Tag Archives: Hunger

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

Will Drinking a Lot of Water Help Me Lose Weight?

It’s not that drinking water really makes you lose weight, but it helps, and drinking enough water is absolutely needed for good health, especially when you are losing weight. Here’s why:

1) Water is one of the essential nutrients. You’ll get sick if you don’t get enough. You’ll have lots of different health problems, too many to list.

2) When you reduce the amount of food you eat to lose weight, you reduce the amount of water you get, since most of the water we get is in the food we eat. The result is that your body will start to crave, which you might think is a craving for food when drinking water will prevent or eliminate the craving. To lose weight, drink more water and you have less hunger, less craving.

3) Drinking water when you eat aids in digestion and helps generate a sense of satisfaction when you are losing weight. If you eat without drinking, you’ll need to swallow more to create the same sense of sensory satiety.

4) If you don’t increase your water consumption, your body will hold onto the water you normally eliminate through your stool. Your bowel will literally suck the water from your stool, resulting in hard stool and constipation. Ouch! Drink more water, no constipation!

5) When you start to lose weight and burn your body fat, your body will need to filter out the matter that was in the stored fat, which will be deposited as waste in your kidneys. If you are not flushing your kidneys out well enough, you’ll get waste collecting in there, like kidney stones. Ouch x 1000.

6) The way your body lets you know you need water is by sending you messages that you interpret as thirst or hunger. Whenever you feel thirst or hunger, drink water. If it was thirst, it will be quenched. If it was hunger and it goes away, you’ll begin to realize that it was water you really needed, not food. It will be easier to follow through on your healthy meal plan to lose weight.

7) Water is actually a natural diuretic. If you don’t get enough water, you won’t be flushing excess salt out of your body, and the more salt you retain, the more water you’ll retain in your tissues instead of excreting it. If you drink water when you feel thirsty or hungry, you’ll be getting enough to prevent water retention which shows up on the scale as a false higher reading than what you really are.

You don’t actually need to monitor the amount you drink to know if you are getting enough. You don’t have to make yourself drink a certain number of glasses to make sure you are getting enough. Simply drink water whenever you feel thirsty or hungry. Your body will tell you when you need to drink. And don’t make yourself drink excess amounts of water if you don’t feel like it, just because some diet wacko told you to. You can actually drink too much and get sick from hyper-hydration. Just about anything can be toxic if you overdo it, even water.  To lose weight, follow a reasonable meal plan with the right number of calories, as described in my method, drink water whenever you feel thirsty or hungry, and you’ll lose weight without great difficulty and get the right amount of water too.