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Learning to Satisfice Yourself

You may have read the title of this blog and thought I’d misspelled a word, but I didn’t. “Satisfice” is a term coined by Nobel Prize-winning cognitive scientist Herbert Simon (“The Bleh Lagoon” by Amy Alkon, Sarasota Herald Tribune, 5/19/16, p. E47). It’s the perfect way to describe the sense of enoughness that dysregulated eaters yearn for.

The term melds the concepts of “satisfy” and “suffice” and beautifully describes the way to make a choice or decision that is best for you. Simon explains that we can arrive at feeling “satisficed” by considering a minimum level of okayness (aka good enough). To arrive at feeling satisficed, one must “Forget about what you ‘should’ need.” He’s absolutely right. How can you ever know what is the best amount of anything (food, hours at work, down time, money, etc.) when you’re thinking about an arbitrary quantity as a landing place? What’s enough for you would be different than what’s enough for me and vice versa. We each want to cultivate our own sense of enoughness in life.

So, let’s say you’ve got a stack of rather meaningless paperwork to complete on your job. You want to be thinking not about how well you should do it, but about cranking out a job that feels as if sufficient attention is being paid to the task at hand as well as feeling satisfied with what you’ve done. It’s even okay to consider what will satisfy your boss or superior. The point is that you’re not trying to win awards for your paperwork, but to simply get the job done in a way that both suffices and satisfies.

Or, let’s say you’re eating a slice of chocolate layer cake for dessert. Ignore ideas of how much you should eat and, instead, focus on how much cake will give you a feeling that you’ve had enough of the taste, texture, or whatever you’re enjoying about it and what that moment of satisfaction feels like. Rely on your body/mind to give you the answer. It’s there, I promise you, but you won’t sense it unless you’re seeking and waiting for that unique response.

Just the way you’ve gotten into the habit of asking others what will satisfice you or looking for external cues and clues, you will habituate to internally feeling satisficed. One way to do this is to ask yourself while you’re engaged in activities—eating or otherwise—“Is this enough? Am I satisficed yet?” Then stop what you’re doing and listen for the answer. Respond to your internal cues for enoughness and soon they’ll be popping up automatically. This is how “normal” eaters relate to food and mentally healthy people manage their lives. For a blog of mine on this subject, read Sufficiency.