How to Follow the Wild Diet

Samples of high protein and high fat food.

Corbis via Getty Images

If you're looking for the number one diet in America, it's the Wild Diet, according to Abel James. Who Is Abel James? He's a reality TV star who lost weight eating the kind of indulgent meals that most people would not associate with weight loss. His eating plan has become an internet phenomenon, thanks to the downloadable Wild Diet PDF and his book by the same name.

What Is the Wild Diet?

If you love to eat steak, butter, chocolate, or cheesecake, then the Wild Diet will appeal to you. The eating plan is similar to the Paleo diet, but allows for a greater range of foods and more flexibility in your eating style than the caveman program. Instead of eating like our Paleolithic ancestors, James says you should eat like your grandparents.

In the book, Abel James explains how to choose foods to eat and foods to avoid. Advertisements for the diet promote the fact that you can eat fatty indulgent foods like bacon, sausage, or heavy cream. But most of those foods are “supplementary foods,” according to the plan. James recommends that you eat no more than two total servings of supplementary foods per week until you reach your goal weight.

Allowed Wild Diet foods include mostly non-starchy vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats and oils. The emphasis is on locally farmed, organic, plant-based foods, and meat or seafood that has been raised in an environment as close to the wild as possible. Sample Wild Diet foods include:

  • Green leafy vegetables like mustard greens, beet greens, spinach, chard, and kale
  • Colorful fiber-rich veggies such as carrots, pumpkin, jicama, artichokes, peppers, and eggplant
  • Grass-fed, pastured, organic, wild or locally raised meats such as bison, elk, buffalo, boar, veal, venison, pork, chicken, or beef
  • Wild caught, local fish or shellfish including shrimp, cod, salmon, sea bass, clams, crab, or tuna
  • Eggs (chicken, duck, quail, etc) that have been raised in a humane environment
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Virgin, cold-pressed, plant-based oils such as avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, or walnut oil
  • Organic, pasture-raised animal fats such as butter or ghee

How to Follow the Wild Diet

Wild Diet meals should be set up as follows:

  • Roughly 2/3 of your plate should be non-starchy vegetables. A limited amount of starchy vegetables (such as sweet potatoes or beets) is allowed for people who exercise regularly.
  • One serving of protein (meat, fish, or eggs) that should be about the size of the palm of your hand or roughly three ounces
  • The remaining section should be filled in with fruit and healthy fats.

Even though James provides guidance about how to structure each meal and how to time your daily food intake, he says that your eating plan should be organized to reach weekly goals, not daily goals. He says this allows for greater flexibility and makes the program easier to follow.

For example, if you can’t eat enough vegetables on Monday, eat more veggies on Tuesday or Wednesday so that at the end of the week, about 65 percent of your food intake has been nutrient-rich, low-starch vegetables.

Eating out is allowed and eating with friends is encouraged. James also recommends that you carry high-quality dark chocolate for "chocolate emergencies."

Lastly, the Wild Diet plan is accompanied by an exercise program. The workout plan simply includes one 7-minute high-intensity workout session per week.

Is the Wild Diet Healthy?

There are many aspects of the diet that might help you to look and feel better. For example, many people who follow the program will benefit from an increased intake of nutrient-rich vegetables and high-quality sources of protein. And since processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, and simple carbohydrates (like baked goods and candy) are not allowed, some dieters may improve their health as a result of the decrease in sugar intake.

But some dietitians have expressed concern over the lack of whole grains and dairy on this eating plan. This may also not be a smart eating plan for dieters who have been instructed to cut back on their saturated fat intake. While portions of foods like butter and cream are limited on the plan, they might still be too high for people who are trying to follow an eating plan to boost heart health.

Lastly, the exercise program has also raised concerns. Not all exercisers are fit or healthy enough to complete high-intensity intervals. Current exercise guidelines suggest an activity program that includes 150 minutes or more of moderate activity.

Will I Lose Weight on the Wild Diet?

If you follow the Wild Diet perfectly, you are likely to lose weight – especially in the beginning of the program. If you currently eat a typical American diet (one that relies heavily on meat, processed foods, starchy carbohydrates, and sugary drinks), the shift to a low-carb, primarily plant-based eating style is likely to result in a quick loss of water weight. You will probably notice a change in your body size and you may even benefit from an increase in energy when you cut out processed carbs.

But not everyone will be successful on the program. Abel James says that you can lose 20 pounds in 40 days on this plan. While it is possible that some people hit that goal, many dieters are likely to struggle to stick to the plan. Not everyone has the time or the money to find and buy locally raised game, wild-caught fish, and organic vegetables. And since the program is low in carbohydrates, very active people may struggle to get the energy they need to maintain their lifestyle.

Who Is Abel James?

Because the diet has become so popular, many people have begun to wonder about the expertise and background of Abel James, also known as “The Fat Burning Man”. To be clear, he does not promote himself as a credentialed mainstream diet expert. Mr. James has an academic degree in psychological and brain sciences from Dartmouth. He went on to practice business and work as a musician.

But when he needed to lose weight, he said he was frustrated by conventional diets. He says that he has done his own research to debunk traditional thinking about diets. James participated in ABC’s My Diet is Better than Yours, a reality show that put different diet gurus in competition with each other to see whose eating plan would produce the greatest weight loss with contestants on the show. While he did not win the final showdown, James’ program was a runner-up with his contestant losing 87 pounds.

Since the show aired, his book The Wild Diet, his podcast, and his website have become extremely popular, especially among men and among dieters looking for an alternative to the Paleo diet. The Wild Diet PDF has also become a top-ranked Google search, although, the downloadable version of the book does not look (nor does it claim to be) an authorized reproduction of his work.

A Word From Verywell

The Wild Diet is a perfect example of the fact that different diets work for different people. The eating style has clearly worked for Abel James who has not only lost fat but also continues to maintain a healthy weight and a strong, fit body. But he also had an incentive (on a reality television show), time, and substantial personal motivation to build his diet around a unique array of foods. Many people who read his book or download The Wild Diet PDF will not have that same level of interest or investment.

If you try the Wild Diet and find that you can’t maintain it, don’t beat yourself up. Use the program as a guide, and make adjustments to fit your personal health needs, your schedule, and your lifestyle. You can also reach out to your healthcare provider or invest in a session with a registered dietitian to make sure that the eating plan you choose supports a comprehensive plan for wellness and longevity.

Was this page helpful?