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?
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.
Eat / Drink
- Alcohol (particularly red wine, and beer in moderation)
- Animal products like butter, cream, and cheese
- “Anything you want” cheat/carb-feeding days
- Fermented foods
- Large amounts of fat (including saturated fat)
- Legumes – properly prepared.
- Non-gluten grains (wild rice, quinoa, etc.)
- Pasture-raised fatty meats
- Sourdough bread (occasionally)
- Sweet potatoes or rice after workouts
- Unlimited vegetables
- Wild seafood
- Bread (except sourdough)
- Gluten grains
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.
How Does the Wild Diet Differ to Paleo and LCHF diets?
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, a properly formulated low carb diet is far from bland and contains many delicious foods.
Furthermore, cheat days can cause problems for people with an unhealthy relationship with food, or a food addiction.
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 shouldn’t eat them at all. After all, you wouldn’t give an alcoholic a pint of beer, would you? Despite not being fully recognized as a medical problem, research on the harms of food addiction is growing by the day (6, 7, 8).
Does the Wild Diet Work?
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).
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.
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”.
Diets Similar to the Wild Diet
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:
- 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).
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?
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.