The Wild Diet Review

The Wild Diet is Abel James’ brainchild—yes, that Abel James of wildly popular (see what I did there?) Fat Burning Man Show fame. James’ free podcast has been streaming since 2012 and millions regularly listen. [1] [2] [3] 

Actually, to be fair to civilization as a whole, eating “wild” is not exactly his idea, though he does articulate the concept of eating from the wild in a way that makes sense, and is smart and accessible—at least that’s the prevailing opinion, though there are naysayers.  

James’ book, The Wild Diet, is a bestseller, ahead of one of Giada DeLaurentiis’ books even. But what’s it all about? Are you going to be eating wild foods, you know like fungi, or flowers or berries you harvested, picked, or plucked on a walk in the woods? [4] 

Kind of. Or you could just start a garden, raise your own chickens, shop at a fresh or farmers’ market where fresh foods from apples to veal can be found, or even better, straight to the farm, woods or sea. 

The Wild Diet Claims 

First, a little background on Abel James and how he went from an unhealthy, overweight 20-something to that toned, trim guide committed to helping people eat better food, lose weight, and be healthier.  

James grew up on an old, inoperative, and erstwhile farm in New Hampshire. He had access to good food in a backyard garden, but ended up eating a modern diet of packaged, boxed, jarred, sealed, frozen, processed foods, and junk food, too. He “found himself with high blood pressure, insomnia, acne, digestive problems, and love handles.” [5] 

So James dieted and worked out, dieted and worked out. Ran miles a day. Dieted and worked out. But the low-fat, low-calorie foods he was eating—again, mostly processed stuff and often tasteless, he says—not only didn’t help him lose weight, he seemed to be gaining weight.  

He stopped the unsuccessful cycle, reassessed, and then went to work studying and researching. And ultimately, he says he figured out that our “bodies are wired to eat luxuriously—and burn fat—as long as we’re eating real, natural foods that are grown on a farm and not in a factory.” So, the story goes, after just days of eating wild, Paleo-inspired diet rich in good fat and fiber, he not only saw his health improve, but “after 40 days—and radically cutting back his exercise routine—he had lost 20 pounds.” [5] 

My favorite line is this: “…good health doesn’t live in a pill, exercise program, or soul-crushing diet. The secret is simply getting back to our wild roots and eating the way we have for centuries.” [5]  

That’s what I’m talking about. 

“Get Back to Your Roots, Burn Fat, and Drop Up to 20 Pounds in 40 Days” is the tagline. And the claim. In my words it’s, “don’t eat that, eat this.” Don’t just avoid—rather completely eliminate processed, sugar-laden manufactured foods and steer clear of gluten grains (yeah, not a big bread fan is Abel James, but sourdough on occasion is fine.)  

Instead, eat real, fresh, whole, and—if you can afford it—organically-grown fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh dairy (butter, creams, and cheeses), fresh meats, and wild-caught fish and shellfish. And eat good-for-you fats, nuts, legumes, and fermented foods, and drink red wine (and beer!). So, eat well, move your body, lose weight, feel and be healthier, which in turn may help you live longer and even be happier. I am so in!  

But wait. Bacon? Yes. Cheesecake? Come on. Yes. Sounds fishy. It’s a high-(good)fat and low-carb diet, packed with whole good foods and no “white stuff” loaded with sugar.  

Here’s what Able says: Yes, you can actually lose fat while eating a steak, chocolate, and real butter. And he says that 80 percent of fat loss comes from diet and not from exercise.  

Many people spend hours on the treadmill hopelessly trying to lose their love handles. But every nutritionist, bodybuilder, and athlete worth his or her salt knows that six-packs are made in the kitchen. Exercise is great for overall well-being, but if you want to drop fat, the vast majority of your results will come from eating the right foods. [1] 

James also says,  

If you’ve given up some of your favorite foods—like gooey cheese, chocolate, grilled steak, bacon, butter, full-fat cream, eggs, wine, cheesecake, ice cream, or anything else delicious—for the sake of “health,” you’re about to have a really good time eating Wild. Even the American Government has conceded that we shouldn’t be afraid of eating high-quality fats! [1] 

He says it’s all about quality, not quantity—even with fats.  

The Wild Diet follows this principle: Eat fresh, simple, whole foods from healthy plants and animals and be skeptical of processed food products. By prioritizing foods found in the natural world, rich in fiber and nutrients, your body will burn fat instead of sugar for energy. When you reduce your consumption of processed grains, sugars and other simple carbohydrates in favor of healthy plants and animals, you will be shocked by how quickly you can reverse the damage of decades of poor eating. [6] 

And this is the biggie: “Dump the carbage.” (I love that word; that’s my new word!) Carbage is defined by James as processed carbs from sugars and grains. Refined foods are packed with fattening ingredients such as white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and industrial seed oils from corn and soy. These fake foods distort your appetite and cause you to consume more calories than you require. The Wild Diet fills you up with natural fats, fibers, proteins, and slow-burning carbs. [7] 

On the Wild Diet, you don’t count calories. A typical meal might include fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, and perhaps a bit of pasture-raised meat, which he says “contains the protein, fiber, healthy fat and micronutrients your body needs to satiate your appetite.” And he says, eat when you’re hungry—not when you think you’re supposed to eat. One of his ideas is if you’re not hungry in the morning, consider fasting and feasting: skipping breakfast and eating a huge lunch, for example. And he says to make sure to enjoy dark chocolate.  

