Want to Lose Weight? Try Visiting This Law Prof's Contracts Website

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A website created by a Yale graduate and two professors at the school—including a law professor—is betting that a contract can help you lose weight.

The contract isn’t the one you have to sign before joining a health club. It’s one you develop yourself through a website called in which you promise to pay money to someone or something if you don’t achieve a goal, such as losing weight, quitting smoking or exercising more often. The Washington Post’s Story Lab noted the website.

StickK explains the process this way: “As a true test of your commitment, stickK will let you put your money on the line for any Commitment Contract. Achieve your goal and you don’t pay a thing (and you’re much happier than before, aren’t you?) But if you aren’t successful, you forfeit your money to a charity, an anti-charity or even that neighbor who keeps stealing your newspaper.”

Usually a friend wouldn’t make you pay, but StickK makes you stick to your pledge by getting your credit card number up front. The website’s founders are law professor Ian Ayres, economics professor Dean Karlan and Yale grad Jordan Goldberg. Karlan, who came up with the idea, says the website is based on a well-known principle of behavioral economics: incentives get people to do things.

Ayres explains the concept in his new book, The $500 Diet, he says in a post for his Why Not blog hosted by Forbes magazine. In the book, he recalls how his weight had ballooned to 205 pounds in 2007 after he stopped exercising. His yearlong commitment contract required him to pay $500 for each week that he failed to lose a pound until he reached 185, and then required him to pay $500 for each week he failed to maintain the weight loss.

He kept the weight off for two years, and then had to make another Commitment Contract. By October 2010, his weight was at about 180.

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