Can Your Stomach Really Shrink?

It's a tempting thought — if only you could shrink your stomach so that you'd be satisfied and feel full with less food. The pounds would fall off, and the only thing standing between you and the perfect beach body would be a few stops at the gym. It's a theory that might make sense when you consider that, after overeating for several meals in a row, it does seem to take more food to feel full. The reverse is also true: For those who follow extreme calorie-reduced diets, eating a large meal seems to send the stomach into shock. But is that because it actually shrank?

Sorry, but no. As it turns out, adult stomachs are generally all the same size — about 12 inches long by six across — regardless of the size of the person (via Healthline). And, it's not possible to permanently change the size of the stomach just by eating less, even if it's much, much less. That can only be done through surgery. But there is a light in the distance: It is really possible to change the stomach's capacity.

Drinking water before a meal can help you feel fuller

The stomach is like a rubber balloon — it stretches out when we eat and drink and then returns to its regular size and shape when it's emptied. Dietitian Kaitlyn Bruschi puts it this way: "Your stomach gets a workout each time you have a meal, stretching and contracting repeatedly throughout the day. [...] Think of it like a balloon — the first time you try to blow it up you have to use a big breath and lots of force. Letting the air out and blowing it up again, it will be easier to inflate. It's not the size of the balloon that is changing, but its ability to stretch and hold a larger volume. Same with your stomach" (via Huffington Post Australia).

So while we can't actually change the size of our stomachs, we can reduce its capacity — and possibly reduce hunger signals in the process — by practicing good eating habits. Eating smaller, more frequent meals, getting plenty of protein and fiber, drinking a glass of water before eating, and getting at least seven hours of sleep per night can all help control appetite and prevent overeating (via Women's Health Magazine).

We can't shrink our stomachs, but we can shrink our appetites — and our waistlines — by practicing healthy eating habits.