Eating your way to a smaller waistline is one thing, but can eating smaller meals really help you downsize your stomach—as in, the organ that holds carrots, kale, and (if you're lucky) Cronuts? Some say it can be done.
Here’s how the theory goes: Eat less, and your super-stretchy stomach will shrink, fit less food, and you’ll no longer have what feels like a bottomless pit for a belly. You’ll fill up easier, feel less hungry between meals, lose weight, and be living the dream.
It sounds like a pretty good deal (kind of like gastric bypass surgery minus the surgery) until you realize just how little you’d actually have to eat to put the theory into practice. In one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, obese patients were able to reduce the size of their stomachs by 27 percent in four weeks by eating 600 calories a day, or about half the minimum number of calories experts say any woman should eat while trying to lose weight. Um, yeah, about that...
Plus, even if you do score a smaller stomach and fill up faster, it’s not likely that you’ll actually feel less hungry throughout the day, says James J. Lee, M.D., a gastroenterologist with St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California. He says that the chemicals responsible for controlling your appetite, including leptin and ghrelin, actually increase in those who follow deprivation diets, or the kind of diet that would presumably shrink a stomach. That means you might actually feel hungrier with a shrunken belly, he says.
On top of all that, the results you score from cutting your diet in half are almost guaranteed to backfire, he says. “Only five to 10 percent of individuals who undergo fasting diets maintain their weight loss in the long run,” says Lee. Most regain everything they lost—and then some.
Finally, research in the journal Gastroenterology suggests that the stomachs of overweight and obese people aren’t very different than the stomachs of normal-weight people. “Stomach size is not the most important factor in weight loss,” says Lee.
His advice: Instead of fighting your anatomy, start making those hunger-regulating hormones work for you by eating both fiber and protein, which are linked with increases in satiety-boosting peptides and hormones. Keeping your stomach from getting completely empty can also prevent overeating, says Lee. “Eating small meals frequently and getting at least seven hours of sleep each night will help control your levels of hunger-related chemicals,” he says. Want more tips? Check out these 10 simple steps to crush hunger and lose weight.
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