s and 1970s) or very limited in scope (involving only one participant) or isn't about shock therapy at all.

For example, you'll see one study on the Pavlok site that examines the effectiveness of aversion therapy for weight loss. The headline reads "Aversion Study Results In Sustained Weight Loss of 9.17 lbs."  Sounds pretty impressive huh? What dieter wouldn't want to lose 9 pounds and keep it off? The headline may even sway you to buy Pavlok. Well, the details aren't so impressive. 

It turns out that the study, conducted in 1970, involved only 12 women who were subjected to a type of aversive conditioning in which they had to breathe in noxious fumes through an oxygen mask when they were exposed to their favorite foods. The women told the researchers that they experienced "serious discomfort" during the conditioning sessions and one reported vomiting afterwards.

While five of the six women treated did maintain their weight loss after 48 weeks, the researchers concluded that aversion therapy "is not enough for a patient who must lose weight but combined with other procedures it may help the patient lose weight more easily." I'm not sure why the researchers considered vomiting and extreme discomfort to be easy.

Does Pavlok Shock Therapy Work? 

Since I am both a glutton for punishment and an obsessively curious journalist, I decided to test Pavlok myself. The Pavlok company sent me a device and I spent some time evaluating my habits to target a specific behavior to change. I decided that I wanted to eat less chocolate ice cream.  I didn't want to give up chocolate ice cream for good, but I did want to eat it less often and learn to eat a smaller portion.

For four days, I ate ice cream every day as part of the required exposure phase. I wore the Pavlok bracelet and administered a shock whenever I scooped out a bowl of ice cream. Then I continued to shock myself as I sat and ate my chocolately treat.

So did it work? Yes. After four days, I had no cravings for chocolate ice cream. I bought a quart to keep in my home, just to see if the cravings would return and after two weeks, they have not.  Have I eaten chocolate ice cream since using Pavlok? Yes. But did I overeat chocolate ice cream after using Pavlok? No, not for the next few months. After about 12 weeks, however, the cravings came back. 

Should You Try Pavlok to Lose Weight?

Shock therapy is a fairly drastic treatment to lose weight. But for some very unique and committed dieters, Pavlok might help.  In order to use the device, you need to honestly evaluate your daily behaviors that have caused weight gain. That process alone may help you to lose weight. In addition, the shock treatment makes you more mindful of your eating, and that may help as well.

But a device like this isn't for everyone and it's hard for me to recommend punishment to lose weight. An emotional eater, for example, may not respond well to this kind of conditioning. Ultimately, the decision to invest in this band is up to you. 

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