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Do Our Stomachs Actually Shrink?

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Old 12-22-2009, 11:03 AM   #1
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Default Do Our Stomachs Actually Shrink?

I've read conflicting information about whether our stomachs shrink when we eat less or whether we just get used to eating less, so this article from the New York Times caught my interest:

Really? The Claim: Your Stomach Shrinks When You Eat Less

Their conclusion is, based on studies, our stomachs can both stretch and shrink, depending on how much we eat:

Quote:
Among the dieters, gastric capacity was reduced 27 percent to 36 percent, on average, depending on how it was measured ... This effect goes both ways: repeated intake of large meals, and bingeing in particular, increases stomach capacity. In some studies, including one in 2001, scientists found that normal-weight binge eaters tended to develop greater stomach capacities than obese subjects of comparable age and sex. And when groups of obese subjects are split into binge eaters and others, the binge groups show larger stomach capacities as well.
The finding that bingers (even normal weight) have larger stomach capacities really made me stop and think. Maybe having a stretched out stomach is why it seems so hard to stop a cycle of binging once it starts? Maybe the normal signals of fullness get completely overriden when the stomach's capacity is so greatly expanded?

I know from personal experience that now I'm able to eat far, far less than I used to be able to back in the old, obese days. I'd guess it to be more like 50% than the 36% figure in the study, but perhaps it's because I was so overweight and so my stomach was so stretched out.

Interesting stuff!
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Old 12-22-2009, 11:21 AM   #2
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That is SO interesting! That DOES shed light on the reason why binge eating is so difficult to control (it is for me). But info is power and now, I think I'll be even less likely to binge, knowing that it is stretching out my stomach so much. I thought the stomach gets more stretched out from daily excessive eating, but this is a real eye opener!
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Old 12-22-2009, 11:39 AM   #3
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It makes perfect sense to me that our stomachs can get "stretched out" by overeating. I have really tried to be conscious over the past year or so how much I've eaten, and when I think back to the quantities I used to eat it amazes me. On Thanksgiving, I went back for a big plate of seconds. That was quite normal for me in the past and wouldn't have phased me a bit; this year, I felt uncomfortably full clear into the next day so that really illustrated to me that my stomach just isn't as comfortable holding that much food anymore.

That could also explain why people frequently feel hungry when they first start dieting; there just isn't the volume there anymore. Folks who experience this problem should heed RockinRobin's (and others') theory about low-calorie, high-volume foods.

Interesting!
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Old 12-22-2009, 12:42 PM   #4
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I feel like the way I eat does enlarge/shrink my stomach, comparing how I used to live and eat with now. That effect is definitely helpful when you're eating right . But, I find that it's still secondary to the mental game. If my mental game is on, I'll cope with the challenges whatever they are. If it's not, my stomach shrinking isn't going to save me. Still, I'm all for amassing as many things that help as I can .
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Old 12-22-2009, 12:56 PM   #5
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Very interesting, Meg!

As a hardcore binger, I could put those "professional extreme eaters" to shame and rarely felt full. And reasonable amounts of food hardly put a dent in my hunger. I was an out of control bottomless pit. I felt crazy when I'd eat with friends and family who would lean back and complain about how full they were and I felt like I could eat the rest of what they hadn't eaten and hit a drive through on the way home.

Now, it doesn't take much for my full sensor to kick in. What a difference. With working "I'm full" sensors I feel like I've gained control of a runaway train. I think that's why I tell people just starting out that if they can hang on and work their plan for a month, it begins to feel so much more doable. Who knew there was science behind that advice?
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:14 PM   #6
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I totally think my stomach has shrunk! I look back at how I used to eat and how I eat now and am amazed at the food difference- for me to weigh less this year than when I started last year is a first for me

Now small quantities totally satisfy me whereas before I'd look at what a "normal" person ate and would think there is no way I could do that.
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:18 PM   #7
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I've been thinking about this recently, actually. I have also noticed that I eat a lot less than I used to before I feel full and icky. A good indicator is a high volume chicken curry dish I make from DHs recipe. At one point two years ago I had started splitting the competed dish into two servings - a 1/3 and a 2/3 - for myself and DH, and still didn't feel full when I was done with my 1/3 portion. Now I serve myself 1/4 of the recipe and am often close to full before I'm finished.

