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The Day My Life Turned Upside Down

You will not find anything to buy in this article, as I have nothing to sell you. I just wanted to share something personal today.

You may have noticed an absence of articles on my website as of late.

The reason is pretty simple. About two months ago, my dad died of a heart attack, and I’ve been finding it a little difficult since to write as much as I used to.

Two months ago, I was just getting back from a trip to Quebec. I had recently relocated to Vancouver after a long trip around the world  then spent a week in my hometown to see my family and also ship a few things back to the West Coast.

My dad had also been spending his winter in the South, and he was back from his trip. Naturally, we were both eager to meet and exchange travel stories.

I saw my dad on only two occasions during my stay, but we did spend a good amount of time together.

On my way to the airport to leave, I was stuck in traffic and even gave him a call. He told me how excited he was to come visit me in Vancouver, and sounded just as happy as he ever did.

So I flew back to Vancouver, which from Montreal is about the equivalent of flying from New York to San Francisco.

Less than 24 hours after I last talked to my dad on the phone, he died of a heart attack at home.

I found out about it the next day. My brother had tried to call me, but my phone was on silent mode. I slept longer than usual, recovering from my trip. And only around 10 a.m. did I finally check my emails.

When you find an email with the subject line “A sad news” it really catches your attention, especially when it’s coming from your own brother.

When I opened the email, I read the short note that my brother had written, where he explained that our dad had died of a natural death and that he should talk to me.

Although I had always wondered “how” it would happen, I never thought it would be so soon and so unexpectedly. Because my dad did not have the healthiest lifestyle, I was expecting a sort of slow decline, but not a fatal heart attack at 63.

I immediately called my brother, and then began a whirlpool of emotions. I ended up flying back to Quebec, which felt strange because I was just there.

The following weeks were very difficult, as I was dealing with the sudden loss. Every time I would go to bed it was like an entire movie of my childhood was running before my eyes, along with a full soundtrack, and there was nothing I could do to stop it!

As time passed, we dealt with all the legalities of his death, but also gradually understood what happened to my dad on a physical and metaphysical level.

He died of a heart attack, but he had also been living a really unhealthy lifestyle, unable to quit smoking, regular drinking and never fully paying attention to his health.

It came as a shock when we discovered that he actually had called 911 that night. I even managed to obtained the recording of the conversation, and it was even more disheartening and gut wrenching to hear the last conversation my dad ever had with someone, in which he was trying to convince the 911 operator to send an ambulance right away.

Unfortunately, that conversation did not end well.

He failed to describe accurately what he was feeling, and the operator was under the wrong impression that his case was not an urgent one. She failed to pick up on the the subtleties and humanity behind the conversation, and acted very much like a computer would act if you would train it to respond to 911 calls.

It wouldn’t actually surprise me that one day they will replay these humans with machines.

“If you experience chest pain, press 1…”

Well my dad was too confused by the lack of oxygen that he made inaccurate statements to the 911 operator, complaining of “hip pain,” sweating and being uncomfortable, when in fact he just couldn’t describe what was going on in his own body.

The operator got stuck on the “hip” part and did not pay attention to the fact that he kept calling her “sir” even though she was a woman, and that he actually did know know what was happening, but knew that it was not good.

She wouldn’t send an ambulance right away, she said it would be 2-3 hours. My dad was shocked and very upset by this. So he just hung up the phone after saying by then it would be too late…

In the end he died alone, hopefully quickly.

This whole ordeal taught me a great deal, and although it’s weird to say, I feel I’ve become a better person because of it.

Maybe there’s someone in your life that you’d like to keep for as long as possible, but you don’t know how to reach them and convince them to change their ways.

I felt like that with my dad, but ultimately I could not convince him to change his habits. He never really thought what he did was too bad. He ate what he wanted and did what he pleased.

We all have men in our lives that just think they are invincible, and perhaps at some unconscious level, my dad thought he was.

Just weeks before his death, he was telling me how “he felt great” and that he “did not feel his own age.”

Unfortunately, everything catches up with us, and our bodies are so amazing at maintaining homeostasis that we often don’t realize what’s actually going on inside of us.

Here’s what I would like to say to all men:

1) Accept Your Mortality, and Its Consequences

For a man to grow up into a fully mature adult, he has to accept his own mortality. Many spiritual teachings and psychology research talk about this “growing up” process for a man when he faces his inevitable demise and has to design a life worth living.

Men of all ages have found it inspiring to die for a just cause. For example:

– To die a hero
– To die after having lived a full-life in accordance to your highest values
– To die for something you believe in

Yet throughout ages, most men don’t die in such an honorable way, but rather as the consequence of their bad habits and lifestyle.

It’s not their fault, and we don’t blame them. Yet, each man must embrace the fact that he can choose in the now how he will live his life.

Temporary pleasures are an illusion, and although they can provide some relief in the now, they don’t lead to a life of fulfillment… to a life worth living until the end.

If you’ve lived a life worth living, when you die, a lot of people are going to grieve your passing for a long time.

