The Wild Diet: Is It Healthy or Best Avoided?

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Beef and vegetables, part of the wild diet plan.

There’s always a hot new diet around.

Looking online, in the newspaper or even on the TV, we’re all exposed to a variety of different diet programs.

While some of these might be beneficial and based on sound science, some are outright harmful and based on pseudo nonsense.

One of the most popular diets over the last few years is ‘The Wild Diet,’ promoted by Abel James.

But what exactly is the Wild Diet?

And is it healthy, or best to avoid?

What is the Wild Diet?

Picture of meat and vegetables - reflecting the wild diet foods.

As previously mentioned, the creator of the diet is Abel James, otherwise known as ‘The Fat Burning Man.’

The Wild Diet is a paleo-style diet that, for the most part, emphasizes nutrient-dense real foods.

Specifically, the Wild Diet promotes consumption of healthy fats and restricts sugars and refined carbohydrate.

However, unlike the LCHF (low carb, high fat) diet, it does allow for some foods high in digestible carbohydrate.

‘The Wild Diet Food List’

Through looking at the Wild Diet website, we can see the foods and principles that the diet promotes.

For example:

Eat / Drink

  • Alcohol (particularly red wine, and beer in moderation)
  • Animal products like butter, cream, and cheese
  • “Anything you want” cheat/carb-feeding days
  • Caffeine
  • Fermented foods
  • Large amounts of fat (including saturated fat)
  • Legumes – properly prepared. 
  • Non-gluten grains (wild rice, quinoa, etc.)
  • Nuts
  • Pasture-raised fatty meats
  • Sourdough bread (occasionally)
  • Sweet potatoes or rice after workouts
  • Unlimited vegetables
  • Wild seafood

Avoid

  • Bread (except sourdough)
  • Gluten grains
  • Sugar

As you can see from the food list, the Wild Diet generally prioritizes nutritious, real food.

However, it also allows for some occasional cheat days. While not optimal from a health perspective, some people like them.

Key Point: As a diet rich in healthy foods, the Wild Diet is a definite upgrade on standard American diets (SAD). The diet doesn’t try to be overly strict and allows you to eat anything occasionally.

How Does the Wild Diet Differ to Paleo and LCHF diets?

Picture of buckwheat.
The Wild Diet allows non-gluten grains like buckwheat and natural sugars like coconut sugar & maple syrup.

The Wild Diet is probably most similar to a paleo diet, sans the cheat day thing.

It’s quite a lot different to an LCHF diet in that it allows beer, sourdough bread, non-gluten grains and natural sugars (maple syrup/coconut sugar, etc.occasional)

In addition to this, there are occasional days where you can eat anything. Some may argue that these casual days help make the diet less restrictive and increase the success rate of sticking to it (1).

On the other hand, cheat days can cause problems for people with an unhealthy relationship with food, or a food addiction.

For instance, so many people have difficulty controlling sugar and wheat consumption. As a result, eating them for one-day only can be extremely difficult (2, 3, 4, 5).

People the Wild Diet is Unsuitable For

While the Wild Diet is most likely healthy for the majority of people, there are some groups better suited to an LCHF diet:

  • Diabetics: people with diabetes often do better on low-carb diets, and LCHF diets have proven benefits in controlling blood sugar levels. We can say the same for those with a high degree of insulin resistance.
  • Food addicts: people who find it difficult to give up certain foods probably shouldn’t eat them at all. After all, you wouldn’t give an alcoholic a pint of beer, would you? Despite being somewhat controversial and not being fully recognized as a medical problem, research on the issue of “food addiction” is constantly growing (6, 7, 8).
Key Point: The Wild Diet shares a lot of similarities with a Paleo Diet. It’s also not as strict as the LCHF diet in terms of adherence.

Does the Wild Diet Work?

Picture showing a woman who has lost weight on the wild diet.Undoubtedly, if you are coming off the standard diet most Western nations eat, you’ll see great improvements with the Wild Diet.

Industrial vegetable oils, refined grains, and sugar are the very worst ingredients in our food chain.

In view of this, any diet that cuts them out will certainly improve weight loss and overall health. When we restrict all these refined carbohydrates, we stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels (9, 10).

This is important because insulin plays a role in storing fat in the body, and excessive insulin levels naturally lead to weight gain (11, 12, 13).

Additionally, the Wild Diet doesn’t discourage fats like many of the other diets do. Saying that fat makes you fat — or that it clogs arteries — is outdated poor science that belongs nowhere near dietary advice.

In fact, in many randomized controlled trials (RCTs), those eating the most fat actually lose the most weight. Further, they have less negative health markers associated with cardiovascular risk (14, 15, 16).

Despite these benefits, the wild diet does also advocate cheat days and non-gluten grains. For metabolically healthy people, these occasional foods are unlikely to cause problems.

However, there should be a definite limit to poorer dietary choices.

Key Point: For the most part, the Wild Diet restricts sugar, grains and vegetable oils and emphasizes healthy real foods. As a result, many people achieve success with the diet.

My Diet Is Better Than YoursPicture showing a woman who is happy that she lost weight on her diet.

Interestingly, the Wild Diet was one of the diets involved in the ‘My Diet Is Better Than Yours’ TV program.

This particular program pit five different diets against each other in order to see which one results in the biggest weight loss.

The person behind each diet worked with a contestant, guiding them in how to correctly utilize their eating plan.

Here are the different diets and how they fared:


The Wellness Smackdown (5th position / 16 lbs gain / +7.51%)

An “anti-inflammatory vegan diet” that “uses herbs to detoxify the body”.

