Applying that method to food is a lot trickier. Your boss can make you go to a 9 a.m. meeting, but you don't have a Food Manager who prods you to avoid potato chips and count calories at every single meal. Even if your workplace's cafeteria has reasonably sized portions, including small desserts, no one will stop you from buying two or three cookies.
To encourage healthy habits in an already structured workplace, companies could instead institute standing desks and hold standing or even "walking meetings," in which people move around while they discuss business instead of sit in a conference room. These interventions should, however, be tested scientifically before being widely promoted, Laibson said.
Government intervention is another way that self control could be imposed, but a controversial one. The city of New York tried to limit sugary drinks sold to 16 ounces each last year, but an appeals court ruled in July that this was "arbitrary and capricious." In Laibson's view, such a policy needs scientific evidence that it has positive health outcomes before being broadly enacted.
But you don't necessarily need a boss or government official threatening to punish you for breaking rules you already want to follow for the sake of your health. You can set up a system in which you discipline yourself.
Through the Internet, you can wager your own money to commit yourself to your own diet and exercise aspirations. A website called StickK allows you to put your own money on the line in support of whatever goal you may have; if you don't fulfill it, you lose the money. As Yale economist Dean Karlan, co-founder of StickK, told CNN in 2008, "It's a contract to make slothfulness more expensive."
So, think how much money your health-conscious self would offer your sweet-tooth self to keep the ice cream in the freezer, or not buy it at all.
Change can start today.