Accept your mortality. Accept that you can choose to die for a just cause, but also that in most cases, the greatest honor is to live a long and happy life while caring for your loved ones, as long as you can.

2) Don’t Think Your Invincible

Most men, in some way or another, think they are somewhat invincible. They might have heard some stats, such as the leading cause of death being heart disease.

Most men in fact know many other men, perhaps their parents, who died of heart disease, cancer, or some kind of preventable disease.

Yet the same men don’t think that it’s going to happen to them anytime soon, so that they don’t have to worry about it in the present.

Did you know that one of the first symptoms of heart disease is death? Usually people find out that they have serious heart disease by dying!

That’s what happened to my dad. Although, all the signs were there, for example:

– He smoked, and had never been able to quit

– He had high blood pressure, but believed he was somewhat immune to other problems

– He drank wine regularly

– His diet was relatively poor and he ate what he wanted

My dad certainly believed that he would one day die of something. But I’m certain that he wasn’t planning to go at the age of 63 of a heart attack.

Yet many men, walking today, walk around, abusing their bodies every day, thinking they are invisible and that “judgement day,” when they’ll get to face the consequences of their unhealthy lifestyle, will only affect them in some distant future.

3) Accept That You’re Not As Healthy as You Think

You probably have heard that 90% of people think they are “above average” drivers. This statistic is kind of shocking, considering that in the law of average, most people are average, some people are below average and some people are above average. Yet when it comes to driving, everybody thinks they’re “above average” drivers!

Obviously, the vast majority of people are grossly overestimating their driving skills.

In health, the vast majority of people think they have a “pretty good diet.”

“I eat pretty healthy” they say. Yet everybody has a different definition of healthy!

Most people think if they don’t eat all deep fried food and eat a few vegetables, that it’s a pretty healthy diet.

Research has shown that people underestimate the number of calories they eat in a day. Brian Wansink, who’s a professor at Cornell University, wrote a book called “Mindless Eating.”

In his book, he describes how people always underestimate calories, and are especially wrong when they’re eating something that they think is healthy.

People may think a chicken caesar salad is healthy, when it has more fat than a burger. Or that a meal at Subway is healthy, estimating it has around 300 calories, when it fact it has close to 1300 with all the meat, cheese and mayo.

On average, Wansink found that people eat about twice as much as they think they’re eating, calorie-wise.

Instead of trying to find excuses for your diet and lifestyle habits, and try to only see the positive, start by accepting that you’re probably not as healthy as you could be.

For example:

– If your weight is significantly different than your weight on your last day of college, then you’re probably not as healthy and fit as you think.

– If your blood pressure is significantly different than when you were in your early 20s, then you’re not as healthy as you think

Accepting that you’re not as healthy as you think is a first step towards improving your health. If your health declines and you’re gaining weight over the years, you are NOT living a healthy lifestyle at all.

4) Be Aware of the Consequences

Many men eat burgers and fries when they go out, yet the same men think their diet is “pretty healthy” and that things like heart disease are more caused by genetics than anything else.

Face the facts!

Heart disease is mainly caused by diet and lifestyle. A meal rich in animal products and saturated fats clogs up your arteries and over time, this leads to serious heart problems. That cannot be avoided by hoping for good genetics.

5) Get Healthy Now

Every day you build your future. Your “present” is only the culmination of the actions you took, every day, for the past five or ten years.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

If you want your “present” in 10 years to be without nasty surprises, get started today.

You may think that there’s something more important to do than taking care of yourself, but no. It’s now or never.

Imagine if five years ago, you had done something every day, like:

– Working out your muscles

– Practiced a new skill

– Eliminated some bad habit

– Invested some savings

– Read a book for half an hour a day

Where would you be today? You’d be much better off than you are now!

So where do you want to be five or ten years from now? It all starts with the actions you take today.

Start simple. What is the highest leverage lifestyle change that would make the most difference in your life? Maybe it’s to drop some pounds, or go raw, or exercise, or quit a bad habit. Start there!

There’s even a cool little iPhone app called “Streaks” where you keep track of how many days in a row you manage to keep a positive habit. Keep that streak going! Reward yourself after you’ve done it for 30 days in a row.

Another cool app like this is “Way of Life.”

You’re a man. You’re not a boy.

A boy wants instant gratification, all the time. A man thinks about the future, and works everyday to build it.

Start today.


My dad was not a hero. But he was the greatest dad I thought, as I often told him. He truly was instrumental in helping me become who I am, and I am forever grateful to him for that.

The best I can do in return is to take everything I’ve learned from him, and do something with it. But also take the things that are unique to me, that perhaps he didn’t manage to develop, and make them world-class skills.

Any man can take the best he has and do something with it.

Of course, that applies to women too, but I wanted to say something for those men we all have in our lives.

They impress us. They disappoint us sometimes, they surprise us a lot. But we love them.

Yours for health and success,

Frederic Patenaude

PS: I said I wasn’t going to sell something, and that’s true. However I would like to remind you that I’m holding a webinar next week with Dr. X. You don’t want to miss it. It’s free to join:

Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.