Langdon talks New Year’s resolutions with Maine Public Broadcasting

In a conversation with Maine Public Broadcasting, Susan Langdon, lecturer in psychology, applies her research on body image to our perennial devotion to self-improvement and annual ritual of making New Year’s resolutions.

Members of President Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet appear to be maintaining their fitness resolutions in this photo from August 1917. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection.

Resolutions around fitness and weight loss are particularly ubiquitous.

While countless health gurus, consumer products and reality T.V. shows are dedicated to getting people to think about the “what?” of weight loss, Langdon is more concerned with the “why?” and “how?”

“And what I do in my work,” she tells Keith Shorthall of MPBN, “is call that ‘the touchstone’: sort of, ‘What’s the essence of what it is that you want?'”

Langdon goes on to describe the common pitfall of seeking dramatic results right away. She argues instead for the adoption of a “transtheoretical model of behavior change” — psychology-speak for “stages of change” — wherein you “think about what you can do and what you want to do, and proceed accordingly.”

All too often, however, our best-laid plans get derailed along the way. For those who falter in their resolutions, Langdon says to be cognizant of potential excuses and, when it comes to wellness, set realistic expectations to avoid chasing an unattainable ideal.

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