The Stomach’s User Manual

Obviously, the stomach plays an important role in the body’s digestive system; however, it is just one part of this system. By understanding how the stomach functions you may better understand why your eating habits may be inhibiting your weight loss goals. After reading this, you should be able to make better decisions about the food you eat as well as the manner in which you eat in order to help your body digest the food that you eat.

The stomach is an organ found inside your abdomen or belly and is made up of smooth muscle fibers. Smooth muscles are found throughout the body. These types of muscle fibers are involuntary, meaning that you cannot consciously control their actions. Instead, they are under the control of the autonomic nervous system.

Your stomach is roughly the size of your fist and unless you have surgery to reduce the size, this will never change. However, it is possible to force enough food and liquid into your stomach to cause it to temporarily expand.  Eventually, the walls of the stomach will contract and squeeze the food into the small intestines during the digestion process. The stomach then returns to its normal size.

The problem with eating quantities of food larger than the volume of the stomach is that over time, this becomes the norm and the sensation of feeling full now requires more food to feel full.  As you might imagine, this means it takes more calories to make you full.

Now that the holiday season of indulgence is over, the time has come to ‘recalibrate’ the sensation of fullness.  It is important to reduce the amount of food entering the stomach on a consistent basis to end up feeling full with less food (slowly over time if desired, or switch over to smaller portions all at once).

** FITNESS TIP: Reduce the size of your plate at each meal. Serving meals on smaller plates will help you reduce the amount of food you end up eating. The typical ‘salad’ plate is roughly the size of your fist and gives you a better idea of how much food you should be eating!

While digestion does begin inside the stomach, the majority of digestion takes place in the small intestine. Basically, you can think of the stomach as a holding area for food until it enters the small intestine.

** FITNESS TIP: Eat slower. By eating slower, you give the food a chance to enter the stomach and ‘fill’ it up. This will lead you to eat less food overall.

** FITNESS TIP: Drink ice cold water before and during your meal. By drinking a glass of water before your meal (especially before going out to eat or to an office party), you will fill up the empty space inside your stomach. Since the body cannot digest cold water until it’s warmed up you’ll feel full sooner!

** FITNESS TIP: Eat smaller meals more often but be consistent with the volume of your meals. Eating the same size meals throughout the day is better than having many smaller meals throughout the day and one meal consisting of a larger volume of food. That one large meal will reset the feeling of fullness and will likely cause you to continue to feel hungry after eating each of the smaller meals.

We already talked about how the stomach itself starts the process of digestion. It does this by producing acids that start to break down the food you eat. If you eat at the same time each day, your stomach will start producing this acid in preparation for the food you are about to eat. Hunger pains and grumbling noises are the result, and are your stomach’s way of telling you that you are hungry and it’s ready to get to work digesting that expected food.

** FITNESS TIP: Eat every 4 hours, which should equate to about 4-6 times per day. In addition, eat at the same time each day so your body works at its peak efficiency. Do not wait until you are hungry to eat but instead, train your body to eat at the same time daily. Eat before you get hungry so that you’ll eat less! Stick to a schedule even on weekends (as best you can).

Your metabolism is based on many factors. One of those factors is your nutrition plan. Being consistent with your nutrition by maintaining a schedule will keep your metabolism burning at a higher rate. When you have no schedule, your body cannot work efficiently and this causes the metabolism to slow down. This all starts with the stomach. Knowing how your stomach works will help you with your fitness and weight loss goals.

To help with your recalibration, stop cooking for yourself for a few days and get on a meal plan where the meals are prepared for you and correctly proportioned.  In no time at all, you will have adjusted what it takes to fill you up and you’ll be well on track for a successful 2014 – assuming weight loss is your goal! CFC suggests using our meal plan partner,