The Galveston Diet Review: Menopause Is The New Diet Cash Cow
The Galveston Diet reminds me of the thought process I use as somewhat of a mantra for myself and for clients.
It is: how much of a change am I willing to make to my diet and lifestyle, for the long-term, to lose and KEEP OFF those five pounds?
Keep my mantra in mind through this review of the Galveston Diet, okay?
Developed by an OB/gyn named Mary Claire Haver, the Galveston Diet is specifically for menopausal women. I’ve seen a recent trend in which the focus of the diet industry is now weight loss for perimenopausal and menopausal women.
I guess a lot of people who have been chronic dieters since the 80s and 90s, are moving into this stage of life, and the diet industry has decided to milk them of more money by pandering to their fear – and reality – of menopausal weight gain.
On one hand, I of course hate the fact that people are making money off of womens’ insecurity and cashing in on what is a completely normal process in life.
On the other hand, I’m glad that people are starting to realize that life does go on after 40. That women don’t just shrivel up and die once our periods stop. I just wish that the focus would shift off of weight, and on to how awesome we are.
Haver is a rather intense-looking person who loves using TikToks to talk about all things Galveston diet. This is just my opinion, but I find it really annoying when professionals use TikTok. Pointing at captions and making faces, it’s rather infantile and takes away from their message. Haver also claims that she has done plenty of research in her development of this diet, but none of that is available to the public. I’m wondering if it even exists.
The Galveston Diet is a low-carb plus intermittent fasting program. And apparently, Dr. Haver has ‘cracked the code’ to post-menopausal weight loss with it.
I’m not sure about code-cracking, but it’s safe to say that any time you cause a caloric deficit, you’re going to lose weight. And whether that caloric deficit comes from a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet, or intermittent fasting, the results should be the same.
Weight and menopause.
Weight gain in menopause is a common phenomenon that’s often attributed to hormones, which I think definitely play a part.
Sharp drops in estrogen and progesterone can impact our hunger and fullness hormones (ghrelin and leptin), while simultaneously increasing fat gain – especially around our middle.
The lack of estrogen also increases our risk for high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, and is thought to lower metabolic rate.
Aside from messing with body composition, lack of estrogen can make us feel foggy and forgetful. It can also affect our mood.
But weight gain in menopause isn’t all hormones. Think about where you are at this time of your life. You’re probably working a lot. You might have kids. You might have aging parents.
It’s not like when we were 28, eating a bowl of cereal for dinner and running to the gym after work. Right now, we’re lucky if we even get a break to do something for ourselves.
There’s stress, poor sleep, very little time for yourself, and a lot of ‘I’m overwhelmed.’
That can all add up to changes in your exercise and eating habits, which may be taking a back seat to everything else that’s going on.
You might be drinking more alcohol. You might be eating the leftovers off your kids’ plates and calling it dinner. Hello, I’ve done that too.
These habits and situations don’t jump into our lives one day – it’s a slow progression, which, with the addition of the hormonal stuff, can materialize into weight gain that you might not even notice until it’s very apparent.
So while it’s easy to blame everything on hormones, there are other reasons why we gain weight in midlife. And putting yourself on a diet isn’t necessarily the answer.
What is the Galveston Diet?
The Galveston Diet aims to ‘break addiction to sugar’ and lower inflammation.
I’ve written about how sugar isn’t an actual addiction, but perhaps Haver is just using this verbiage colloquially.
An 8:16 fasting configuration every day is encouraged, although 14:10 can be done too. Tracking of your macros is encouraged.
Some studies suggest that IF may reduce inflammation in humans.
The diet recommends 25-30 grams of fiber per day. Right on, I like this. More fiber = more food for our beneficial gut bacteria, which may in turn lower inflammation levels.
The Galveston Diet macros are: 70% healthy fats, 20% protein, 10% carbs. And while Haver says the diet is not keto, it’s definitely low-carb.
Not many. Quinoa is the only grain allowed on the Galveston Diet, and she wrongly identifies leafy greens as a complex carb. Eh, they aren’t, really.
Proteins: Chicken, salmon, quinoa, nitrite-free deli meats, eggs, turkey, and chicken. Red meat is limited.
I find the addition of quinoa as a protein to be really bizarre. This is a huge myth – quinoa isn’t a good source of protein at all – it has 8 grams of protein per cup, which doesn’t even come close to the 25-30 grams I recommend at meals. I suppose though, that on a moderate-protein diet like Galveston, this is fine.
It’s interesting that legumes, which are high in fiber, aren’t mentioned – but I guess they’re too high in carbs to fit the diet’s macros.
The Galveston Diet does have some tofu, and lentil-based recipes for vegetarian followers. Other vegetarian recipes that are offered are drastically low in protein – like, who eats a bowl of zucchini noodles or Brussels sprouts with avocado for a meal and is actually full afterwards?
As far as soy, Haver states: “Soy Products….mimic the actions of estrogen and can relieve menopausal symptoms; notably, one study found that soy reduces hot flashes by 45%.”
