Tag Archives: cravings

Yes, Your Stomach Actually Shrinks When You Diet!

Author Bill Anderson before and after his 140 pound weight loss.

Author Bill Anderson before and after his 140 pound weight loss.

A reader has written in asking, “Does my stomach actually shrink after a few weeks of eating less, or is it all in my imagination?” Much to my surprise, the answer is yes, your stomach actually does shrink!

(The author is a psychotherapist who lost 140 lbs. when he discovered his unique method, and he’s kept it off for over 25 years. Read about his method of fast permanent weight loss in his book, The Anderson Method.)

For years, the answer from all the experts has always been “no”, your stomach does not actually shrink. My staff dietitians and consulting physicians have always told me (most still do) that this is an “old wives’ tale”, a myth that came about because after a while of eating less, we seem to get used to it. They said that the ravenous hunger that you got when you first “dieted” goes away after a few days, but it wasn’t from your stomach actually getting smaller. “It’s a matter of habituation”, they said. You also get a full feeling on less food than before, but “it’s not actually your stomach physically shrinking.  The new experience becomes our new normal and we get used to it”. According to them, our digestive system and appestat adjust to the new level of consumption, and now, when we’ve had the new normal amount or new normal of going without, our brain gives us the same messages it used to give us, but on less food. But the stomach physically shrinking? “No”, they scoffed, “just another silly myth lay people believe”.

It turns out they were wrong, at least about the stomach shrinking part. Here’s the scoop: Researchers at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Department of Medicine and Psychiatry at St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital have actually measured the size of the stomachs of people before and after 4 weeks of eating less. They found that dieters had their stomachs shrink by 27-36%!

They inserted balloons into the empty stomachs of 25 obese volunteers and then filled them with water to measure the volume the stomach would hold. Then, a group of 14 of them went on restricted diets, reducing the amount of food they ate, and 9 did not. At the end of 4 weeks, they repeated the measuring procedure using the balloons. The non-dieters had no change in the volume their stomachs would hold, but the dieters’ stomachs would not hold what they used to. The volume their stomachs’ would hold had shrunk by 27 to 36%. So, its true, your stomach actually does shrink after you eat less for a while.


Of course, the reason for the change in hunger and satiety related to how much we eat is not really important. What is really important is using this fact to help us lose weight permanently instead of letting it interfere.

For instance, when I was chronically overweight and constantly failing at weight loss, the so-called “experts” told me to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full. The problem with this was that I seemed to be hungry most of the time, and I never felt full on the amounts of food they gave me. Then, they criticized me for the way I felt, basically saying that it was my fault that I wasn’t like them. No wonder they couldn’t help me. They had no idea what the problem was. They didn’t realize that I experienced life differently, in a way they were not aware of. Their “solution” only worked for people without the problem.

I have discovered how to solve my weight problem, how to lose weight permanently, and how to help other chronically overweight and obese people do the same. One of the things we do is accept that certain things that are natural to us might not be normal to people who do not have our weight problem. These are some things it might be useful for you to accept:

1) It’s normal to feel hungry and have cravings even when we’ve had plenty to eat. To keep from being overweight, we need to develop the ability to abstain from eating in the face of hunger and cravings, rather than insist on finding ways to satisfy them, or let them be an excuse to justify overeating.

2) If we persist in eating less (I call it “undereating”),  it will get easier as time goes by, because we will have less hunger and cravings after a few days of eating less, as long as we continue in our undereating.

3) If we eat more, for instance on an indulgent weekend or vacation, we will have a day or two of perhaps extreme hunger and craving when we return to undereating (our stomach shrank?). Then, after a few days of undereating, it will get easier again.  I used to tell dietitians, “The more I eat, the more I need to eat” while they insisted that the more I ate, the less need I should feel. Now, after working with thousands of other people with weight problems, I find that  my clients’ experience is overwhelmingly more like mine than the dietitians’. To be successful, we need to develop the ability to cut back and eat less routinely for the rest of our lives. We need to be willing to accept that getting good at this skill is very worthwhile in improving our lives and our happiness.

