Galveston Diet Review – Forbes Health – Forbes
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Many popular diet plans are designed for specific conditions and populations, including athletes, pregnant people and people with diabetes or heart disease. One such program, the Galveston Diet, is designed specifically for those in perimenopause or menopause who may be experiencing symptoms including sleep problems, weight gain and hot flashes associated with an aging reproductive system.
The Galveston Diet focuses on intermittent fasting and takes an anti-inflammatory approach to nutrition, which some research suggests can be effective for aiding in weight loss and overall health. However, the effectiveness of the Galveston Diet itself has not been studied. The plan can be expensive and difficult to sustain in the long term, although there’s a robust online community of members and coaches available for ongoing support.
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The Galveston Diet was founded in 2017 by Mary Clare Haver, M.D., a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist who noticed that many of her menopausal patients struggled with stubborn weight gain. After years of recommending exercise and calorie restriction to her patients, it wasn’t until Dr. Haver experienced her own challenges with midlife weight gain that she realized her own advice didn’t work. She then decided to develop a medical nutrition program designed to help middle-aged women lose weight, taking an anti-inflammatory approach to nutrition.
The program is joined through the website where, depending on the membership level selected, there is access to its full online offerings, including a video library, downloadable meal plans and educational materials and group coaching sessions.
When signing up for the Galveston Diet via its website, there are three plans to choose from, each at a different price point. The one-time payment plans include the Galveston Diet curriculum, educational materials for finding hormone balance, fighting inflammation and weight gain, 13 weeks of meal plans and other digital tools. The monthly payment plan is ongoing and includes the same offerings as the other plans, plus coaching services.
The Galveston Diet focuses on the following three components.
Dr. Haver recommends a daily 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule, which means that a person fasts for 16 hours every day, and only eats during the eight-hour eating window. According to Dr. Harver, there are many benefits of fasting, especially when used long term, including significant weight loss, a boost to metabolism, enhanced mental clarity, increased energy, reduced insulin resistance (which in turn decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes) and decreased inflammation in the body.
While the Galveston Diet has not been studied specifically, Dr. Haver’s intermittent fasting recommendation for weight loss may have some scientific merit—emerging evidence shows the benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss, cardiovascular health and improving physiological biomarkers of metabolic health.
The program discourages processed, inflammatory foods and encourages those naturally packed with antioxidants. Chronic systemic inflammation is a key player in both midlife weight gain and many chronic diseases—according to Dr. Haver—who claims you can control, and even reverse, inflammation by utilizing these five tips:
Load up on anti-inflammatory foods including blueberries, apples, leafy greens, cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna, tofu, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds.
Reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods, including processed meats and trans fats, such as margarine, corn oil, high fructose corn syrup, deep-fried foods, artificial colors, artificial flavors and most processed foods. Limit or avoid simple carbohydrates, such as white flour, white rice, refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
Participate in at least 25 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week, plus 10 to 25 minutes of weight or resistance training four to five times per week.
Improve gut health by incorporating fermented foods such as tofu, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso or kimchi.
Manage stress by using meditation, yoga, biofeedback, guided imagery, journaling, exercise or other methods throughout the day.
Research suggests Dr. Haver’s focus on reducing inflammation through diet and lifestyle modifications can have major health benefits and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases and respiratory diseases can be induced by chronic inflammation caused by infections, obesity, alcohol, tobacco and diet.
A diet that is high in complex carbohydrates and unsaturated fats supports anti-inflammatory bacteria in the gut, research shows, while less healthy fats and simple carbohydrates fuel pro-inflammatory bacteria. Following diets like the Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of metabolic diseases.
Fuel refocusing refers to a shift in thinking from historic calorie-restrictive dietary practices to a deeper understanding of macronutrients and how they fuel the body. Dr. Haver explains that the body prefers to use carbohydrates for fuel, but it will burn fat instead if the body is fueled by healthy fats, protein and good carbohydrate choices. This phase consists of educating clients by explaining the science behind food and how it is processed for energy. Dr. Haver also puts her clients through “hormone bootcamp,” a deep dive into the science of hormones and how they affect the body, specifically as drivers of hunger and fat storage.