First of all, while ONE study may have found a 45% reduction in hot flashes, the rest of the studies around soy and hot flashes are mostly inconclusive, because soy phytoestrogens don’t mimic endogenous estrogen. Elizabeth Ward, author of the Menopause Diet Plan, tells me: “It would be wonderful if preventing hot flashes was as easy as eating soy foods, but the scientific research says otherwise. However, some women find a certain amount of relief with soy.”
It’s also weird then, that soy isn’t a focus on the Galveston Diet – it’s not on the shopping lists, or in many of the recipes.
Dairy: The only dairy allowed in the Galveston Diet is Greek yogurt, which Haver mistakenly identifies as ‘probiotic.’
Newsflash: Not all yogurts – Greek or not – are probiotic. And even the ones that are, may not even be legit.
Haver says that if you’re lactose intolerant, dairy could be causing you inflammation. But lactose intolerance has nothing to do with inflammation – it’s simply an intolerance to the sugar in milk.
She states: “Excessive dairy and red meat are pro-inflammatory foods that lead to hormone imbalances in the adrenal glands which may in fact increase both the frequency and severity of hot flashes and associated symptoms.”
There is no research that supports this statement. Dairy in fact may be anti-inflammatory, and red meat, while higher in saturated fat than, say, salmon, is fine in small amounts. These foods don’t just give people ‘hormone imbalances.’
Fruits and vegetables: the only fruit recommended are berries, which have the lowest sugar of all the fruits. Non-starchy vegetables like cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes are the only vegetables on the list.
Fats: The focus is on healthy fats from unsaturated sources like avocado, nuts, olive oil, and coconut oil. Except that, coconut oil is saturated.
Haver is against vegetable oils because she believes that they’re inflammatory. While we don’t want them to be the only fat we consume, seed and vegetable oils aren’t the devil that we’ve been led to believe they are. (Here’s my post on the subject)
Gluten and sugar aren’t allowed on the Galveston Diet. This is fairly random. Sure, excessive sugar may be inflammatory. Gluten, on the other hand, isn’t inflammatory for most of us. It’s pretty standard fare for diets to eliminate these things altogether for no reason.
Haver cautions followers to stay out of the middle aisles of the grocery store, where processed and packaged foods lurk. This is a cringeworthy, outdated recommendation – the middle aisles contain plenty of nourishing options – canned tuna, beans, canned tomatoes, spices, nut butters. Also: the outer aisles of my grocery store have ice cream, bread, and frozen chicken nuggets.
The Galveston Diet changes the quality of followers’ diets, as well as the caloric intake, which inevitably results in weight loss. If you’ve been eating a lot of ultra-processed foods and snacking all day long, you’re probably going to see results with this diet.
But there isn’t any conclusive research showing that we can use food to reliably reduce hot flashes and balance female hormones.
Like any other eating plan, there are pros and cons to the Galveston Diet.
Galveston Diet Pros:
I think some of what Haver promotes is great. Whole foods, fewer carbs – (I recommend moderate, not low, carb), healthy fats.
I love her focus on fiber and on inflammation, even though I don’t agree with her gluten and dairy restrictions, or rationale for her position on vegetable oils.
Galveston Diet Cons:
The diet is strict. While Haver mentions in her content the importance of being able to sustain an eating plan for the long-term, very low carb plus IF can be really tough.
I don’t agree with counting carbs, constant tracking of what you eat, and micromanaging nutrients. That can become an obsession, and it can also take the pleasure out of eating. Remember, eating should be pleasurable.
There’s a fair amount of nutrition misinformation in the Galveston Diet. Honestly, what went though my head many times while reviewing this diet was, ‘this is why doctors shouldn’t develop diets or counsel for weight loss.’ Oh well. Just remember that quinoa isn’t a protein.
While I agree with Dr. Haver that excessive weight gain in midlife isn’t recommended, it’s also a futile expectation (and not one that she necessarily promotes) that we are going to hang on to our 30 year old bodies through menopause and beyond.
I truly believe that there should be a measure of acceptance in this time – one that understands that our bodies are changing, and that they SHOULD change – they’re supposed to change – and that’s okay.
You can be strong, sexy, and healthy, and yet not resort to extremes to try to lose every single pound you put on.
I guess it’s up to you to determine if you feel as though all of this restriction, counting, and rules are worth it. You CAN just make tweaks to your diet and your lifestyle without going this far.
Remember what I said at the beginning of this post: what’s it worth to you? Only you can answer that. How will the effects ripple out to the other corners of your life? We don’t exist in a vacuum.
As an aside, Mary Haver’s daughter, Ashley, is the face of the Galveston Prime, for ‘young adults.’ It’s a weight loss program featuring intermittent fasting, meal plans, and ‘tips and tricks to ensure your success.’
Honestly, I find that utterly disgusting. Students don’t need to learn how to DIET. Are you kidding me right now? What sort of garbage is this?
If you’re on the fence about the Galveston Diet, I recommend ditching it on principle because of this.
It’s never okay to teach young people – even those old enough to be in university – to diet.