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Can your stomach shrink?

Your stomach is like a balloon – it can shrink or expand depending on how much you eat. If you overeat, you may be setting yourself up to overindulge later.

“For example, if you have a big Christmas dinner, your stomach can stretch out,” says Karen Andry, R.D., a bariatric coordinator at Piedmont. “If you continue to eat every night Christmas dinner [portions], your stomach will stay big and so your hunger cues [will change]. You’ll want to eat more because your stomach is big.”

So how to do you undo the stretched out effect of a large meal? 

  1. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Instead of three large meals a day, aim for five “mini-meals” of breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus two healthy snacks. These meals won’t expand your stomach excessively, but will help you stay full and satisfied. 

  2. Slow down. Your brain needs 20 minutes to realize your stomach is full. Put down your fork or spoon with every bite and make an effort to savor your meal. “If you eat a meal in five minutes, you can eat three plates’ full before your brain signals, ‘I’m finished, you can stop eating now,’” warns Andry. 

How the brain knows when the stomach is full 

People who struggle with overeating don’t have the satiety cueing others have, explains Andry. 

“Their brain doesn’t tell them they’re full,” she says. “They can eat and eat and eat, whereas others have a perfectly in-sync little key that says, ‘I’m full – don’t eat anymore.’”

Remember, your stomach is like a balloon – it can expand and contract, so the larger the meal you eat, the more it expands to hold what you consume.

If you struggle with overeating and/or staying full, talk to your primary care provider

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