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There are three pricing options for participation in the nutrition program, including two, one-time purchase plans for $59 or $99 and a monthly membership for $49 that includes live group coaching. All plans include meal plans, shopping lists, a “hormone intensive” workshop and educational videos.
As with any new diet, it’s always best to consult your health care provider before starting the Galveston plan.
“Not everyone should try intermittent fasting, like women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, those taking diabetes medications or multiple medications and those with a history of eating disorders,” says registered dietitian Shannon Helfort, director of nutrition and wellness at Morrison Living in Washington, D.C.
Helfort is a big supporter of anti-inflammatory food choices, explaining that fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean proteins, fatty fish, nuts and seeds and unsweetened dark chocolate are often packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Some studies show an association between a reduction in hot flashes and an improvement in energy with nutrition plans high in anti-inflammatory foods, she adds.
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Because I’m familiar with programs that encourage whole food eating and intermittent fasting, I expected the Galveston Diet to be rather easy to follow. I was surprised, however, by the intensity of the free five-day meal plan.
The plan includes 10 recipes for meals and 10 recipes for snacks, each requiring an extensive ingredient list (which resulted in a $250 grocery store bill) and preparation time. I was particularly challenged by the expectation that I’d have to both prepare and eat these meals and snacks within an eight-hour window in order to abide by the intermittent fasting recommendation, which I found nearly impossible to pull off with a full-time day job.
By day three, I had to simplify the recipes down to their basic ingredients and resort to several “kitchen sink” omelets and salads in order to make timely use of my fresh ingredients. It seems to me that if you’re trying to encourage busy, middle-aged women to follow a meal plan that’s both doable and sustainable, simple “on-the-go” recipes and a shorter ingredient list would be imperatives for success.
Dr. Haver is an excellent motivational speaker and educator, and her passion for helping women find nutritional and lifestyle solutions to counter the negative effects of menopause is inspiring. The validation of common hormonal symptoms and commiseration with weight gain challenges, especially from a physician with similar struggles, is likely a rare and comforting experience for many women.
According to testimonials on the Galveston Diet website, the online community brings a support system to women who need accountability and validation. “This program and group is the first time I felt heard about my body in a very long time,” reads one testimonial, and another shares, “This great community helps keep me motivated.”
Understanding the physiology of menopause seems to be Dr. Haver’s secret sauce. Many women report weight loss, decreased pain and a reduction in hot flashes, according to testimonials.
A five-day trial wasn’t long enough for me to experience any weight loss effects or a reduction in unpleasant menopause-related symptoms. In fact, the lack of simple carbohydrates in those first few days resulted in headaches and fatigue, which I found to be disruptive and discouraging. But by day four, the low-carb headaches did subside and cravings reduced. Overall, I found the plan to be sound and sustainable and Dr. Haver a consistent and competent champion for women’s health.
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Sue Paul is an occupational therapist with more than 30 years of experience. After decades of work focused on bettering the lives of people with neurodegenerative conditions, Paul became a health coach and fitness trainer in order to design a more proactive, preventative approach to healthy aging. She’s also an expert in environmental design and founded the non-profit SeniorScapes, whose mission is to build senior-centric, dementia-friendly public parks for older adults as a community design solution to a public health crisis. Paul is a passionate advocate for older adults—she spent many years as an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association and currently serves on a governor-appointed Alzheimer’s and dementia state council. When she isn’t reading or writing at her desk, Paul can usually be found somewhere on a hiking trail in Maryland with her sporty husband and three reluctant kids.
Sarah is an experienced writer and editor enthusiastic about helping readers live their healthiest and happiest lives. Before joining Forbes Health, Sarah worked as a writer for various digital publications including LendingTree, theSkimm, CNBC and Bankrate. When she isn’t writing or editing, you can find Sarah with her nose in a book or enjoying the outdoors with her French bulldog, Honey.