Struggling To Lose Weight During Menopause? The Galveston Diet Just Might Help

food, struggling to lose weight during menopause? the galveston diet just might help

Weight gain is one of the most common complaints women have during menopause. It’s something OB/GYN Dr. Mary Claire Haver, MD and founder of The Galveston diet, heard repeatedly from her own patients. “Women would often complain that they were experiencing weight gain, specifically around their midsection, even though they had changed their eating or exercising habits,” she says. They’d relay to her that they sacrificed sugar, pizza and alcohol for weeks—months even—and it hadn’t made one bit of difference. What gives?

Dr. Haver says that for a while, she found the complaints hard to believe. Surely they must unknowingly be eating more calories than they assumed, she thought. But then Dr. Haver entered perimenopause herself and the exact same thing happened to her. “I began restricting calories and doubling down at the gym with no lasting results,” she says.

Curious as both a doctor and a scientist, she started researching why weight loss was so difficult in middle age. She even enrolled in a culinary medicine program at Tulane University as part of her quest. Eventually, she found a formula that worked, which entails a combination of intermittent fasting and following an anti-inflammatory diet. She started sharing her plan with patients, who also had success with it. And so, the Galveston diet was born.

Why Is It So Hard To Lose Weight During Perimenopause and Menopause?

Like Dr. Haver, registered dietitian Katie Heaney, RD, often hears from women in perimenopause and menopause that they are struggling to lose weight despite changing their diet and lifestyle habits. It’s not just their imagination; Heaney says that it truly is harder to lose weight during this life phase. She explains that as women age, their bodies require fewer calories than in their fertile phase of life. For example, it’s recommended that women older than 50 decrease their daily calorie intake by 200 calories. This is due to a loss of muscle mass and because metabolism is slower. “With reduced calorie needs as women age, weight gain is inevitable if they don’t eat healthfully and increase physical activity,” she says.

Dr. Haver says that fluctuating hormones can also lead to weight gain, which is most likely to set up camp around the midsection. “Changing levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone play a role in age-related inflammation,” she says, adding that inflammation can make someone more prone to weight gain. “The aging pathway seems to be very susceptible to nutritional choices. Some choices cause rapid progression of the aging process, while others curb the speed of the inevitable,” she says.

What Is the Galveston Diet?

Since inflammation can make it easier to gain weight, it follows that a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods will have the reverse effect, making it easier to shed it. This is why the Galveston diet centers around anti-inflammatory foods. “Foods that can contribute to inflammation, such as foods high in saturated fat, sugar and artificial ingredients, also can contain higher calories, which can lead to weight gain,” Heaney says. “[But] many anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are lower calorie, which can help with weight loss.”

Foods you can eat on the Galveston diet

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean proteins (including skinless, white meat poultry, tofu and lean beef)
  • Seafood
  • Chickpeas
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil and avocado oil
  • Dairy

Foods you can’t eat on the Galveston diet

  • Fried food
  • Refined carbs (including white bread, pasta, pastries and white rice)
  • Soda or other drinks full of sugar or artificial sweetener
  • Processed meat
  • Foods high in saturated fat (such as bacon, sausage and ice cream)
  • Alcohol
  • Canola oil and vegetable oil

In addition to eating foods that are anti-inflammatory and minimizing pro-inflammatory foods, another component of the Galveston diet is intermittent fasting, which limits eating to a particular window. Dr. Haver recommends a 16/8 method, in which someone has a 16-hour fasting window and then an eight-hour window to eat. “I prefer this method because it is easily incorporated into a daily routine and quickly becomes a habit that requires little to no effort,” she says.

Dr. Haver says that the reason why intermittent fasting is a key part of the Galveston diet is because “studies are demonstrating that fasting improves insulin resistance, lowers blood sugar, lowers fasting insulin levels, decreases inflammation and reduces harmful lipids in the bloodstream.” As a dietitian, Heaney says that intermittent fasting can be effective for short-term weight loss for most people, however, more scientific evidence is needed to prove that it is beneficial long-term. And while there are several fasting windows to consider, science has not shown that one, in particular, is the most effective. From her point of view, what matters more than the fasting window is how consistent someone is with sticking with it.

Are There Risks or Side Effects To Be Aware Of?

As with any diet, it’s beneficial to talk to your healthcare provider before trying the Galveston diet. There are also some risks to be aware of. Heaney says that when intermittent fasting is taken to the extreme or isn’t done correctly, it can cause hormone imbalances. She also says that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not fast.

“Those who are underweight, have histories of eating disorders, have diabetes or problems with blood sugar control, suffer from adrenal fatigue and chronic stress, have a medical condition, and take medications should never fast without consulting with a doctor first,” Heaney says. Dr. Haver adds that individuals with type 2 diabetes or who are under 18 years old are not advised to fast. Additionally, she says that anyone who has had gastric bypass surgery or other gastrointestinal issues should talk with their doctor before trying this diet.

In general, Heaney says that the Galveston diet can be an effective way to lose weight during perimenopause or menopause, but more scientific studies need to be done to really confirm its effectiveness. “The reason why the Galveston diet can be helpful for losing weight is because it advocates for consuming whole foods, healthy fats, and lots of vegetables by preparing and cooking your own meals and vegetables,” she says. However, she adds that there are other diet plans that advocate for this as well, like the Mediterranean diet, which has been widely studied.

The bottom line is that there is not one perfect eating plan for everyone. The Galveston diet is one of many healthy eating plans to consider and may be beneficial if you are in perimenopause or menopause. Talk with your healthcare provider or a dietitian about what’s best for you and go from there.

Next up, check out this list of 40 foods that help burn belly fat.


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