Now, while he downplays the integration of regular and rigorous exercise, in order for this diet to succeed, you do need to move your body. James says his “fun, outdoor, adventure-based workouts” is all you need. 

James had a contestant on the ABC TV show “My Diet Is Better Than Yours,” and his guy Kurt “shed 87 pounds, trimmed 10 inches from his waist, and went from 52% down to 30% body fat in just 14 weeks. Kurt lost nearly double the amount of body fat as any other contestant on the show. This is a huge win for the Wild, high fat / low carb, and Paleo communities,” according to the website. [8] [9] 

James guarantees his program and offers a 60-day money back guarantee, adding “While most other diet and fitness products have an absurdly high refund rate (often as high as 30–50%), my refund rate is an industry–shattering 2%.” [10] 

His diet has been featured everywhere from People magazine to Forbes, ABC to USA Today.  

What’s it cost, and what do you get for your money? For $27 you get the 30-day weight loss plan that includes a 100-page manual, a quick-start audio and book, a shopping guide, and 30-day meal plan. James makes sure to let people know that his plan only works if you work it. “Recent laws from the Federal Trade Commission require that we identify what a “typical” result is. The truth is that most people never do anything with the products they buy, so most of the time, they don’t get any results. If you want results you need to take action. The people you see on this web site are examples of our best results and are not typical. They stuck to their diets and changed their lifestyle. In other words, they took action. If you want results, you should do this, too. So let’s make it happen!” [11] 

The Wild Diet Ingredients 

Food. There are no supplements, no gadgets, no bars or shakes. James sells books and apps, and his podcasts are free. The food ingredients must be fresh, or at least not processed. Eat whatever you want in moderation as long as it’s not grains or sugar or any kind of processed foods.  

Everything has to be fresh from the farm, woods, or sea to table. For example, have eggs and freshly cured bacon from grass-fed pigs, along with coffee—sweetened naturally with whole fats like whipping cream, as opposed to sugar or artificial sweetener.  

And on this diet you may consume alcohol, including red wine and beer. (You’ve likely never read that line on the list of diet ingredients before.) [12] 

The Science (or Lack Thereof) Behind The Wild Diet  

This is a low-carb diet. On it you eat lots of fresh (and wild) vegetables and fruits and grass-fed proteins, wild-caught fish, and fats. Here’s where the science gets tricky.  

James says you can eat bacon whenever you want it, for example. But he’s talking about bacon you get from the organic pig farmer, not the kind that comes in plastic from the supermarket. It’s not easy to find, likely way more expensive, but is made without the processing, requisite nitrates, and added sugars. [13] 

Science says the good fat from unprocessed bacon, for example, is just fine, especially without the nitrates. You don’t want to eat bacon regularly, but if the pig is pasture-fed and not corn-fed, it’s a fine source of healthy fat. Now, good luck finding that—perhaps James shares a source in his book. [14] 

With a few distinctions, the Wild Diet is similar to the Paleo diet which allows only near-wild (think pasture-only fed) animals and also near-wild or “uncultivated” plant-source foods like those meats. fish, vegetables, fruits, roots, eggs, and nuts and prohibits grains, legumes, dairy, salt, refined sugars, and processed anything. And the science says, “the Paleolithic diet might be the best antidote to the unhealthy Western diet.” James’ diet does allow for dairy and legumes, otherwise, his diet is quite similar. Legumes, we know, are full of fiber and heart-healthy and full-fat dairy in moderation is the ingredient needed in a calcium-deficient Paleo diet. [15] 

This is by no measure scientific, but James was named to the 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness in 2015 and 2016. [16] 

Word on the Street About The Wild Diet 

I am a reader, so turning to Goodreads.com for a book review is natural and since The Wild Diet is best understood by actually reading the book, I thought the best place to go to find out if the diet is a hit or not was, well, a book review site. Out of more than 600 readers rating James’ book, it averaged a tad over 4 stars on a 5-star scale; 93 percent of readers liked it. [17] 

Goodreads reviewer “David Baird” found the book and diet flawed, but not unredeemable:  

This is a reasonable beginners book for ancestral nutrition. There’s nothing new here that’s not covered in any of the other (much better) Paleo books out there, but as there are no scientific references or indeed anything to back-up the assertions made, it’s an easy and quick read for the uninitiated… [18] 

“Elizabeta” rated it 5 stars and says she’s watched his podcast and on TV, and while she says he hasn’t really…  

…presented anything new, it’s just science and research. All the basics of healthy food are presented here, nothing too complicated, just a little bit of everything… Many people complain that organic is too expensive and hard to find, and we can’t all raise chickens and tomatoes. Well, it’s not his fault. He is just telling the facts. Just do the best you can. [19] 

The latter is by far the loudest complaint from Wild dieters.  

