Pounded in the Butt by Our Carnivore Diet

I read a curious book last night…well, more like skimmed an odd and repetitious assortment of short transcripts. Jordan & Mikhaila Peterson – Our Carnivore Diet: How to cure Depression and Disease with Meat only: Revised Transcripts and Blogposts. Featuring Dr. Shawn Baker was available for free on Kindle Unlimited, so I downloaded it.

It’s bad.

The cover is a hint. It’s a poor Photoshop with sloppy layout, the kind of thing you’d see on a self-published romance novel with the smiling heroine in front in her best bikini, and in the background the brooding, rich Heathcliff she’s going to win over…except, oh dear, that’s her father in the swim trunks. Seriously, Dr Peterson, you’re rich enough to hire a graphics pro to do the design. Chuck Tingle could have done a far better job, and would have at least thrown in a few dinosaurs and a sentient physical manifestation or two.

The contents are worse. The first chapter is a transcript of an interview with Steve Paikin (who?). The second and third are transcripts of interviews with Joe Rogan (yeesh). The fourth is a transcript of a podcast with Robb Wolf (?). The fifth is a transcript of…you get the idea. Then there are a couple of extracted blog posts, and a bonus(!) transcript of some carnivore diet proponent named Shawn Baker (who? again). And they’re all the same!

All can be summarized similarly. Jordan Peterson or Mikhaila Peterson talk with a sympathetic host about how miserable their lives were, and how Mikhaila was afflicted with these terrible idiopathic diseases and Jordan was so depressed. I believe that part. Mikhaila had rheumatoid arthritis to such a terrible degree that she had hip and ankle joints replaced with prosthetics, and Jordan always comes across as a sad sack. They were really sick! And then they say they got better when they started cutting stuff out of their diet, finally getting down to nothing but beef and salt and water. Yay! They found the cure! And the gullible hosts praise them.

Except, I would say two things. They were suffering from real but idiopathic diseases. All “idiopathic” means is that the doctors don’t know the causes. Have they considered the fact that their “cure” is also idiopathic? I accept that they say they feel better now, but we don’t know that their all-meat diet has anything at all to do with it, and announcing that they have the universal CURE in a book title is classic quackery.

The second issue is that every chapter in their book is a repetitive recital of the same damn things: the same two people describing their complaints and their history, in nearly the same words, in public broadcasts over and over. If you repeat the same anecdote 11 times, it doesn’t magically transform into empirical data.

After reading their best case summary of their diet, I am not at all tempted to try it. In fact, I’ve gone the opposite way in my life, cutting way back on meat and enjoying a vegetarian diet, and I feel pretty good.

If I repeat that sentence 11 times would you find that a compelling reason that you should conform to my dietary rules? I would hope not.

Maybe if I also put a photo of my wife in a bikini on the cover?


  1. franta says

    It doesn’t change the argument, but Mikhaila is his daughter, not the wife.

    Also, I admit if you repeat it a couple of hundred times and publish it as an audiobook you might convince me to switch to a vegetarian diet.

  2. jrkrideau says

    Steve Paikin is the show-host of a public affairs show on TVO. A quick google on Steve Paikin meat diet shows he has done a number of interviews about current food fads and issues.

    I don’t have a Kindle reader so I don’t know which one to look a it. The one I had a quick look at was no more or less than his normal interview. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6g_geYeL4U. I listened to it and it is not a great endorsement for a “meat free” diet. Hell, Jordan Peterson sounded pretty reasonable.

    His show, The Agenda often is very interesting but he is not confrontational in the manner of the BBC’s Hard Talk.

    For anther look at Paikin’s interviewing style have a look at his interview with the journalist, Chris Hedges, about Hedges book The Collapse of the American Empire?.

    BTW, Joe Rogan (Who?)

  3. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    “Poorly Photoshopped”, I guess! Unless Prof. Peterson is actually a hobbit?

    My guess is, they couldn’t find a swim-trunk shot of him with sufficient resolution. The shot they had, if scaled to match her height (and the height of the cover), would be obviously pixilated. So they left his image smaller. But then, why did they not move his layer behind hers? As it is, with his arm overlapping hers, it tells you he’s under 4 foot high.