On the other hand, I can eat an entire pint if ice cream now where I couldn't in the past. I don't understand that one.
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:42 PM   #8
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I think I do get full faster now, but also ... I'm a lot better at noticing full, I'm a lot better at letting go of non-hunger reasons to eat, and I'm a lot better at telling the difference between hunger and cravings and habits/triggers.
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:44 PM   #9
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I have a friend that weighs 370 pounds and she can never believe that I eat as much as I do. She is amazed by 6 egg whites and a plate of stirfry vegetables and claims she cannot eat as much as I do. I don't know--I guess I have a hard time believing that she can't.

I have also heard the drs. discuss on television that size of stomachs in morbidly obese people that claim to eat so little. So yes, I guess some people do have larger stomachs than others.
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:51 PM   #10
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And maybe it's not so much that the stomach stretches (although I definitely believe it to be so), but maybe we were also more accustomed to that "filled taut and uncomfortably full" feeling, and didn't even realize that it was uncomfortable. Know what I mean? When I overate at Thanksgiving, I definitely was aware of that "way too full" feeling, whereas before I would have not noticed and probably would have gone back for leftovers that night. (This year I had a cup of tea for supper on Thanksgiving night).

So maybe it's a combination: We stretch out our stomachs, and we are also more likely to fill up past the point of discomfort (or maybe the discomfort doesn't register?) when we are obese. I dunno. I still like to be full, but full means something different to me now. It means "no longer hungry", not "so stuffed that I cannot bear it".
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:58 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Windchime View Post
I still like to be full, but full means something different to me now. It means "no longer hungry", not "so stuffed that I cannot bear it".
That's a good way to put it.

Also, it wasn't just that I didn't used to feel full, but that I consciously ate past full and into discomfort, because there were other compelling mental/psychological reasons to put up with the discomfort. If you're using food and eating to make up for lack of meaning, pleasure and satisfaction, and to stuff painful thoughts and feelings, a little or even a lot of stomach discomfort is a small price to pay.

I'd have been willing to attribute my improved fullness sensitivity entirely to mental and metabolic reasons, so it was interesting to me that they measured stomach size in some way.
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Old 12-22-2009, 02:29 PM   #12
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I have always felt that my stomach could expand and shrink. When I have to cut calories to lose weight, the first few weeks are always the hardest, and I am hungry a lot. But then my stomach adjusts, and all of a sudden I'm not hungry anymore. The first time I lost weight (the time I gained it all back) and the second time, I used diet meal replacement bars to help with that. Nowadays I would not touch the things since the chemicals give me a stomach ache, but they have fillers in them that expand to take up more space in your stomach.

I also find that for several days following a day or two of eating too much, I am excessively hungry. Not sure if that is a blood sugar issue or a stomach expansion issue though.
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Old 12-22-2009, 04:49 PM   #13
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In my opinion my overeating problem has nothing to do with the size of my stomach (which I believe can stretch or shrink). I think in my case is more of a mental issue. I actually like to feel full. There is a enjoyment on it... If I leave the table without feeling full is like I am empty—know what I mean???
So far I didn’t find a way to fix it
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Old 12-23-2009, 09:51 AM   #14
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Like CC, I also compared myself to a bottomless pit. I've said it sooo many times - "I've got a bottomless pit of an appetite". My stomach was able to hold large quantities of food. I ALWAYS ate till I was terribly uncomfortable.

I am CERTAIN that my stomach, like a balloon, was expanded at that point - and now it's mucho deflated. I couldn't eat a smattering of what I used to in the past. I get full unbelievably quickly now, which quite frankly was a great concern of mine before I even attempted to lose weight. I was actually frightened that I would always be hungry and I've said this often as well, that has rarely been the case.

So though I get full much quicker, I still rely on my pre-portioned amounts of food to tell me when to stop. Because like Windchime, I am not necessarily full - but simply not hungry - I'm satisfied. But maybe that IS full.

The findings about the bingers stomachs makes sense to me. It is of no surprise.
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Old 12-23-2009, 10:41 AM   #15
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I thought it was all in my head- but after a weekend of bingeing it is soooo hard to get back on track on Monday b/c of the hunger. It does make perfect sense. It also gives me a new goal (besides the final 10) to work for in 2010; NO MORE BINGEING!
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