Jordan Peterson has spent much of the past few years eloquently torpedoing all that the liberal progressives hold dear, and he’s not done yet. Citing a profound health transformation, the bolshy Canadian psychologist is now piling into the opinion-saturated arena of diet, and the vegans aren’t happy.
But Peterson’s latest revelation is not about culture wars or the eroding of free speech. This is about his own mental health, which has at times been unspeakably grim. Controversial as ever, Peterson is now claiming to have beaten away his regimen of antidepressants through the excessive consumption of a rather more rudimentary substance: meat.
A sworn ‘carnivore diet’ convert, he was first introduced to the beef-only regime by his daughter, Mikhaila, who spent years suffering from a serious autoimmune disease.
In an interview with Joe Rogan, Prof. Peterson explained how, by the time she’d reached her teens, his daughter’s excruciating arthritic condition had corroded 40 of her joints and forced her into a deep depression. So severe was the illness that at just fifteen years of age, she required a hip and ankle replacement. ‘She was dying’, Jordan lamented.
But Mikhaila didn’t die. Instead, she ruthlessly eliminated everything that disagreed with her gut. Whittling down the food groups, she started to experience notable health improvements and was soon gorging on a simple staple of broccoli and chicken. Stunned by her progress, Mikhaila then decided to go the whole hog (or cow) and began consuming only beef, salt and water.
‘All my symptoms went into remission’, she told the Atlantic. Her autoimmune disease had literally cured itself. The depression, an illness deeply embedded in the Peterson family, had all but vanished. ‘She was glowing’, Jordan said.
Is it healthy?
With little evidence base, it is important to interpret these assertions with a pinch of salt. While the blogosphere is awash with cynics, there are also some foreboding words from dieticians concerned by the prospect of such a diet being perpetuated.
‘It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely ridiculous’, nutritionist Lisa Sasson told Guardian reporter Adam Gabbatt as he slumped into day six of his own all-meat trial. ‘The claims that are made are preposterous… Atkins was bad – this is 50 times worse.’
Hyperbole? Not according to microbial ecologist Dr. Jack Gilbert, who warned of cardiac issues and metabolic mayhem. ‘If she does not die of colon cancer or some other severe cardiometabolic disease,’ he said, ‘the life—I can’t imagine’.
But perhaps equally galling is the diet’s outrageous political incorrectness. Remember, for many environmental activists, meat consumption is akin to cannibalism. The unethical industry, the effects on the climate, the health warnings; safe to say, the diet is treading on a lot of hooves. Many such trotters belong to people who back Barrister Michael Mansfield’s call to not only outlaw the product, but rank its consumption ‘alongside genocide and other crimes against humanity.’ Mad-cow crazy, not least because the goalposts are continually shifting – a recent report found that the carbon footprint of asthma inhalers is ‘as bad for the environment as eating meat.’ With trepidation, we await the eminent QC’s ban on asthmatics, too.
Health critiques of the carnivore diet aside, a quick sweep of twitter shows many detractors to be more energised by their offense taken at Peterson’s socio-political positions than they are perturbed by his choice of sustenance. It’s no surprise. Peterson has become the conservative bogeyman to many on the left, demonised and misconstrued in equal measure. Just taking a photo with him, as British folk-rockers Mumford and Sons found out last year, can invite a niagara of sharp-tongued calls for cancellation. ‘I don’t think his psychological work is very controversial’, banjo player Winston Marshall quietly asserted, as a CBC interviewer threatened an exodus of LGBT fans from their concerts. The whole thing was absurd.
But the haters cannot argue with the diminishing of a major depressive disorder. Indeed, as anyone who has suffered with severe mental health issues would agree, such relief, albeit unconventionally achieved, should not be questioned but celebrated.
Considering we live in a culture (rightly) determined to shatter the stigma around mental illness, the vitriol directed at the Petersons over their culinary choices, and the relentless scoffing at their personal experience, typifies the rot at the core of our tribal politics. Even if depression is dispelled, rheumatoid arthritis eased and a sense of hope renewed, the liberal woke crowd still won’t allow Peterson this personal victory. And that’s inherently sad.
Is more research required into the carnivore diet and its health effects? Of course. Anything less would be irresponsible. But in the meantime, we’d be wise to remove political and personal criticism from this debate. Clearly, the diet is not for everyone, but why does it need to be? For Jordan and Mikhaila Peterson, it sparked some sweet relief. And who on earth would be so cruel as to deny them that?