Can you really make your stomach smaller to help you lose weight?
During your dieting efforts, you may have come across a theory that goes: eating less causes your stomach to shrink, allowing you to need less food to fill your stomach up. Over time, you’ll attain your dream body by cutting calories without having to deal with those annoying hunger pangs. We speak to Dr Melvin Look, consultant surgeon in gastrointestinal, laparoscopic and obesity surgery at Mount Elizabeth Hospital to find out if there’s any truth to this theory.
Unfortunately, there is no way your stomach is going to get smaller by eating less. The reason why you may feel like you need less food after a fast? It is likely due to your internal “appetite thermostat” – your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
“The stomach does not become smaller after a prolonged reduced calorie diet but our appetite thermostat becomes reset to a lower level,” says Dr Look. “We therefore start to feel satiated with a smaller portion of food.”
According to Dr Look, the only way to reduce your stomach size is through surgical methods like a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. This procedure reduces your stomach to roughly a size of a big banana. Your stomach would be stretched with just a small amount of food, alerting your brain that you are full.
While your stomach is capable of stretching, it quickly snaps back to its original size after a period of time. Basically, your stomach remains the same size no matter how much you eat.
Does bigger stomach = bigger appetite?
While stomach sizes do vary across individuals, there is no direct correlation between a person’s stomach size and weight and BMI, says Dr Look. “In other words, don’t blame the size of the stomach you are born with if you habitually overeat and gain excessive weight.”
More often than not, weight issues are likely due to poor eating habits like late night snacking and binge eating. Overconsumption of sugary and processed foods can also cause you to build a resistance against leptin, the hormone responsible for telling your body when it’s time to stop eating. An American study published in the Journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that healthy adults rated higher levels of hunger and desire for food after consumption of fructose, a simple sugar that is often found in artificially sweetened drinks. So it’s high time to cut down on soft drinks and bubble tea.
Eating less will not shrink your stomach. Instead, it causes you to feel hungrier and may potentially result in weight gain. When your body is low on fuel, it craves for more sugary and fatty foods. While you think it’s all right to sneak in a bar of chocolate because you haven’t eaten an entire day, you might end up consuming more calories than you would from eating a regular meal. Plus, you will miss out on essential nutrients that keep your day-to-day bodily functions going.
Instead of attempting to go on crash diets to lose weight, Dr Look suggests eating small portions of food multiple times a day. You can also incorporate plant-based foods with adequate protein and fibre. Such a diet keeps you full for longer periods of time, and suppresses your appetite to prevent overeating.