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Posted at 8:16 AM ET, 01/ 4/2011

Story pick: New Year's resolutions, trick diets and self-control

By Marc Fisher

This is the time of year when you get both books hawking weight-loss schemes and news stories debunking trick or fad diets. But a new book by Daniel Akst--a book that offers not a single tip on how to drop 20 pounds--explores the distinctly American problem of poor self-control, which of course is the key culprit behind the expanding waistlines in our fair land.

Akst's "We Have Met The Enemy," an excerpt from which you can read here, in turn points to a fascinating experiment by some professors at Yale who have developed a web site through which you can create binding contracts that will force you to do the things you say you want to do, but never quite get around to doing.

The site,, tells the stories of the Yale academics who decided that the only way they could really force themselves to live up to their oft-violated resolutions and really lose that weight or really go to the gym would be to sign a legally binding contract that committed them to paying big money to someone--could be a friend, but it could also be, say, a charity or political candidate that you find utterly abhorrent--if they failed to live up to their end of the bargain.

Here's a Yale student writing about her experience using the commitment--when she violated her pledge to avoid pulling all-nighters to get her work done, she had to cough up a $50 contribution to the campaign of George W. Bush, someone she found politically unpalatable.

The economists and law professors who created this system swear by the power of the contracts to act as a better incentive than one's self-control. I tend to think that public shaming is more effective than any legally binding contract, but that's another web site for another day.

If you've had any experience with contracts along the lines that stickK recommends, please come ahead with your account of how it worked for you, on the comment boards below.

By Marc Fisher  | January 4, 2011; 8:16 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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I just want to tell you how excited I am. After 9 days on the "Hypersonic Weight Loss" I lost 7lbs!!

Posted by: davidisac | January 5, 2011 1:06 AM | Report abuse

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