There are a lot of diet books out there but The Galveston Diet: The Doctor-Developed, Patient-Proven Plan to Burn Fat and Tame Your Hormonal Symptoms by Mary Claire Haver stands out because it’s the first one we’ve seen created by a gynaecologist, specifically for perimenopausal and menopausal women. Based around intermittent fasting (in the news again, thanks to the Zoe study’s new trial) and anti-inflammatory nutrition, it promises to help midlife women tackle weight gain associated with menopause, as well as other symptoms such as hot flushes and brain fog
Aimed at menopausal women and created by a female gynaecologist, The Galveston Diet is big news in the US. We got a sneak preview, before it arrives on these shores in January.
There’s certainly a buzz around it in the States – 70,000 women have tried Dr Haver’s online programme, after she herself dropped 20 pounds on it, and she’s racked up two million followers on TikTok. Now the Galveston Diet (named after the good doctor’s Texas hometown) is coming to the UK, with the book out in January.
The 54-year-old Texan doctor (@drmaryclaire on TikTok) initially created the eating plan when she found herself hitting a dieting wall during perimenopause. After piling on 20 pounds following the death of her brother, she found it incredibly difficult to lose the weight, despite eating fewer calories and exercising more. So she did her research and became convinced that hormonal changes were to blame, and that what she’d learned in medical school about burning calories wasn’t quite the full picture for midlife women.
@drmaryclaire Pause to read. Magnesium and Menopaise is key. #obgyn #menopause #womenover40 #perimenopause #galvestondiet #nutrition #magnesium ♬ She Knows - J. Cole
What is The Galveston Diet?
“Your weight is controlled largely by hormones,” says Dr Haver. “Which in turn are influenced dramatically by the quality of the nutrition you consume - particularly carbohydrates - and less by the quantity of the food you eat.”
There’s no calorie counting here, thank you very much. Instead, there are three key principles to follow – for life.
- Intermittent fasting, specifically 16:8. This means you only eat during an eight-hour window each day. That might be 10am to 6pm or 12 noon to 8pm. This helps with hormone balancing, metabolism, and lowering inflammation.
- Focusing on anti-inflammatory foods. Think berries, fresh fish, oats, beans, nuts to counter chronic inflammation which can cause weight gain.
- Calculating your macros. For the first month-long phase of the plan, Dr Haver recommends each meal consists of 70% healthy fats, 20% lean protein, 10% carbohydrates to wean you off sugar and processed carbs, and encourage fat-burning. Afterward, for maintenance, this changes to 40% fat, 20% protein, 40% carbs. Unless you’re some kind of genius mathlete, you’ll need a nutrition tracker app, such as MyFitnessPal, to do this.
How exactly do hormones impact our weight?
“Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. When it comes to your weight and other perimenopause and menopause symptoms, hormones are running the show,” says Dr Haver. “They control appetite, hunger, food cravings, metabolic rate, fat gain and distribution, among other things. If certain hormones are out of whack, your weight-loss efforts can be sabotaged.”
Certain foods can help manage your hormones. Fluctuating oestrogen levels, for example, can be offset by eating avocados and pumpkin seeds, which contain healthy fats that can help balance those levels.
Meanwhile stress - aka the bane of most midlife women’s lives – causes the release of cortisol, which can hike blood sugar levels, cause cravings and mean more fat is stored around your middle. This visceral fat wraps around organs and is linked to increased risk of illnesses such as heart disease and some cancers. Probiotics found in fermented foods such as yogurt and kimchi can help combat this.
What are the Galveston Diet rules?
Dr Haver offers a one-month meal plan (with two meals plus two snacks per day) with shopping lists and recipes, including vegetarian alternatives. Dinners include sesame ginger pork with green beans, various burgers with lettuce leaves instead of buns (no, you can’t have fries with that) and BBQ tempeh, greens and cauliflower rice. She’s realistic about the fact that we can’t all cook at home from scratch for every meal, so there’s also advice on what to eat at various different types of restaurants (eg step away from the massive naan at your local curry house and go instead for tandoori chicken and a chickpea dish).
Any downsides to The Galveston Diet?
Intermittent fasting (IF) isn’t for everyone – it can be challenging, and those with mental health issues or historic eating disorders should approach with caution. What’s more, research is beginning to emerge that IF could impact on female hormones in negative ways.
And when you dig down into The Galveston Diet eating plan, ironically for something aimed at notoriously time-poor midlife women, it’s actually quite complicated. It dictates what you eat, in which ratios and when you have to eat it. We’re not sure how that pans out when you have a full-time job, a long commute, a house to look after and multiple caring responsibilities. To be fair though, Haver advocates careful prep and batch cooking.
Also, given the championing of high-quality animal protein, it’s quite expensive – the amount of salmon required for one dinner (which serves four) currently costs around £15 in the UK. That said, she offers plenty of vegetarian and some vegan options.
Want to know more?
This YouTube video is a good introduction to Dr Haver, why she invented the diet and how it all works.