One of the most common problems people have when dieting and trying to lose fat is controlling how much they eat at one time, otherwise known as portion control. Many people end up eating appropriate amounts of food for most of the day, but then eat significantly more during one of their meals (usually dinner). In some cases, the amount eaten during this larger meal is enough to undo all the progress the person made with their eating during the rest of the day.
There are many different reasons why people overeat and most of the time it has nothing to do with true physiological hunger. For some people, the main problem is just eating too fast. When you have satisfied your body’s actual caloric needs, your brain will send a signal that you do not need to eat anymore, but that signal does not come right away (on average about 20 minutes later). During this time many people keep eating and if they eat fast, they can consume way too many calories before their body tells them to stop.
In other situations, overeating is related to a person’s emotional state, stress level, or it could be a developed habit of eating too much that resulted from childhood experiences. For most people it is usually a combination of multiple reasons, but the real problem is that your body’s true signals about how much you should eat often get lost or overpowered by the competing signals from cravings or other eating behaviors/habits.
For example, many people who overeat have a desire to feel full after a meal and they may not stop eating until the get a sensation of fullness. This desire to feel full really has nothing to do with physiological need to eat that much food, but it can be as strong as or even stronger than the actual feeling of hunger. This is very problematic, because feeling full actually means you have eaten too much and fat loss becomes much more difficult if you are frequently feeling full after meals.
Perhaps the biggest problem with feeling full is the effect that is has on your stomach. The human body is great at adapting to the demands that it faces on a daily basis. For instance, if you lift appropriately heavy weights, your muscles will become stronger, because they are adapting so the demands (the weight) will not be as heavy in the future. A similar thing happens with the stomach, where if you always eat until you feel full, your stomach will expand to try to accommodate larger amounts of food.
This is definitely not something you want to happen, because it leads to eating even larger meals. Regardless of how large your stomach becomes, if your habit is to eat until you feel full, you will likely end up eating greater amounts of food as your stomach expands. This cycle of overeating will continue and possibly get worse, unless something is done to get you to stop eating before you feel full.
The good news is that just because your stomach expands, it does not mean it has to stay that way. Just as your body adapts and expands to accommodate large meals, you can also shrink the size of your stomach if you eat meals that don’t fill you up. This is what I call naturally shrinking your stomach and it is fairly simple in theory, but it can be challenging, especially if you have a very strong desire to feel full after every meal.
As stated previously, your body is great at adapting to new situations, but this change does not happen overnight. Since many people have a problem of eating at least one meal that is too big, the first and most important step is to decrease the number of calories consumed in your largest meal(s). Even if you eat small meals for every other meal, eating one large meal a day can keep the size of your stomach from shrinking. Different strategies work for different people, but I will go over some of the ways people have been successful in decreasing the size of their large meals.
One of the best options is to spread you calories as evenly as possible between meals. Since most people eat too much at their evening meal, this generally means eating more calories earlier in the day. Eating more calories during the rest of the day also usually decreases the cravings to eat more during the time when the largest meal is typically eaten. Since your cravings will likely be reduced, this strategy can additionally decrease the desire to eat until full, because the desire to feel full generally increases with more intense cravings.
Of course, with this approach to eating, you still have to worry about your overall caloric intake and if you make all of your other meals significantly larger, then you have to decrease the size of your largest meal by at least the total number of calories you add to your other meals. Also, keeping your total calorie intake the same and spreading the calories evenly between your meals will not necessarily cause a significant amount of fat loss right away, but it will start to shrink your stomach, which sets the stage for future long-term fat loss.
If spreading your calorie intake evenly throughout the day seems too difficult, then there is a less complicated approach you can try, which involves simply splitting your largest meal in half. The purpose is not to force yourself to eat half as many calories, because this will just make the cravings worse, but rather do decrease the amount eaten at one time. By splitting the meal in two portions, you can eat one portion at the regular time and eat the other half of the meal 2 or 3 hours earlier or later. This gives your body time to digest some of the food so your stomach does not have to accommodate as much food at one time, which should help it shrink.
The important thing when trying to naturally shrink the size of your stomach is to form a new eating habit where you don’t have to feel full after eating. One misconception people have is that eating well most of the day will result in a smaller stomach. Eating well most of the day can still result in fat loss, but the size of your stomach is generally determined by the size of your largest meal. Your body adapts to accommodate the size of your largest meal and not the size of your average meal.
This means that consistently eating meals that do not make you feel full is the only guaranteed way to create a significant shrinking or your stomach. Fortunately, once you are able to break the habit of eating until full, every other part of the stomach shrinking and fat loss process should become much easier. Once you are no longer bound by the need to feel full, you can concentrate on further decreasing the size of your larger meals and eventually learn to eat 5 or more small meals throughout the day. Eating small frequent meals is really the best way to shrink your stomach and it helps keep up your metabolism and gives you more energy throughout the day.
Another positive aspect to eating smaller meals and naturally shrinking your stomach is that when you do eat poorly it will not set you back as much. Ideally you should never overeat, but we all eat unhealthy foods or excessive amounts of food on occasion. If your stomach is smaller, you will get the full feeling and possibly even an uncomfortable feeling if you eat too much and this happens much sooner if you have a smaller stomach. Therefore, even when you eat poorly, you will not eat as many calories as someone with a larger stomach.
Naturally shrinking your stomach is not something that happens overnight and it does take dedication and consistency to really pay off, but it is really worth the effort, especially if you frequently eat until you feel full. I have also personally noticed that when you have a smaller stomach and eat smaller meals, your true hunger signals become clearer, so it becomes much easier to tell when you are really hungry and how much food you should eat. Once this happens, you will be much less likely to overeat and your ability to lose fat and keep it off will be greatly enhanced.