4) If we develop habits of eating whenever we feel like it, and want to have feelings of “fullness” when we eat, we will become overweight. The way things work, if we did that, it would require more and more all the time to satisfy those feelings. It’s stunningly similar to the phenomenon of tolerance with drug addition, where more and more of the drug is needed to achieve the desired effect. The dietitians just don’t seem to understand this, probably because it doesn’t happen to them. For us to be successful, we need to develop habits where we don’t eat every time we’re hungry, where we don’t eat until we’re full all the time.

This is by no means a complete idea of what you need to know in order to solve your weight problem. That would take a book, and in fact, there is a book, The Anderson Method, that describes the program of therapy I provide, that I’m also training other therapists to provide.

I was an overweight failure at diets and exercise for 25 years, the “fat kid” in school, and over 300 lbs as an adult. Fortunately,because of what I learned with all that trial and error, combined with what I learned as an addiction counselor and behavior therapist, I discovered Therapeutic Psychogenics, lost 140 lbs. along with my obesity problems, and I’ve maintained that success for over 25 years. I’ve helped thousands to duplicate my success and now I’m training other therapists. You can learn more about it and my book at my website: www.TheAndersonMethod.com

Are There Any Weight Loss Products That Really Work?

The answer is YES! There are some great “weight loss products” that can really help, and I’ll list them below. First, let me give you a little history of my varied and sometimes risky experience with these “weight loss miracles”.

(The author is a psychotherapist who lost 140 lbs. when he discovered Therapeutic Psychogenics,  and he’s kept it off for over 25 years. Read about his method of fast permanent weight loss and the clients who have used them by clicking on the menu above.)

The first weight loss product I heard of in my teens was “diet pills”, amphetamines that took away your appetite, miracle pills for compulsive overeaters like I had become. I heard about them from my friend whose parents were a doctor and a nurse. His dad also used them to stay awake for days at a time, and his mom became a house cleaner extraordinaire. They called it “speed”. The diet pill industry went crazy for a while, literally, until drug use got a bad name because of all the ill effects, like death. We discovered “speed kills”, and while amphetamine (AKA methamphetamine or “meth” and “crystal meth”) is popular again as a “recreational” drug, almost everyone knows that speed is a ticket to misery —either jail, the hospital or the grave. Those diet pills were incredibly destructive. Luckily for me, I never tried them. With the way I got hooked on foods so easily, addictive drugs would have been a disaster. New diet pills keep being “invented” and advertised, but most are scams and none are on my list of good weight loss products. I keep checking every time I hear of one, and I’ll be the first to tout one that helps more than it hurts. So far, there are none, unless you’re clinically depressed and overeating and find that an antidepressant helps with both, which they can. See your doctor if you think one might help.

The first diet product I tried was Metracal, a thick milk-like substance that came in chocolate and vanilla, the first of the liquid meal substitutes. I drank that for a while instead of lunch, until it began smelling like vitamin pills and I started gagging every time I got it to my lips. Then there was Ayds, a little chocolate candy that was supposed to have magical weight loss properties. I think the AIDS epidemic killed them off. There was TAB in the 60’s, the first diet soda from the Coca-Cola Company, sweetened with saccharin (yuck) and later they introduced Fresca, a grapefruit flavored diet drink. I preferred the Fresca. The 60’s and 70’s saw an explosion of diets, diet products and diet programs and I was tempted to try all of them in my twenty-five year career as a weight loss failure. Fortunately, because I followed a professional career path that led me to behavioral science, addictions, habit management and behavioral counseling, I discovered that the solution to my 300+ lb. problem was not in “weight loss products” but in personal change through “behavioral medicine”. That’s what I now teach clients and other therapists as The Anderson Method.  You can get more information about it and my book at www.TheAndersonMethod.com .

I learned that as much as we’d like to deny it, the solution to our weight problem lies in acquiring a lifestyle where we habitually eat fewer calories than we use. There is no magical way to get around this. We can eat any kind of food we want, but we have to get the calories within the right “limits”. And that’s where the right “weight loss products” can have great value. Success in permanent weight control is the result of programming ourselves with calorically correct habits, using sophisticated behavioral methods. Staying slim can become automatic and habitual, eating food we like that coincidently contains the right number of calories. The products I list below can make it easier as well as decidedly more pleasurable to succeed in this. The order I list them in is random.

