The Jordan Peterson All-Meat Diet
It's actually even more narrow than that: all beef (plus salt and water, nothing else; except for vodka and bourbon).
I know how ridiculous it sounds,” Mikhaila Peterson told me recently by phone, after a whirlwind of attention gathered around the 26-year-old, who is now offering dietary advice to people suffering with conditions like hers. Or not so much dietary advice as guiding people in eating only beef.
At first glance, Peterson, who is based in Toronto, could seem to be one of the many emerging semi-celebrities with a miraculous story of self-healing—who show off postpartum weight loss in bikini Instagrams and sell one thing or another, a supplement or tonic or book or compression garment. (Not incidentally, she is the daughter of the famous and controversial pop psychologist Jordan Peterson. More on that later.) But Peterson is taking the trend in extra-professional health advice to an extreme conclusion: She is not doing sponsored posts for health products, but actively selling one-on-one counseling ($75 for a half hour) for people who want to stop eating almost everything.
OK, well maybe she's a special case, what with her auto-immune disease. But apparently her father, the famous Jordan Peterson also follows the same diet:Peterson seems to be reaching suffering people despite a lack of training or credentials in nutrition or medicine, and perhaps because of that distinction. Her Instagram bio: “For info on treating weight loss, depression, and autoimmune disorders with diet, check out my blog or fb page!” The blog, which is called “Don’t Eat That,” says at the top that “many (if not most) health problems are treatable with diet alone.” This is true, if at odds with the disclaimer at the bottom of the page that her words are “not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.”
I told her I’m surprised people need further counseling, in that an all-beef diet is very straightforward.
“They mostly want to see that I’m not dead,” she said. “What I basically do is say, ‘Hey, look at all the things that happened to me and brought me to where I am now. Isn’t it weird?’ And then let people draw their own conclusions.”
Peterson described an adolescence that involved multiple debilitating medical diagnoses, beginning with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Some unknown process had triggered her body’s immune system to attack her joints. The joint problems culminated in hip and ankle replacements in her teens, coupled with “extreme fatigue, depression and anxiety, brain fog, and sleep problems.”
. . .
Her story took a dramatic turn in 2015, when the underdog protagonist, nearly at the end of her rope, figured out the truth for herself. It was all about food.
Peterson adopted a common approach to dieting: elimination. She started cutting out foods from her diet, and feeling better each time. She began with gluten, and she kept going, casting out more and more—not just gluten or dairy or soy or lectins or artificial sweeteners or non-artificial sweeteners, but everything. Until, by December 2017, all that was left was “beef and salt and water,” and, she told me, “all my symptoms went into remission.”
“And you quit taking all your medications?”
OK, are there any possible negative consequences though?Yet in a July appearance on the comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast, Jordan Peterson explained how Mikhaila’s experience had convinced him to eliminate everything but meat and leafy greens from his diet, and that in the last two months he had gone full meat and eliminated vegetables. Since he changed his diet, his laundry list of maladies has disappeared, he told Rogan. His lifelong depression, anxiety, gastric reflux (and associated snoring), inability to wake up in the mornings, psoriasis, gingivitis, floaters in his right eye, numbness on the sides of his legs, problems with mood regulation—all of it is gone, and he attributes it to the diet.
“I’m certainly intellectually at my best,” he said. “I’m stronger, I can swim better, and my gum disease is gone. It’s like, what the hell?”
“Do you take any vitamins?” asked Rogan.
“No. No, I eat beef and salt and water. That’s it. And I never cheat. Ever. Not even a little bit.”
“No soda, no wine?”
“I drink club soda.”
“Well, that’s still water.”
“Well, when you’re down to that level, no, it’s not, Joe. There’s club soda, which is really bubbly. There’s Perrier, which is sort of bubbly. There’s flat water, and there’s hot water. Those distinctions start to become important.”
Peterson reiterated several times that he is not giving dietary advice, but said that many attendees of his recent speaking tour have come up to him and said the diet is working for them. The takeaway for listeners is that it worked for Peterson, and so it may work for them. Rogan also clarified that though he is also not an expert, he is fascinated by the fact that he hasn’t heard any negative stories about people who have started the all-meat diet.
Peterson himself says:
So if you do go on this all-beef diet, but you cheat and eat something else you may not be able to sleep for a month? WTF? That doesn't sound good to me. His daughter also had severe negative reactions lasting weeks from something as small as eating an olive or having pepper on her steak.“Well, I have a negative story,” said Peterson. “Both Mikhaila and I noticed that when we restricted our diet and then ate something we weren’t supposed to, the reaction was absolutely catastrophic.” He gives the example of having had some apple cider and subsequently being incapacitated for a month by what he believes was an inflammatory response.
“You were done for a month?”
“Oh yeah, it took me out for a month. It was awful ...”
“Apple cider? What was it doing to you?”
“It produced an overwhelming sense of impending doom. I seriously mean overwhelming. There’s no way I could’ve lived like that. But see, Mikhaila knew by then that it would probably only last a month.”
“A month? From fucking cider?”
“I didn’t sleep that month for 25 days. I didn’t sleep at all for 25 days.”
“What? How is that possible?”
“I’ll tell you how it’s possible: You lay in bed frozen in something approximating terror for eight hours. And then you get up.”
The longest recorded stretch of sleeplessness in a human is 11 days, witnessed by a Stanford research team.
And here's what an independent expert had to say about this diet:
I wonder how long they both can keep it up? (Assuming they really do follow this diet). If so, will there be health consequences in the long term? Could the "feeling better" part be explained by something like the placebo effect? What about the negative reactions? Could that also be a psychogenic phenomenon?There is so much evidence—abundant, copious evidence acquired over decades of work from scientists around the world—that most people benefit from eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and seeds. This appears to be largely because fiber in plants is important to the flourishing of the gut microbiome. I ran this by some experts, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything that might suggest a beef-salt diet is potentially something other than a bad idea. I learned that it was worse than I thought.
“Physiologically, it would just be an immensely bad idea,” Jack Gilbert, the faculty director at the University of Chicago’s Microbiome Center and a professor of surgery, told me during a recent visit to his lab. “A terribly, terribly bad idea.”
Gilbert has done extensive research on how the trillions of microbes in our guts digest food, and the look on his face when I told him about the all-beef diet was unamused. He began rattling off the expected ramifications: “Your body would start to have severe dysregulation, within six months, of the majority of the processes that deal with metabolism; you would have no short-chain fatty acids in your cells; most of the by-products of gastrointestinal polysaccharide fermentation would shut down, so you wouldn’t be able to regulate your hormone levels; you’d enter into cardiac issues due to alterations in cell receptors; your microbiota would just be devastated.”
While much of the internet has been following this story in a somewhat snide way, Gilbert appeared genuinely concerned and saddened: “If she does not die of colon cancer or some other severe cardiometabolic disease, the life—I can’t imagine.”