    Or, why didn’t they find a decent shot of the two of them together, in street clothes? If they made all these podcast appointments together there must have been… oh, wait. They don’t have to be physically together to participate in a podcast. They could skype in independently. That’s the answer: there were no pictures of them together because they are never together. Ever.

  4. kome says

    Repetition is effective persuasion. It’s like in that video you shared a few days ago describing the alt-right playbook on how to radicalize people. Constant repetition of the same facile lies normalizes the nonsense, so people become more tolerant of it and eventually more receptive to it.

  5. hemidactylus says

    Tonight I will think of them while eating avocados, baked potato with plain lowfat yogurt, and vegan kimchi. To sate my predatory carnivorous needs I might add a quarter pound of shrimp. Top it off with ginger beer.

    Maybe popcorn with coconut spray and salt later as a snack.

    Am I doing it wrong, buckos?

  6. Kevin Karplus says

    You’re wrong—that cover is genius! It is carefully tailored to appeal only to the sort of idiot who would buy their argument!

  7. methuseus says

    Well, your endorsement carries much more weight with me. Plus there’s the fact that you say it makes you feel good, not that it cures all ills.

    Full disclosure: I’ve started trying more vegetarian meals and have been enjoying them, so that might make me more receptive.

  8. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin points out that, if you can catch them, most cheese plants are quite lively, and so are simultaneously vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, carnivore, and cheesganvorian. The tamer cheese varieties can be rather good as well, she says, adding that if they are most of the cheese in one’s diet, one should perhaps exercise more; e.g., chase some of the livelier cheeses, or run away, Run Away!, from peas and horses and cave rabbits who don’t get enough cheese.

  9. starskeptic says

    franta @1
    I gathered that she was his daughter from the
    “…oh dear, that’s her father…” part….

  10. robro says

    I gather they did not discuss what they stopped eating as a factor in their improvement. If their diet included lots of sugar, for example, then the improvement in their condition may be attributable to that rather than what they did eat. I’m not trying to pin every bad thing on sugar, but it is considered to be a significant factor in health problems by a number of informed people. For example, I saw my cardiologist recently and her diet recommendation: eat lots of veggies and fruit, a little meat and even cheese is ok, but “stay away from sugar.”

  11. pilgham says

    A life without fiber is not worth living. A bowl of oatmeal every morning will give a whole new outlook.

  12. hemidactylus says

    Ah oatmeal. I consume mass quantities first thing in the morning. Plus popcorn at night. Anti-Peterson diet. Hoping to ramp up my fiber intake considerably. Has beneficial effects. Looking for Super Colon Blow at my supermarket today:


    The late, great Phil Hartman.

  13. says

    I’ll be releasing my own book soon. How to have the body of a fit 20 something year old:Be a fit 20 something year old.

  14. Ridana says

    4) @ Just an Organic Regular Expression:
    Jordan Peterson must always be in the front in any photograph of him. It’s almost certainly in his contract.

    I don’t think those are swim trunks. It looks like a beach towel around his waist, which is worse, because you just know he wears Speedos at the beach.

  15. robro says

    robertbaden @ #13

    Watch fruit juices. Lots of sugar, compared to a whole fruit.

    Right. Rarely touch the stuff, even if it’s fresh squeezed with lots of fiber. The significant other will also always point out the “sugar” aspect. Particularly bad are the “apple juice boxes” served to a lot of kids. (That said, I do like an unfiltered hard apple cider now and again ;–)

  16. ColeYote says

    I love Chuck Tingle. Haven’t actually read any of his stuff, but he is such a good Twitter follow and title-creator.

  17. PaulBC says

    It’s an amazing cover, but not quite up to Tingle standards. It needs a disembodied face superimposed on a slab of meat to get the right effect.

  18. wzrd1 says

    First off, pretty much all dietary advice outside of a governmental source is highly suspect, from a governmental source, moderately suspect.