1) I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray

One of the most important things my clients learn in their first week of my program is the source of the calories that made them fat. They don’t eat any differently than they always have, but they look up the calories of everything they eat. Then, miracles start happening. They automatically start looking for ways to decrease the amount of calories they consume and increase the volume of food per calorie. The result is that they become big vegetable eaters, even if they have always shunned them, and even though no one even suggests it to them. It’s automatic! Then they start looking for ways to make the veggies more enjoyable. Real butter and fatty sauces add lots of calories, but this spray “butter” adds next to nothing! There is less than one calorie per squirt! Ten squirts are less than ten calories, and your veggies are covered with a tasty buttery glaze! It will make any vegetable better.

 2) Egg Beaters

If you’re not paying attention, breakfast can be the highest calorie meal of the day, especially if you eat out, often over 1000 calories. Figuring out how to keep the calories low early in the day can be one of the most important things you can do to keep your calories down. Then, you can have a decent budget for the evening meal. Also, the source of the morning calories, be it carbs, fats or proteins, will have a big effect on your appetite. If you eat carbs in the morning, especially simple carbs like sugary or fruity stuff, you’ll stimulate your appetite and need to work harder to restrain yourself from overeating. So, a high protein breakfast is a good start. It will be more “filling” and stay with you longer. Eggs are a good choice, but they have lots of cholesterol, and they’re 75 calories each. The eggs substitutes are half the calories and no cholesterol! So, you can have the equivalent of two scrambled eggs and a piece of diet toast for a little over 100 calories! Add a real egg to the mix to improve the texture, or make it a veggie omelet, and you are still very low in calories, and it will keep you fueled and satisfied for a very long time!

3) Walden Farms zero calorie salad dressings

Two tablespoons of their balsamic vinaigrette is less than five calories, so I can make a big salad with lettuce, spinach, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, and peppers for about fifty calories total. I can have that with a Michael Angelo lasagna, a 4oz. hamburger with bun or a lamb chop, and have a very decent low calorie meal. Walden Farms makes six different “zero calorie” dressings (they get to label a serving zero if it is less than 5 calories), though the only one I like is the balsamic vinaigrette. Clients have liked the others and you might too!

4) Low calorie frozen dinners

“TV” dinners were invented when I was a kid when “labor saving” products became the rage. Within a generation it seemed like everyone had an automatic dishwasher, an electric clothes dryer, a self-propelled lawn mower, and an automatic garage door opener. At the same time, we looked for ways to make the evening meal easier and faster. Drive-in restaurants seemed to expand the waistline, but in time, food companies invented lo-cal frozen dinners that help us shrink it. Today we have an array of very decent frozen dinners from Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, Smart Ones, Kashi and others that appeal to the senses as well as the caloric budget. Many of these offerings are less than 300 calories and are great to have in the freezer when your plan to prepare the perfect fresh meal goes awry.

5) Diet Soda Pop

We’ve come a long way from TAB and Fresca made with saccharin. Today, there are countless zero calorie drinks that are sweetened with artificial sweeteners, like Nutri-Sweet and Splenda, that are every bit as flavorful as sugars. I have come full circle and now my favorite beverage for lunch and ‘tween times is my old friend Fresca, only it’s much better than the original. As far as I’m concerned, diet drinks are one of the most important weight control products ever created. I can have a flavorful drink with my lunch and during the day that I don’t have to limit or think about. Certainly, water is a better hydrator, and I drink plenty of that, but if it weren’t for diet drinks, I know I’d fall victim to the temptation to have something tastier with lunch and during breaks. As far as I’m concerned, they’re a life saver.

There are lots of other foods that you’ll discover that are great “weight loss products” when you quit trying to find someone else to do all the work for you. For instance, if you start looking up the calories in regular food, you’ll find that a good old-fashioned hot dog and bun with mustard, relish and onions is less than 300 calories! I often had one for lunch as I lost 140 lbs.! I’ve maintained my ideal weight for over 25 years now, and I still have hot dogs regularly!

Permanent weight loss is within everyone’s grasp, and my book will teach you what you need to do to succeed. There is work involved, but if you’ve gotten through high school, you’ve done a lot more and a lot harder work than you’ll need to do to solve your weight problem. If you really want to solve your weight problem and you’re willing to do some reasonable work, you are ready to succeed. For more information, go to my website www.TheAndersonMethod.com