Transformative dietary change :
Lessons from a tunnel
My children’s school was formerly the local train station. In France (as elsewhere), many smaller, less profitable railway legs have been de-commissioned over time. And in an ingenious re-use of this infrastructure, more and more of these railway paths are being converted into walking / cycling paths. These « voies vertes » (or green belts) inevitably connect one small town to another, and in the most remote regions of the country, they do it along fairly flat chunks of forests, river valleys, and mountainsides.
In my new home (the Cévenne mountains), the « voies vertes » are — in a word — spectacular.
On the path beside my children’s school, the « voie verte » is not yet developed to the point of being paved. Rather, it is a beautifully “natural” dirt and gravel pathway that meanders through the forest (and a series of tunnels) from one small town to another.
The first time I walked through the first tunnel by the school, it was a very unsettling experience… but a very empowering one as well. And I couldn’t help but liken it to my experience of adopting a healing diet and lifestyle. Allow me to explain…
People don’t generally choose to put themselves into situations that are daunting. We’re all a bit reluctant to follow anything but the path of least resistance, and trail-blazing is frankly a whole lot of work. Adopting a gluten-free, Paleo, or AIP diet and lifestyle is no different.
One of the hardest parts of adopting change is the first step. It’s just so dark inside that tunnel, and our vision is so blinded by our current reality — which is outside of the tunnel, however close to the entrance. And, in addition to many of our own senses telling us that the endeavour will undoubtedly require a whole lot of time and energy — (which we may or may not actually have in spades, due to chronic illness) — others will also undoubtedly attempt to dissuade us from our project — (see signpost) — and that doesn’t help either.
And yet, if we do dare to take those first steps, something transformative happens.
The scary, pitched-black darkness that we had originally perceived… actually becomes very nuanced. We begin to see details that we hadn’t previously imagined. And… even if we can’t yet see it, we begin to imagine… or perceive? …a light at the end of the tunnel that is entirely inviting.
…and so on we walk. We’re unsure of our footing; the sounds around us echo strangely; our senses are heightened.
And slowly, but surely, we are able to understand (intellectually at least, if not yet physically) that there really was nothing inherently dangerous or scary at all. That this is just an experience that is different from what we’re used to.
That this intimidating pathway into the darkness…
…is really just this straight and narrow pathway, but with lesser exposure.
And so we realize that trusting in ourselves, and in our own judgement holds power. For if I listened to my own doubts (let alone everyone else’s), I would surely hold myself back from any number of potentially wonderful experiences, and that would be unfortunate.
So now, when I keep going, I am a little more confident… a little more curious.
And the light at the end of the tunnel grows bigger and bigger, and more and more inviting. The way forward becomes clearer with each step, and I am drawn to keep moving. The endeavour itself becomes more and more easy.
And now I can begin to make out the landscape where I am heading. I am able to identify, however sketchily, a number of positive results of the experiment that I am running: my energy didn’t crash yesterday afternoon; my skin is looking clearer; I woke up feeling rested this morning; my bones don’t ache like before; I pooped a ‘normal’ poop! And on and on it goes…
And as I begin to reap the physical benefits of this path that was, at first, so very scary and intimidating… I come face to face with the reality that, I have done it.
I have changed the way that I eat. I have begun to feel better. I have made the change.
And what lays before me now is the world of possibility that awaits, should I choose to continue to advance. The tunnel continues to shape my vision, as these new habits are not yet second-nature, but — depending on the direction that I take — that may come.
And one day, perhaps in the very near future, I will look back on the tunnel and feel not scared, but emboldened… eager even, perhaps, to see what new tunnels might lie ahead.
Because that’s the thing about tunnels: although they may at first feel risky and full of constraint, they actually just help to keep us on track.
On completion of cooking school in 2018, Jan Steele (aka La Goose) relocated to the beautiful Cévenne mountains in the South of France. In her 19th century home made of stone, she teaches clients to reclaim healthful culinary traditions from the past. Jan also hosts visitors to the region, ensuring that their dietary restrictions -- be they gluten-free, Paleo, or AIP -- are respected to a T.