Ian Ayres (Yale) has posted Strategic Self Motivation for Reduction in Caloric Intake on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Back when I was an undergraduate, I took a class from the future Nobel Laureate Tom Schelling. One day in class, he was talking about commitment problems: when you want to achieve a goal, but lack the self control to do it. As I recall, he offered two pieces of advice for those trying to lose weight. The first was to clean out the refrigerator and throw away anything you might want to eat in a moment of weakness. The second was to write a check for a substantial amount of money to the American Nazi Party, seal it up in a stamped envelope, and vow to drop it in the mail if you break your diet.
If you really do intend to mail that letter after cheating on your diet, it serves as a commitment device. Not only does the diet pay off in terms of lost weight, but it also keeps you from subsidizing a cause you despise. There is, however, a difficulty with this strategy. If you can't stick to your diet, you probably won't mail the letter.
I have now solved the dieting problem by creating the website http://www.stickk.com/. This website allows you to pay me to mail the letter for you if you don't stick to your diet. Really cool, huh?
Note to self: Remind R.A. not to let me spend proceeds from stickk.com on dessert.