I keep telling myself that I have big bones and lots of muscle mass (I hear that muscle weighs more than fat), but the bottom line is that I weigh 200 pounds. Unfortunately, I’d like to weigh 180 pounds.

Coincidentally, I’m drafting my New Year’s resolutions, and one of them is to lose weight. This is somewhat of an annual occurrence. Unfortunately, the abandonment of said resolution also happens with annual regularity—just a few weeks later. However, this year I have a Nobel prize winning professor on my side, so I am cautiously optimistic.

The source of this knowledge is an article by Virgina Postrel called “A Nobel Winner Can Help You Keep Your Resolutions.” It is in the 12/29/05 issue of the New York Times. The subject of this story is Professor Thomas Schelling, a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. He is an expert in the study of conflict.

And conflict is exactly what I have. Luckily, Virginia provides his ideas for the maintenance of New Year’s resolutions, and I’m going to try some of them:

Precommitment. The theory is that if you burn the bridges behind an army, it will fight harder because it knows there is no way out. For dieting, the means that you precommit to not eating ice cream by simply not stocking your refrigerator with ice cream. At the very least, it forces me to get in the car to buy ice cream; surely ice cream (eg, chocolate chip cookie dough) isn’t that important.

Bright line rules. The intention of these rules is to simplify your life and prevent “slippage.” Personally, this would mean not eating any white rice as opposed to my past efforts to reduce white rice consumption to one bowl per meal or to mix white rice with brown rice because “brown rice is better for you.”

Delay. Who am I kidding? I can’t stop eating white rice. I’m Japanese-American. You might as well tell me to stop breathing. The delay strategy takes this type of inevitability into account: so at 10 pm when I get the white-rice munchies, I’ll wait until 10:30 before going to the kitchen. Who knows: I may fall asleep before 10:30 and wake up lighter.

I hope his rules will help you too. If they don’t, there’s always next year…

Written at Atherton, California