We’re often told that our stomachs can shrink or contract while sticking to a low-calorie diet plan, but is that really true? Does a smaller stomach equal a smaller appetite?

We’ve taken a look at all the information to come up with an answer to the common question, “does your stomach shrink when you eat less?”

“Yes.”

Our stomachs do naturally expand and contract according to how much food we eat, however the stomach will not physically become smaller.

The stomach bag is elastic, like a rubber band, and so it can get much larger after we gorge on a large meal (as we used to have to to avoid starvation in hunter gatherer times) and smaller if we haven’t eaten a lot recently.

The less you eat, the less your body will expect you to eat so you will end up resetting your appetite to be in tune with your body’s needs.

More importantly, if you eat less your belly fat will be used up as energy and so it will decrease, leading to that slimmer figure that many of us are after! Ab exercises can also help tone the muscle in the stomach area and achieve more of a flattened stomach, when combined with overall fat loss.

“No.”

Although our stomachs do have elastic properties and will stretch and expand when we eat large volumes of food, the amount that they shrink will not go beyond an average size – that is to say, you cannot make your stomach smaller than it is naturally meant to be.

Most people no matter what their weight have similar sized stomachs and it is the amount of food that we consume that is the deciding factor on our hunger levels and weight gain or loss.

However, eating less will help you reset your appetite – gradually reducing your excess food intake will help your body and brain make the connection when you are full, and send signals to stop eating. This has its limits however; drinking a liter of water to fill your stomach won’t make hunger go away completely as it does not alter the blood sugar levels to indicate to the brain that the body is being fed.

If you are used to eating until you are full a good way of bridging the gap if you are trying to lose weight is to eat larger amounts of low calorie foods such as dark leafy greens, other non starchy vegetables and sources of lean protein.

Try to avoid going into too drastic a calorie deficit as these kinds of diets can actually increase the hormones that make you feel hungry such as ghrelin and leptin. This means that even if your stomach shrinks you may end up feeling hungrier and sabotaging your plans – this is supported in the evidence that only between five to ten percent of dieters who take on extreme calorie deficits maintain their weight loss in the long run.

A better way of ensuring that your good intentions stick is to start consuming a diet high in fibre and protein. These nutrients are low in calories and are great for increasing satiety – that ‘full’ feeling that people losing weight often crave. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is another great way to improve digestion and feel leaner and lighter without starving or depriving yourself.

Conclusion

Although eating less is certainly a good idea for your waistline, doing so will not significantly shrink your stomach, and certainly will not reduce it beyond its natural size. If you want to lose weight avoid extreme hunger that can occur due to diets with a large calorie deficit, and eat a healthy balanced diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables, fibre and lean protein.

This way you will feel satisfied without consuming excess calories, fat and sugar which contribute to weight gain. Exercise can also help burn calories and reduce overall body fat, and targeting abdominal and oblique muscles can help create the appearance of a flatter stomach.

If you wish to lose weight speak to your physician before making any changes to your diet or exercise program.

Hannah Canavan
Hannah Canavan
Researcher at DietProbe
Hannah is a health and lifestyle journalist with a passion for veganism and nutrition.
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