On iTunes, The Wild Diet received a five-star rating from more than 1,400 reviewers. And his iTunes app is among the most popular globally. [20] 

On Amazon, there are more than 450 reviews and an overall score of 4.5 stars. People love the book and the diet.  

A very recent review from Michael Zenzer (2017, 5 stars) declared “Plain and simple, this book completely changed my life.” A 48-year-old active his whole life, knee and back injuries stalled his fitness regimens and though he thought he was eating healthy he still began gaining weight. Then he bought James’ book. 

In 7 months, I lost 55 pounds going from 245 to 190. In order to prove that this diet, or more appropriately, way of life, worked, I did it without exercise. As previously stated I needed something that could withstand periods of inactivity due to injury. Not only from a basic metabolic standpoint, but from the simple but legitimate need to enjoy the food I am eating. The Wild Diet scored perfectly with me and it’s changed my entire family’s and friend’s outlook to the point that around me nearly a half of ton of weight has been lost by others due to them seeing my success and asking me how I did it. [21] 

“Jeanene Comerford” (2017, 5 stars), says the recipes in The Wild Diet “are a hit.”  

This is a great book and it explains very clearly how the diet works and what we’re up against with processed foods. We’ve tried several of the recipes and my husband loves them! So it’s a hit! [22] 

Five-star reviewer “Benjamin R. Johnson” (2017) says, “40 lbs down and going.” [23] 

People who complained about the lack of pictures in the book to accompany recipes I discounted; those are not really criticisms of Abel James’ Wild Diet. These are, though: 

“HannekevW” (2015, 1 star) is put off by James’ tone in the book: 

While I think Abel’s passion is quite inspirational, he comes across as very self-promotional above all else. How many times do we need to be reminded…that he looks like an underwear model? He looks like any other young guy in my gym who works out a lot. As far as I can gather he has no formal training in nutrition, which shows up too. He has Xanthum gum as an ingredient in his “Old-fashioned Apple Pie” Xanthum gum is used as a thickener in sand in oil refining. More people are allergic to that than to Gluten. Please do some basic research on that. [24] 

I do need to jump in here to correct “HannekevW.” According to WebMD, Xanthan gum, a sugar-like compound made from a combination of fermented sugars and a a particular bacterium is used as a medicine to lower blood sugar in diabetics and is also used as a laxative. It’s true that in manufacturing, xanthan gum is used as a thickening and stabilizing agent in foods and medicines. The WebMD article didn’t mention anything about the allergy statement, though.[25]  

Anyway, back to “HannekevW”:  

Abel also seems to have a hatred for GMO food, but his ‘scientific’ reasoning against that is pitiable in it’s [sic] lack of scientific knowledge. Also, I buy wheat from Georgia, grind it up and bake my own bread, which in my opinion is much healthier that any ‘Gluten free’ foods Abel often mentions as if there is research showing gluten to be bad for people not suffering from Celiac disease. … His plan in short is to not eat breakfast, and try to eat healthy foods otherwise, and stay away from sugar and starches, and exercise a lot. So why so much palm sugar in some recipes, and chocolate chips? Palm sugar is better, not a health food by itself. [26] 

And “Curious Reading” (2015, 1 star) takes a “Pass” on The Wild Diet:  

Has some basic and interesting information but many, many things this guy says blindly, with no evidence (at least none cited), among other things patently false. 

A carrot is a fruit? Young kids don’t get fat and may eat “endless pizza and drink gallons of soda” because their insulin sensitivity is not damaged? 

Book is filled with quite silly and ignorant claims such as these. He trys [sic] to be funny at some points and fails miserably as well. 

Has some decent information for someone completely clueless about nutrition but given that the decent points are entrenched within an unsourced plethora of overt falsehoods and silly mistakes, one would do better to find another book which will not mislead them so. [27]  

Ouch.  

The Bottom Line: Is The Wild Diet Worth a Try? 

Depends.  I believe the science is solid, even if James doesn’t provide backup in the book, as alleged by reviewers. And with millions on board, The Wild Diet is enthusiastically reviewed and popular. But many of the ingredients may be difficult to find—and expensive—for some. Near where I live there’s an organic grass-fed farm. A 3.5-pound chicken is $22 and a half-pound of ground beef is $14. I could never afford to eat like this. So, if you have the money and the motivation, by all means, go for it.

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