You’ve likely heard of Mikhaila Peterson, the 27-year-old creator and Founder of The Lion Diet. She is also the daughter of controversial author, speaker, and clinical psychologist, Jordan Peterson.
It’s an understatement, to say the least, that both she and the carnivore diet have been a red-hot topic of debate on social media, and between those learned (and those not so) in diet and nutrition.
A calculated approach to Paleo / Vegan / Vegetarian Diets
If the Paleo / Vegan / Vegetarian debate were a storm, Mikhaila and her Lion Diet would be the eye of the hurricane.
The notoriety comes partially because “controversy sells,” and she happens to be the outspoken daughter of one of the most controversial academics of our time.
But it’s mostly because her version of the carnivore diet is extreme even by carnivore diet standards: a red-meat-only regimen that she claims has freed her of multiple ailments.
Her symptom list was long, sordid, and more than anyone – much less a child and young adult – should ever have to endure.
She exhibited an unusual gait as a toddler, and by age seven was diagnosed with arthritis and put on a heavy regimen of immunosuppressants. It was so severe, she even had to learn to give herself the required injections at this young age.
By the time she reached 5th grade, she began showing signs of depression, and at the recommendation of a psychologist, she was put on antidepressants.
At age 14, she was chronically tired, a condition that only worsened as time went on.
And by age 17, the cartilage in her hip and ankle had deteriorated to the point that both joints were then replaced.
Things went from bad to worse when she went on – having graduated a year late from high school due to chronic absence – to Montreal’s Concordia University. Her depression intensified. She slept up to 18 hours a day (and was still endlessly tired), and her arthritis worsened and was now compounded by outbreaks of blisters and hives.
She found it impossible to endure the mounting symptoms, and she dropped out of school before the end of her sophomore year.
After two years of research and re-enrolling in University under Biomedical Science, she tried an elimination diet. Initially, the list of verboten foods didn’t seem to have any connection, but by this point, she didn’t have much to lose.
She eliminated gluten-containing foods, and reduced her diet to meat, carrots, fish, and green vegetables. Though she had little idea as to why, her symptoms began to fade. The thick fog of depression lifted, and for the first time in her life, she felt joy.
Soon thereafter, she went off antidepressants. She also ditched the Adderall she’d used to battle the debilitating fatigue and provide some modicum of focus.
For Mikhaila it seemed that she’d regained her life.
Then she became pregnant with her daughter, Scarlett. And – although she remained diligent with her diet – the symptoms returned.
So she did what any self-respecting health hacker would do: she doubled-down on what she knew worked.
And it wasn’t until she’d eliminated everything but red meat did her symptoms once again abate.
I have a rather unique position in writing this article. I’ve watched the debate and the hell-fire the media has created around her.
And I know Mikhaila personally. She’s presented at Paleo f(x)™ and I talked with her before writing this piece. Not about the specifics of the Lion Diet per se, but more so her mental, emotional, and citizen scientist’s take on the matter.
Has she taken her fair share of abuse in the media for her both her stance and her health claims? You bet. And, this leads to the first two of the top 5 things I’ve learned from Mikhaila Peterson’s carnivore diet: if you truly believe in something, hold to your guns.
YOU are the captain of your own health and wellbeing
No one else knows your body as well as you do, and how your body ultimately responds to various inputs. Not your doctor, not the government, not any “expert” or anointed guru. YOU are the ultimate litmus test for what works for YOU.
Mikhaila chose to break free from convention to follow what she knew was true for her body. She never claims to be a doctor or scientist, but she notes that, by bucking conventional wisdom and following what works for her body, her diet has put all of her symptoms into remission.
The martial artist, Bruce Lee, is famous, in part, for championing the idea of “taking what is useful, and discarding the rest.” And if he were alive in the digital age, he may well have added, “no matter what the trolls and the haters may say.”
Haters gonna hate. Hold to your guns for what you believe
Love her or hate her, you have to acknowledge that Mikhaila has an extremely tough skin. It would be easy for her to fold like a lawn chair and vanish into the ether.
As Mikhaila says, “You can be a lion, or you can be a sheep. The sheep follows what everyone else says is the right thing to do.
I’m choosing to be a lion. I don’t care what anyone else says I should do or say. And I don’t want anyone else to suffer like I have.”
Citizen Science, the right way
Mikhaila didn’t begin with the Lion Diet in mind. That is to say, “the carnivore diet” wasn’t even in her lexicon when she began attempting to solve her idiopathic symptoms. She never set out to prove a point or to accumulate evidence in support of a certain position. She simply wanted to feel better and solve what wasn’t working, and she began a search toward that end.
A second point to emphasize here is minimizing the variables when testing. Mikhaila does try reintroducing foods now and again. And when she does, it is always one food at a time. So far, she has found that the red-meat-only carnivore diet, plus intermittent fasting with electrolytes, is the best diet plan for her body.
Trust, but verify
Mikhaila will tell you she feels fantastic. But she also makes sure her bloodwork is still optimized. We are all easily deluded by our own preconceived biases, and especially so if we are financially, or publicly, rewarded for championing those views.
We need an impartial self-check mechanism. For Mikhaila, that means ensuring periodic bloodwork is still in order.
Your truth is yours alone
Mikhaila is quick to point out that she position’s her version of the carnivore diet as one that works for her. Will it work for you? No promises. You, too, will have to do “citizen science, the right way.”
Scarlett, her daughter, isn’t quite as restricted. Being mindful of her own painful childhood, she monitors Scarlett’s health closely for any hint of reaction that may be a consequence of genetic predisposition. She’s currently eating mainly meat with limited vegetables and fruit.
Bottom line: the way to find the best diet plan for you is to experiment.
Create your own citizen scientist experiment, and get the support from trusted medical professional. Test and analyze your results, and course-correct as needed.
But most of all, be willing to try something and think outside the box if conventional wisdom isn’t working for you.