    I also recognize the reality of human diet, humans are not herbivores or carnivores, we’re obligate omnivores in a natural environment.
    We don’t excrete many vitamins necessary for survival. We have to adsorb them, from animals or vegetables that create such necessary chemicals.
    So, I do eat meat. My general guidance, eat as much meat as you can gather with a six inch knife. Remember, most prey will kill you. Otherwise, go for gathered tubers and loads of greens.
    Whyinhell do you think any version of meatloaf works?
    Loads of protein (trivially and in superior ways, from soybean protein), carbs are high, after, variable, based upon recipe and secondary dishes.
    I’ve always been big on green, leafy veggies, but realized a requirement for carbs.
    And a near addiction to high soybean derived content specific dishes.
    Turning my lasagna into a ricotta cheese loss, using tofu as a replacement, due to Dad being on dialysis.
    Not gritty at all.

    But, morons will be morons and create some bullshit diet and call it wonderful, facing minimal penalties.

  19. says

    Wait isn’t one of them currently being treated for drug addiction that he surprisingly couldn’t kick with a miracle diet? Not that I blame him for seeking help, that’s good, but it shows that their claims are absolute bollocks. One of the main proponents isn’t healthy or feeling good or doing well.

  20. PaulBC says

    wzrd1@21 I’d be more inclined to trust peer-reviewed findings than “a governmental source”, which has historically supported specific business interests: beef industry, breakfast cereal industry, etc. Nutrition science may not have the best track record either (popular reporting seems to have them reversing course every couple of years) but they may at least be less biased. I think for people without food allergies, celiac disease, or other conditions, it’s more a matter of moderation and variety than getting everything exactly right.

    Needless to say, the Petersons are completely untrustworthy and their dietary advice sounds insane.

  21. llyris says

    @ wzrd1
    Your high soy diet sounds like hell on wheels for me. I have soy sensitivity which cuts out soy as a protein source, and I have an inflammatory bowel disease that significantly inhibits my use of legumes (and brassicas, and corn).
    Not that I would recommend the Peterson’s scurvy diet for anyone, but bodies are different, and there is no universal perfect diet. There are several approaches that will work for different people. And to be honest, your diet would be a “bullshit diet” for me. Of course, I’m not expecting you to publish a book about your bullshit diet and put creepy pictures on the front cover.

  22. davidj says

    Is it plausible that they are eating only what they claim? Breatharians claim to be doing fine on an all-air diet, but they’re secretly eating.

  23. John Morales says

    lukemosse @25, thanks. Very informative.

    (Looks like PZ yet again didn’t bother researching before accusing)

  24. John Morales says


    And I also didn’t bother to re-read. PZ talks about the book, not about its ostensible authorship.

    Sorry, PZ.

  25. John Morales says

    [related but OT]

    Anyone here old enough to remember the Pritikin Diet?

    (I know which I’d pick, had I to choose some extreme)

  26. Kip Williams says

    I worked for a place that rented condos in Maui around 1977-8, and for some reason, one of the airline pilots who co-owned the thing made a deal with Nathan Pritikin to flog his diet at the place. We did a luncheon one time with various Pritikin dishes. My report: They look good enough to eat. Perhaps they are, if you’re hungry enough. I wasn’t. They were so bland, it was like an intentional punishment to my taste buds.

  27. says

    Kip Williams @#30

    We did a luncheon one time with various Pritikin dishes. My report: They look good enough to eat. Perhaps they are, if you’re hungry enough. I wasn’t. They were so bland, it was like an intentional punishment to my taste buds.

    I hadn’t heard about this diet before, so I looked it up. It didn’t sound as bad as you are claiming. I’d be fine for a few days on such a diet. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables is something I like. I’m perfectly happy to eat some fresh carrots and call that a meal. The problem is that I would hate to follow such a diet for more than a few days, because after a while I’d start wanting some cake and ice cream.

    A meat only diet, on the other hand, is something I wouldn’t want to have even for a single day.

  28. says

    PaulBC @#23

    I’d be more inclined to trust peer-reviewed findings than “a governmental source”, which has historically supported specific business interests: beef industry, breakfast cereal industry, etc.

    Governments were also forced to provide food for the poor people. This is why they were motivated to create dietary guidelines (aka the Food Pyramid) with lots of cheap calories. Providing fresh vegetables to poor kids was expensive. Giving them lots of corn and bread instead was cheaper.