A University of Texas ob-gyn has come up with such an ingenious and easy way to make age-related flab disappear, she’s racking up millions upon millions of hits on social media. The Galveston Fab Four challenge was created by Mary Claire Haver, MD, who has made it her mission to help women find better ways to beat menopausal weight gain.
“I love challenges, and this one is so simple. Just use a free phone app to track your intake of four nutrients: fiber, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.” You don’t count calories or carbs. And there’s no special food. “The idea is to tweak what you’re already eating until you get at least 100% of the RDA of all four nutrients.” That’s all it takes to transform health and trigger weight loss. Keep reading to discover how the Galveston Fab Four can shape a healthier you.
How Dr. Haver created the Galveston Fab Four challenge
For a long while, Dr. Haver gave the same “eat less, move more” advice as most docs. Then she went through menopause herself, gaining unbudgeable pounds. “I restricted calories, doubled down at the gym, kept pushing,” she recalls. “It was so frustrating.
Finally, my husband said, ‘If something’s not working, you find new tools.’” After consulting colleagues who specialize in nutrition, she enrolled in Tulane University’s culinary medicine program. Then, Dr. Haver graduated 20 pounds leaner — and ready to pay it forward.
First, she released her award-winning online program called the Galveston Diet. (Click through to learn more about the Galveston Diet). The Galveston Fab Four is an offshoot of that. “An idea I had to help people see that the quality of calories can be more important than the quantity of calories,” she says. “We can stop counting calories and have better luck reaching our goals. I posted about it, and the feedback has been amazing.” Dr. Haver chose the Fab Four because they’re found in foods also loaded with other compounds crucial to postmenopausal weight loss and health improvements. That said, the individual nutrients have a lot going for them…
Galveston Fab Four Nutrient #1: Vitamin D
As we age, nearly 85% of women become deficient in vitamin D, a nutrient that plays a powerful role in blocking fat accumulation and keeping our thyroids humming. The effect is so huge, one study found women getting extra D were able to lose 32 times more weight in six weeks than a low-D group. Top sources of the vitamin: enriched milk, mushrooms and salmon. Aim to get about 2000 IUs of vitamin D daily. (Or consider supplementing with one of these best vitamin D supplements for women over 50.)
Galveston Fab Four Nutrient #2: Magnesium
“This mineral has over 600 functions in the body, but a big one is helping turn food into energy,” says Dr. Haver. She adds that magnesium also helps soothe the chronic inflammation that’s a common problem as our hormones shift. In fact, one study found magnesium can eliminate up to 100% of this weight-loss-stalling inflammation. However, 72% of us don’t get enough. Magnesium-rich options: almonds, pumpkin seeds, spinach and dark chocolate. The National Institutes of Health recommends women get 310-320 mg of magnesium daily.
Galveston Fab Four Nutrient #3: Fiber
Studies show the less fiber we get, the more weight we gain in menopause. A big reason? Fiber feeds bacteria in the gut linked to effortless weight control (not to mention better digestion, mood, immunity and more). While these bacteria can struggle as we age, fiber keeps them “youthful.” In fact, a new study on folks up to age 76 found that getting more fiber causes microbes linked to trim waists to surge by up to 2,847%. “And fiber-rich food keeps you full longer too,” adds the doc. Great fiber sources: veggies, berries, beans and nuts. Fiber intake can vary by age and gender, but women should generally aim to eat 25 grams daily. (Click through to learn how a specific fiber called viscous fiber increases weight loss.)
Galveston Fab Four Nutrient #4: Omega-3 fatty acids
If you feel like your metabolism has become sluggish, omega-3 fatty acids can fire it up. Studies show they triple the speed at which postmenopausal women build metabolism-boosting muscle. Additionally, Omega-3s are incredibly anti-inflammatory and shrink appetite. Top sources: walnuts, flax, omega-3 eggs and fatty fish. Enjoying two servings of fish weekly can provide you with enough of the healthy fats. (Click through to learn about omega-3-6-9 balance for weight loss.)
Supplements can help fill in gaps if you have allergies or dislike certain foods. “But try to do it with food alone,” urges Dr. Haver. “These foods deliver an optimal mix of nutrients and make you too full for junk. Nutrients from food are best!”
Galveston Fab Four before and after: Mary Switala, 58
As pounds crept on faster and go-to diets failed to help, “my doctor told me if I didn’t lose weight, I’d become diabetic,” recalls New Jersey nurse practitioner Mary Switala, 58. She started poking around the internet. Drawn to Dr. Haver’s research-based approach, she was soon experimenting with “Fab Four”–loaded ingredients like almond flour, flaxseed, mushrooms and seafood. “After a week, my feeling of always being ravenous ceased,” Mary recalls. “After a month, my constant fatigue and insomnia were gone.” She also found herself shrinking by an astonishing seven sizes in just 16 weeks. Mary is still amazed. “This worked wonders for me when nothing else did!”
Galveston Fab Four success story: Julia Gouin, 51
“It was a relief when a female ob-gyn told me I wasn’t crazy, that she’d had menopausal issues like mine,” shares Julia Gouin, 51, who found Dr. Haver on TikTok. Julia dove into the doc’s plan, filling up on smoothies and sheet-pan dinners rich in the Fab Four. Down a quick 14 pounds, she also got relief from joint pain, hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue and depression.
“I suddenly felt phenomenal,” says the Michigan retiree. “There are still times I eat cake, but then I shift back to the easy framework Dr. Haver gave me. The healthy fats in particular keep my hunger down. I dropped 75 pounds and now walk 5 miles a day with the same hips and knees that once barely got me up a few steps. It’s so important to get the right advice at this time in a woman’s life. This time is ours and we deserve to be happy and healthy!”
How to eat the Galveston Fab Four
The Fab Four challenge is easy: Use a free app (Dr. Haver likes the one at Cronometer.com) to track what you eat for at least two weeks. Aim for 100% of the RDA of fiber, magnesium, omega-3s and vitamin D. Don’t count supplements. No need to worry about calories/carbs. To enhance results, you can opt to skip processed foods, which contain inflammatory compounds that slow weight loss. Here are some easy recipe ideas to get you started:
Fab Four Omelet: Prepare an omelet with spinach, mushrooms and olive oil; if you’d like, add cheese, extra vegetables and herbs of your choice.
Taco-crunch topping: Toss 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, 1 Tbs. olive oil and 1 Tbs. taco seasoning. Roast at 375ºF until golden, 25 min. Enjoy on salad.
Air-fryer salmon: Rub salmon fillets and vegetables with olive oil and seasonings. Air-fry at 390ºF for 7 min.
Bonus recipe: Fab Four Pancakes
These easy treats make get-slim eating absolutely delicious.
- 1¼ cups almond flour
- 2 omega-3 eggs
- ⅓ cup vitamin D–enriched milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1½ cups fiber-rich fruit
- Garnishes: whipped heavy cream, stevia-sweetened syrup
In blender, blitz first 5 ingredients. Per pancake, ladle ¼ cup batter on hot griddle with cooking spray. Flip when bubbly and set, about 2 minutes. Cook 30 seconds longer. Enjoy with fruit and desired garnishes. Serves 3.
For more on weight loss for women over 50:
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.