The Top Five Health Mistakes I Made

Monday Apr 13 | BY |
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Mistakes are Proof

I often hear: “I’m confused when it comes to the amount of information available in the alternative health space.”

So many so-called experts have so many different opinions that it’s difficult to see clearly. Their opinions not only contradict the mainstream, but contradict each other as well.

I’ve been on this health journey for almost twenty years now, and I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way.

I thought it would be useful today to share with you the biggest health mistakes I’ve made. Some were caused by my foolishness and lack of experience, some were caused by listening to the wrong people, and some were caused by a lack of information. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes and avoid them.

1. Eating the Wrong Kind of Raw Food Diet

I have a good excuse for this: I was young and impressionable, and there wasn’t much good information available. I became a vegetarian at 18 years old, and then decided to become a raw foodist at 20.

I followed the raw food diet on my own without knowing anybody who’d even considered such a diet. I spent the winter in Quebec eating a diet of raw fruits and vegetables, and then I decided that I needed to go to California to learn more about this lifestyle.

In Southern California, a raw food movement was booming and was led by people like David Wolfe. I got caught up in the excitement of this new movement. I also believed many of the tenets of its leaders.

I believed that the most important thing that I could do for my health was to eat 100% raw without exception, and go through the painful detox. According to this theory, any discomfort or lack of energy that I would feel after adopting a raw food diet was caused by detox.

I was detoxing my cooked food cells and would have to wait a little while to experience the promised paradise health. Unfortunately, the promised results never came and I, more or less, felt like crap the whole time.

Why? Was it because the raw food diet was inherently bad? No. It was because I was doing it incorrectly. I had nobody competent enough to guide me, and the few people that were promoting this lifestyle didn’t really know what they were doing.

It took me a while to get it right, and along the way my health suffered. I had very little energy, and my blood sugar was very unbalanced. I felt very lethargic, and I couldn’t understand why.

The reason was simple: I eliminated all starches from my diet and replaced them with fruit, but I didn’t eat enough fruit to provide for my energy needs, so I compensated by eating a lot of fat in the form of nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils.

The combination of a high-sugar diet with a high-fat diet is a disastrous one. In the presence of a high-fat diet, sugar metabolism is impaired. I had difficulty, at my age, getting enough calories. I was getting most of my calories from fat and the rest from sugar. My body wasn’t able to absorb the fruit sugar properly because of my high-fat diet, and I could consume no other foods to balance things out, like proteins or starches.

Eventually I gave up the raw food diet and went on a long search for truth. I realized that you can’t have a high-sugar and high-fat diet at the same time. If you want a raw food diet to work, you have to give up one or the other.

It’s very difficult to give up fruit sugar because you can’t eat any starch on a raw food diet, and there are just so many avocados and nuts that you can consume. So, the raw food diet that works the best is a high-fruit diet combined with a low-fat diet.

A simpler alternative is to include some starches as part of a more balanced diet that includes a reasonable, but fairly low amount of fat, and as much fruit as you want. Fortunately, I made this mistake when I was still fairly young, and although it took me a while to get it right, I’m glad that I finally did.

2. Ruining My Teeth

I developed a number of cavities on the raw food diet.

This was caused partly by my high sugar, high-fat diet. I was constantly eating in an attempt to get the calories I needed, and I followed outdated dental hygiene advice.

Fortunately, I was able to find a solution to these dental problems, and they never progressed to the point of my needing root canals or other major interventions. However, most of my teeth now have fillings. I know this is going to be a problem for the rest of my life. Why? Because fillings only last for so long. Teeth with fillings are never going to be as strong as natural teeth.

The bacteria from fresh fruits in the mouth can get out of control when you eat as much fruit as is necessary on this kind of diet. That’s why I’ve dedicated a lot of my efforts over the years to advise people in the raw food (and natural health) world to take care of their teeth.

I summarized my findings in the program “How to Heal and Prevent Dental Disasters.” I highly recommend that you check it out.

3. Working Out Too Much, Too Quickly

Most people think they’re in much better shape than they actually are.

Everybody has a different natural fitness ability, and if you go beyond it too quickly, you’ll burn out. This has happened to me a few times.

The worst thing that I did for my body was attempting complex exercises (like dead lifts and squats), too early without proper guidance. I hurt my back on more than one occasion, and now I have to be very careful.

The most common mistake that people make when starting a workout program is that they start out with too much, too early, and they don’t learn proper form. You often see people running 5 or 10 kilometers after being inactive for a while.

Even though the body can adapt to this new demand, that doesn’t mean that it’s recovering properly. What generally happens is that people burn out after a few months of working out, and then give up or wonder what went wrong. You have to start slowly and gradually, and never overestimate your fitness abilities.

For example, never increase your exercise volume by more than 10% a week. Start slowly. Run 2 or 3 kilometers a week, and then increase by a maximum of 10%.

Let’s say you start running for 10 minutes 3 times a week; that’s 30 minutes total. The next week increase by 2 minutes, and the next the week increase by another 2 or 3 minutes. You’ll make slow but consistent progress.

The same goes for a weight training program. Don’t start by lifting heavy weights. Start with body weight exercises. You might do something very simple like 10 pushups a day, increase by 1 or 2 pushups at a time, and over the course of several weeks, you’ll build up your fitness.

Your body will adjust and will have time to recover. Don’t give it everything you’ve got every single time. Yes, it’s important to subject your body to a certain amount of stress and give it the proper recovery time, but you can’t do that at every workout.

