Weight gain is one of the most common complaints of women during menopause. It’s something OB/GYN Dr. Mary Claire Haver, MD and founder of The Galveston Diet, heard many times by his own patients. “Women often complained of gaining weight, especially around their abdomen, even though they had changed their eating or exercise habits,” she says. They had told him that they had sacrificed sugar, pizza and alcohol for weeks, even months, and that it had made no difference. Which give?
Dr Haver says that for a while she found the complaints hard to believe. Surely they must be unknowingly eating more calories than they thought, she thought. But then Dr. Haver entered perimenopause herself and the same thing happened to her. “I started restricting calories and doubling up in the gym with no lasting results,” she says.
Curious as both a doctor and a scientist, she began to research 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 involved a combination of intermittent fasting and following an anti-inflammatory diet. She began sharing her plan with patients, who also had success. And so, the Galveston diet was born.
Related: Want More Menopause Resources? Look no further than these 33 podcasts, books, and Instagram accounts that are getting real about the experience
Why is it so difficult to lose weight during perimenopause and menopause?
Like Dr. Haver, dietitian Katie Heaney, RD, often hear women going through perimenopause and menopause say they have trouble losing weight despite changing their diet and lifestyle. It’s not just their imagination; Heaney says it’s really harder to lose weight during this phase of life. She explains that as women age, their bodies need fewer calories than during their fertile phase of life. For example, women over 50 are recommended to reduce their daily calorie intake by 200 calories. This is due to loss of muscle mass and slowing metabolism. “With reduced calorie needs as women age, weight gain is inevitable if they don’t eat a healthy diet and increase their physical activity,” she says.
Dr. Haver says fluctuating hormones can also lead to weight gain, which is most likely to settle around the midsection. “Changing estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels play a role in age-related inflammation,” she says, adding that inflammation can make a person more prone to weight gain. “The aging pathway seems to be very sensitive to nutritional choices. Some choices cause the aging process to progress rapidly, while others slow the speed of the inevitable,” she says.
Related: Your guide to perimenopause, that mysterious middle period of womanhood
What is the Galveston Diet?
Since inflammation can facilitate weight gain, it follows that a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods will have the opposite effect, making it easier to lose. That’s 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, can also contain more calories, which can lead to weight gain,” Heaney says. “[But] many anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits and vegetables, contain fewer calories, which can help with weight loss.
Foods you can eat on the Galveston Diet
- Lean protein (including skinless poultry, white meat, tofu, and lean beef)
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil and avocado oil
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Foods You Can’t Eat on the Galveston Diet
- Refined carbohydrates (including white bread, pasta, pastries and white rice)
- Soda or other beverages full of sugar or artificial sweeteners
- Processed meat
- Foods high in saturated fat (like bacon, sausages, and ice cream)
- Canola oil and vegetable oil
In addition to eating anti-inflammatory foods and minimizing pro-inflammatory foods, another element of the Galveston diet is intermittent fasting, which restricts 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 eating window. “I prefer this method because it fits easily into a daily routine and quickly becomes a habit that requires little to no effort,” she says.
Dr. Haver says the reason intermittent fasting is a key part of the Galveston diet is because “studies show that fasting improves insulin resistance, lowers blood sugar, lowers fasting insulin levels, decreases inflammation and reduces harmful lipids in the blood. As a registered dietitian, Heaney says intermittent fasting can be effective for short-term weight loss for most people, however, more scientific evidence is needed to prove it’s beneficial in the long term. And while there are several fasting windows to consider, science hasn’t shown that any one is the most effective. From his point of view, what matters more than the fasting window is the consistency with which someone sticks to it.
Related: What is the anti-inflammatory diet and what foods can you eat on it?
Are there any risks or side effects to be aware of?
As with any diet, it is beneficial to speak with your health care provider before trying the Galveston diet. There are also some risks to be aware of. Heaney says that when intermittent fasting is taken to extremes or not done correctly, it can cause hormonal imbalances. She also says that pregnant or breastfeeding women should not fast.
“Those who are underweight, who have a history of eating disorders, who have diabetes or blood sugar control problems, who suffer from adrenal fatigue and chronic stress, who have a medical condition and who are on medication should never fast without first consulting a doctor,” Heaney says. . Dr. Haver adds that people with type 2 diabetes or under the age of 18 are not advised to fast. Additionally, she says anyone who has had gastric bypass surgery or other gastrointestinal issues should talk to their doctor before trying this diet.
Overall, Heaney says the Galveston Diet may 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 the Galveston Diet may be helpful for weight loss is that it advocates eating whole foods, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables by preparing and cooking your own meals and vegetables,” she says. However, she adds that there are other diets that also advocate this, such as the Mediterranean diet, which has been widely studied.
The bottom line is that there isn’t a perfect diet plan for everyone. The Galveston diet is one of many healthy diets to consider and may be beneficial if you are going through perimenopause or menopause. Talk to your health care provider or dietitian about what’s best for you and go from there.
Then check out this list of 40 foods that help burn belly fat.
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