If you’re looking for a diet plan to help you get healthy, join the club. Chances are you’ve read descriptions of countless theories on weight loss and fat burning – many of which contradict each other. This confusion is the basis for an ABC reality show – My Diet Is Better Than Yours, which pits diets against each other to see which eating plan can help contestants lose the most weight and body fat in 14 weeks. The Wild Diet was made popular by the show, since the contestant following it came in second place, losing about 25% of his body weight throughout the series. But is it a diet you should try? Here’s my take on the Wild Diet.
What is the Wild Diet?
The Wild Diet is an eating plan developed by blogger, author, and podcaster Abel James. The diet focuses on eating real, whole, unprocessed food with a emphasis on vegetables, meats, wild game, and fats. It cuts out processed and packaged food, grains, and refined sugars, focusing on the quality and source of foods just as much as the ingredients list. The diet plan also addresses eating habits, rather than just providing a list of foods to eat – paying attention to hunger and fullness cues and enjoying food with friends and family are both encouraged.
Is the Wild Diet different from the Paleo Diet?
When you look at the list of foods encouraged and banned, the Wild Diet and paleo diet are fairly similar, although the Wild Diet doesn’t ban dairy products. They both emphasize vegetables, high quality meats, and unrefined fats like coconut oil or butter as main dietary components. James claims that the Wild Diet is superior to the paleo diet because it makes food quality a main focus and encourages at least half your plate to be plant-based, rather than the meat-heavy meals often found on the “popular paleo” diet.
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How do you follow the Wild Diet?
For the full story, you’ll have to purchase James’ book or buy into his 30-day program, but here are some basic steps to “eating Wild”:
- Don’t count calories; focus on the ingredients list instead and make sure all the ingredients are real food
- Avoid sugar, grains, and processed “diet” food.
- Eat high quality fat like grass-fed butter, unrefined coconut oil, pasture-raised bacon and steak, and free-range eggs.
- Eat wild seafood, pastured animals, and wild game.
- Buy local, organic, and non-GMO when possible. Get to know your farmers and producers and form relationships with where your food comes from.
- Eat when you’re hungry, don’t eat when you’re not – it’s okay to skip meals if you’re not hungry.
- When you make a plate, fill it up in this order: non-starchy vegetables, protein, fat, everything else; make at least half of your plate plant-based.
- Make room for indulgences like dark chocolate that are grain free and low in sugar
Does the Wild Diet work for weight loss?
Let’s start with the great aspects of the Wild diet. If you need some structure in order to cut out “empty calories” from sugary drinks, refined carbs, and processed junk food, then having a definitive list of “do’s” and “dont’s” at your fingertips can be helpful. Switching from a diet full of junk food and refined grains to one full of nutrient-dense, real food is always a good move for weight loss.
One of the biggest perks to the Wild Diet is the advice to fill at least half your plate with produce. That means you’ll be getting in plenty of filling fiber, vitamins, minerals, and lots of satisfying volume without tacking on unnecessary calories. Another sound piece of advice from the Wild Diet is the notion of intuitive eating, where you pay attention to your hunger and satiety cues rather than counting calories. Eating intuitively leaves you with a more sustainable eating plan and has been correlated with lower body weight and cardiovascular risk.
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While there is no research looking specifically at the Wild Diet’s effectiveness, there’s a bit of research suggesting that the paleo diet was more effective for weight loss than the Nordic diet, which focuses on produce, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy.
All in all, you’ll likely see weight loss any time you back on processed foods and eat more nutrient-rich foods, though the Wild Diet cuts out food groups like legumes and whole grains that we know are nutritious! Both legumes and whole grains are “slow carbs” that are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The Wild Diet claims you’ll be eating like your grandmother, since our grandmothers knew that eating “carbohydrates like grains, starches and sugar makes us fat.” I don’t know about you, but my grandmother wouldn’t swear off whole grains – and if you’re in the paleo mindset, there’s no evidence that cavemen did either. The Wild Diet guidelines talk a lot about how bad for us refined grains and sugars are, but not so much about whole grains or legumes – despite them being cut from the diet. Perhaps that’s because there’s plenty of evidence showing us that they’re healthy? I can get behind cutting out processed foods, but cutting out entire food groups that are good for you just becomes a restrictive diet that can set you up for failure.
Should you try the Wild Diet?
I like several aspects of the Wild Diet, and they fall in line with what I work on with my counseling clients – cutting down on processed foods and focusing on real, whole foods, upping vegetable intake, shopping local and sustainable, eating mindfully and taking time to enjoy the process of eating, and making room for indulgences. These guidelines set you up for a sustainable healthy eating plan, rather than a fad diet that you’re likely to quickly spiral out of.
However, the Wild Diet falls short in a few places – namely cutting out healthy food groups like whole grains and legumes. If you’re set on buying into a diet program, the Wild Diet at least guides you towards mindful eating and emphasizes high quality foods. If you want to save the cash and steer clear of gimmicky promises, though, stick to a less-restrictive eating plan that doesn’t cut out healthy foods unnecessarily.
Have you heard of or tried the Wild Diet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!