Not surprisingly, this diet came last and it was the only contestant who actually gained weight.

Note: Be wary of any magical detoxifying potions you come across. We already have a perfectly good detoxifying system; it’s called the liver.

The No Diet Plan (4th position / -64 lbs loss / -17.83%)

A non-restrictive plan that focuses on behavioral modification and portion control.

The Clean Momma Plan (3rd position / -45 lbs loss / -18.52%)

A diet that is based on whole foods and cuts out processed food products.

The Wild Diet (2nd position / -87 lbs loss / -24.72%)

The Wild Diet came in 2nd place and also had the single biggest weight loss in pounds.

The Superfood Swap Diet (1st position / -53 lbs loss / -26.5%)

A diet plan that focuses on replacing favorite foods with a healthier version.


As we can see from the results, the Wild Diet definitely held its own. It’s also interesting to note that Abel James is described as simply a “blogger” on the diet bios.

However, in terms of weight loss, this blogger’s advice outperformed a nutrition consultant, a “detox expert”, “celebrity personal trainer” and an “experienced master trainer”.

Key Point: The Wild Diet wasn’t the ‘My Diet Is Better Than Yours’ winner, but in terms of absolute weight loss, it beat all the other diets.

Diets Similar to the Wild Diet

As mentioned earlier, the obvious comparison is with the Paleo Diet.Picture of healthy looking meat and vegetables.

Both of these ways of eating have very similar traits and the only difference is the addition of dairy and the slightly less restrictive nature of the Wild Diet.

Another very similar diet is Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Diet.

The Primal Blueprint is also pretty much a cross between LCHF (it encourages consumption of healthy dairy and higher intakes of fat) and Paleo.

Overall, there are many different diets which share similar principles:

  • LCHF
  • The Atkins Diet
  • The Bulletproof Diet
  • The Ketogenic Diet
  • The Paleo Diet
  • The Primal Blueprint
  • The Whole 30

Generally speaking, if implemented correctly, these diets all work due to their restriction of carbohydrate to reasonable levels and their shunning of refined food.

No one diet (or more specifically: macronutrient ratio) is right for everyone, and this largely depends on individual biology. So, while some may function best on extremely low carb ketogenic diets, others might thrive on the slightly higher carb Wild Diet (17).

Key Point: There are many slightly different but similar diets. The right one for someone else might not be the right one for you. Do your research, see how you feel, and listen to your body.

Wild Diet Recipes

Official Wild Diet recipes are behind a paywall, but to get a general idea, you can see recipes that followers have made on Pinterest.

Should I Use the Wild Diet?

Picture of confused man about the wild diet.

Whether or not you should use the Wild Diet is a personal choice.

Compared to many other diet plans out there, it’s definitely one of the better ones. It also has a supportive community behind it, which can be an important motivational factor.

Personally, I prefer the LCHF style of eating, but both diets are so much better than the average diet full of industrial food.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to base your diet around fresh, nutrient-dense, whole foods.

If you do that, you’ll be healthier no matter what diet plan you prefer.

6 COMMENTS

  1. A ‘Cheat Day’ can be ASTOUNDINGLY effective, both from a motivation/compliance point of view and a continued weight loss angle. A planned cheat day can be (for many) the only thing that stops one’s metabolism from downshifting.

    A great excerpt about cheat days from: https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/in-defense-of-cheat-days

    The theoretical benefits of cheat days are:

    Increased thyroid hormone output.
    When in a caloric deficit, underfed individuals produce less T3 and T4–both important thyroid hormones that play roles in the regulation of metabolic rate. A cheat day or strategic overfeed is used in part to increase these hormones.

    Increased 24-hour energy expenditure.
    A caloric surplus from a cheat day causes the body to upregulate basal metabolic rate (BMR). Some studies have shown an increase of 9% above baseline, and it’s hypothesized that more is possible.

    Increased serum leptin levels.
    The big one that most harp on. Leptin levels drop while in a caloric deficit (lasting as little as 72 hours), and a periodic bump in leptin coming from a cheat day has several benefits including increased thyroid output, increased energy expenditure and BMR, and overall increased thermogenesis.

    • Those things are related to being in a calorie deficit, though – but what about for those who are not in a calorie deficit?

      It also depends on each individual’s relationship with food too. For those who have some kind of food addiction, cheating is probably the worst thing they can do.

      From a bodybuilding/elite athlete’s perspective, then to cheat occasionally is not so much a problem. Having said that, stuff like industrial vegetable oils and HFCS are always best avoided in my opinion.

    • Ginger bread is still similar whether it’s organic or not.

      In other words – refined flour, sugar, and (possibly?) veg oil/margarine are still not ideal even if the product IS organic and gluten-free.

      Of course, it depends on the exact ingredients… there are probably a few healthier recipes around.

  2. Hi Michael Joseph,
    Thank you very much for your rich answer. But I am still have question about some healthy type of rice like “ black rice, wehani rice, sprouted rice, wild rice and brown rice”
    Which one? Do you recommend if I can eat a little bit of some these types of rice occasionally. Especially if I lost my energy. And what do you recommend for alternatives for lose energy if these healthy type of rice not good? Your opinion please. Thanks

    • If you just want to have a little bit occasionally, then I’d go for whichever you enjoy the most.

      As for energy, well we can get that from both carbs or fat (if on a low carb diet). So, there are many different foods you can eat! Carb wise – sweet potatoes and fruit are very energy-dense. Then there are nuts, fatty meat, and so on.

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