 If you haven’t been able to stick with an exercise program, it’s probably because you’ve burned out by trying to do too much at once. 

For more information on how to train properly, I highly recommend that you check out Shelli Stein’s website (She’s also contributed many articles to Renegade Health

4. Sitting Too Much

I make a living building websites and writing. That’s a sitting job, or at least it used to be for me.

Research is showing that sitting is the new smoking. Sitting too much leads to a number of health problems. Your posture and glucose metabolism will suffer, among other things. I didn’t really pay attention to this for a number of years. I just worked when I needed to work, and I thought I could compensate by exercising.

What research has found is that if you sit too much, exercise won’t compensate for it. Your only option is to sit less.

How do you do that if your job requires a lot of sitting? You can get up more often, you can work on the computer while standing up, use a treadmill desk, you can learn to squat, you can spend more time walking and standing. I now do all of this!

5- Giving Up

I rebelled against the raw food diet for the reasons I mentioned earlier. At that time, I was so angry that I’d allowed my health to deteriorate by doing something that I thought was best. I rebelled. I decided “no more raw food diet,” and “no more health principles. I’m just going to eat like everybody else.”

That didn’t work, of course.

Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Why? Because the essence of the health message from raw foods and Natural Hygiene is right.

However, the devil is in the details. It’s often in how we apply the advice that we make big mistakes. Often, we make small mistakes that turn into big mistakes. Over time, I discovered what were the most important aspects of my health philosophy, and I created some principles that I try to follow in regards to my diet and lifestyle. This includes how I exercise and what foods I won’t put in my body, and how to incorporate things like fasting into my lifestyle. I’ll talk more about this in a future article.

What about you? Have you made mistakes along the way? What are your top health mistakes?

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.


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  1. Emily says:

    HI I just began a raw food diet after years of being a vegetarian on the PH Miracle program. (a high fat- few fruits, diet consisting of few grains, and a lot of vegetables ) very limiting and I craved sugar most of the time.
    I would binge on and off and I think it has ruined my digestion.
    So after much frustration I searched for something better and came across your website and with Kristina. Very grateful and very excited!
    My major problem is I have happily been eating all my favorite fruits again for 5 days but I am so am so bloated. So bloated that last night I couldn’t even eat dinner and had to skip my green dinner all together.
    I really want to be able to digest all the amazing fruit I am eating and I love this ‘new’ raw diet!
    How do I get my stomach to get with this new way of eating?
    Please help…

  2. rachel says:

    You are wonderful to share your experiences, thanks. The BEST way to learn is to try new things and learn from your own mistakes and experiences. Mistakes are how we learn.
    I have been a vegetarian/vegan or raw for 27 years. Of course i have learned so much over the years and change what i do and how i do it. It is a learning process for everyone who tries a plant based diet and I am still learning. I am not so preachy anymore as people can tune out if i try to tell them my experiences. I have learned change can be easy or difficult but many people do not want to change their foods and drinks; that is their choice. I also understand that you can be an unhealthy vegetarian or vegan as well as an unhealthy meat eater.
    namaste’, rachel

  3. barbaraL says:

    Ah-men to that. I eat a LOT of fruit for breakfast and lunch and at night have usually raw veggies with hummus, or a big salad with avocado and tons of homegrown greens and fresh herbs.. I also will eat toaster oven baked potatoes really crunchy tossed into a salad with tomatoes, red onions, lots and lots of greens and fresh herbs. My bloodwork seems ok, not as great as Dr. Williams recommends but ok, but I have very brittle nails that break all the time and I worry that something is wrong. I think in Chinese Medicine nails are connected to the liver? Routine answers are calcium and protein deficiencies. It is so hard to design your own program because all the alternative gurus out there contradict each other. Joel Wallach, an out of the box MD, says no way can a vegan be healthy because there are no minerals left in the soil, organic or not and we need to supplement. He has cured just about everything with minerals. I am looking further into that.

  4. b4 i went Raw i used to watch Kevin Gianni & Annmarie Gianni, one day they did the Rawkothon & that’s when I met you Frederic.
    Ever since then I followed you and read most of your books. I follow you & i’m doing great., I didn’t have to go through the mistakes that you had to go through.

  5. Medoh says:

    I so appreciate your honesty, Frederic. You and Kevin both have had quite an adventure with raw food dieting.
    As for myself, I’m retired living in Guatemala for 9 years and now in my late 60s. I am also a survivor more than 5 years now of stage 4 inoperable cancer diagnosed here in 2006. I never went back to the states until after chemo to go ro Hippocrates Health Institute to immediately became a raw foodist. Due to the poor water condition here all drinking/cooking water must be seriously filtered and produce disinfected. For almost 2 years besides eating a lot of salads of cruciferous and other veggies and the lowest glycemic fruits available to not feed cancer cells, I wanted to regain 20 lbs so I ate lots of the same fatty nuts/seeds as you along with fabulous avocados available all year here. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I started cooking completely from scratch for the first time.
    Keep in mind that one of the difficulties in blogging is that you are making your views known to everyone, young and old, living different lifestyles, etc. Your experiences and learnings as young adults in those young bodies can be quite different than for me. Meanwhile, however, I have been a devout follower of the blog since I heard of Renegade Health and the first Healing Cancer Summit. I was immediately hooked, and now even my medical person in the states is the one and only Dr Williams. He reminds me that my body just doesn’t digest like it used to. Still learning . . .
    Blessings, Medoh

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