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More Than a Diet - My Paleo Quest

By Christopher Clark
May 10, 2016
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Heart disease isn’t something most kids think about.

When I was growing up, however, it was always on my radar. My family and I spent countless hours at Akron General, the hospital in Akron, Ohio, where my grandmother was routinely a patient. She suffered her first heart attack when I was 3 years old and finally succumbed to heart disease fifteen years later.

Her grace and fortitude deeply inspired me. Never during all those years did I hear her complain or pity herself. She enjoyed every moment of her life, refusing to live in fear. For me, however, heart disease, hospitals, and even the idea of invasive surgery were terrifying.

I was determined to cheat my genetic predisposition by choosing a healthy, active lifestyle.

There was just one problem. I grew up during the 1980s, the heyday of low-fat nutritional dogma. At that time, the theory that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease was as incontrovertible as the theory of gravity – or so we thought. Having no reason to question such “established science,” I fully embraced whole-grain bread, lean meat, egg whites, and low-fat yogurt, cookies, and cakes, which were heavy on sugar and supposedly “heart healthy” vegetable oils.

The first time I was cooking for myself regularly was after college. During those years, I was reading a lot about Taoism and other Eastern philosophies while becoming increasingly apathetic toward the corporate business career path I had chosen. Eventually, I abandoned an excellent job as a financial analyst within the airline industry to attend a whole foods cooking school. I determined that learning how to cook and eat properly was important enough to justify a career hiatus.

But there was a problem. Good intentions notwithstanding, my experiences and my worldview had set the stage for a monumental dietary misdirection. I embraced macrobiotics - a grain-heavy diet that excludes most animal foods. Sometimes in life, we gravitate toward people, books, and ideas that simply reinforce our beliefs rather than challenging us to question them. This was the case for me.

After several years of practicing and advocating macrobiotics, I sensed something was wrong. My energy levels were dropping, I had persistent dermatological problems, I was getting cavities, and most disturbingly, I had voracious sugar cravings. Why should these cravings accompany such a wholesome, healthy diet, I wondered?

During this time, I was questioning many things – things we are told about the world, about history, etc. I decided to point my brooding skepticism and investigative prowess toward nutrition. I conducted an exercise of dropping everything I thought to be true while simply reading, listening, and absorbing new information. I read hundreds of scientific studies, articles, and books. It soon became clear to me that the foods I had been avoiding – fat and most animal foods – were vitally important and that my carb-heavy diet was driving my sugar cravings.

The Paleo Diet® turned things around for me in dramatic ways. I wrote a book to document my experiences and to share what I had learned. I called it Nutritional Grail because the grail is an archetype, which symbolizes transformation and the individual’s journey toward truth. The original Story of the Grail is about a knight who misses an important opportunity because he fails to ask questions. By the end of his life, after many years of seeking knowledge and helping other people, he finally grasps the true meaning of the grail. For me, the Paleo diet is about much more than just improved health. It’s a valuable tool for helping other people and for catalyzing positive changes in a world that so desperately needs them.

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