40 Things I Learned At 40

Monday Mar 14 | BY |
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Fred at 21 in the "Early Days" with David Wolfe and Stephen Arlin

Fred at 21 in the “Early Days” with David Wolfe and Stephen Arlin

Guys, my 40th birthday is approaching (this weekend)! No big deal you will say. In my life, it’s no big deal. But in the context of my work, it feels like an interesting milestone. I started out publishing about raw foods and health at such a young age that for a long time, I was always “the youngest guy in the room.” David Wolfe first took me under his wing when he was starting out his own business, and together we published the magazine Just Eat an Apple and my book The Sunfood Cuisine. I was just 21.

Some people have been following me since those early days, and to you I raise my cup of green juice and say “Thank you!” We’ve been through a lot together! Thanks to anyone who’s supported me at any point over the last 20 years, through the high and low points of my career. Onto the next 20 years!

Fred at (almost) 40. But I still play guitar...

Fred at (almost) 40. But I still play guitar…

I thought I would share a few thoughts I’ve been gathering over the years. Those are some of the “life lessons” that I’ve learned, including a few health lessons. Enjoy! (In no particular order)

  • 1- Stay young, stay smart, stay on the cutting edge. It’s okay to be ahead of your time. If you live long enough, you’ll see the world catching up with you! I’ve been using a treadmill desk for many years, and they are now becoming trendy! I was practicing intermittent fasting, plant based nutrition, and drinking green smoothies long before the masses rushed to give them a try.  I will probably continue doing those things as some of them go out of fashion and new ideas — good or bad — take their place. Stay young and stay smart by feeding your mind (selectively) the best information possible.
  • 2- Health is not that complicated. Eat whole plant foods, make a lot of it raw, listen to your body, work with good health experts, get plenty of sleep, find ways to destress, and find an activity that you love whose side-effect is that you get some good exercise and sunshine. But to master these simple ideas, it might take you many years!
  • 3- “There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.” I keep that in mind whenever I feel my day is too busy. I also keep in mind the quadrant from the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” Don’t just focus on urgent stuff. Focus on important stuff that’s not urgent!
  • 4- Life is always better when you can learn to delay gratification. Don’t act immediately. Let things sit. Plan your response. Don’t let emotions overtake you. Have a cooling down period before you make a big decision. Take a week, if needed, to respond to a difficult email. This contradicts my “answer emails every day” for a good reason.
  • 5- Great insights and ideas can come in the most unlikely places or people. Anyone can be a great teacher. It’s great to go to experts for “answers,” but many of them are clueless about your particular situation. Answers and insights can come from discussions with a random stranger, your mail person, a meditation session, a walk in the woods, listening to a song or reading the biography of a person you admire.
  • 6- Send thank you notes. 
  • 7- Keep your place clean as if you’re expecting a guest at any hour of the day. You never know who will show up.
  • 8- Focus on the process, not the outcome. Being “goal-oriented” can lead to procrastination and frustration. Focus on the essential steps that you need to take on a regular basis to get to where you want to be, but do the best you can to let of the “ultimate” outcome.
  • 9- Fasting for 24 to 36 hours is the most effective way to restore good mood and eliminate the blues, feeling off or digestive problems. It’s the closest thing to a magic bullet that I’ve found!
  • 10- The scientifically-proven way to live longer and ward off disease is to eat a diet composed of at least 90% of whole, plant foods, without added oil, salt, and sugar. The closer you can get to this ideal, the better.
  • 11- I wish I had started meditating sooner. Meditation works.
  • 12- Always eat something healthy first. Before you think of cheating, before eating out, and if you’re upset or angry: everything gets better when we have healthy foods in your stomach. Never argue on an empty stomach!
  • 13- When making changes that can lead to positive long-term results, it takes at least six weeks. It may even take months. Don’t expect quick results, or you’ll be disappointed. The pop-psychology concept that “it takes 21 days to implement a positive habit” is bogus. It may take 21 weeks!
  • 14- Always bring a ton of healthy snacks when traveling. You don’t want to get caught hungry and end up buying airport food!
  • 15- Two nights is the perfect amount of time to stay over at a friend’s place. There’s a German saying that goes like this: “guests are like fish, after three days, they start to stink!”
  • 16- When traveling for long periods of time, every pound of luggage over 20 will make your life worse. It’s always a good idea to travel lightly.
  • 17- Always max out the memory on a computer.
  • 18- Old friends and family members are rarely good people to ask for life advice. They’ve known you your whole life and tend to view you through a particular lens. It’s difficult for them to accept that you’ve changed, and what used to be good for you in the past might prevent you from being happy in the future.
  • 19- Answer all of your emails every week day, or, at least, process them.
  • 20- Sometimes, you need to stop searching and you’ll find what you’re looking for.
  • 21- From time to time, step outside of your comfort zone. Tenor Plácido Domingo says, “If you rest, you rust.” I prefer to think of the importance of challenging myself on a regular basis as to not let the rust set in!
  • 22- Never risk something important for something unimportant. It sounds stupid but it’s such a common mistake!
  • 23- Eat daily: greens (raw or cooked), ground flax seeds, cruciferous vegetables, berries, fruit, and other vegetables. Add as you need: beans, whole grains, spices, and nuts. (Thank you Dr. Michael Greger!)
  • 24- Starting something doesn’t always justifies finishing it. Beware of the “sunk cost fallacy” principle! Once you’ve paid the price for something, you can’t go back and get your money (or time) back. If the movie you started watching is terrible, you’re allowed to leave before the end. This principle might apply to bigger things as well. As a secondary principle, I will add that in some situations,  it’s okay to change your mind! 
  • 25- If you feel anxiety, you need a new skill. If you’re bored, you need a challenge. 
  • 26- In relationships or business, negotiate the terms you want right from the start. In most cases, you won’t be able to go back on them. Relationships are not like business, but we also have to be honest about what we want and set the right expectations from the start.
  • 27- It’s the time you spend with people in person that truly matters. Make quality in-person time for the important people in your life! (Skype, phone, text and email are secondary).
  • 28- Once you’ve made an important decision, don’t look back. Understand that you took what you believed to be the right action at the moment and trust your instincts. You chose that route for a reason. Don’t beat yourself up about what could have happened if you’d gone the other way.
  • 29- Don’t hire young personal trainers at gyms. Often they have no experience and have not learned how to work with someone based on their strengths and weaknesses. Always work with a trainer over the age of 30.
  • 30- It takes courage to realize that certain things just don’t work for you and let them go! News headlines will claim that coffee is great for health… but it makes you feel a bit crazy and gives you heartburn. Accept the fact that it doesn’t work for you and let it go. A 100% raw food diet may work wonderfully for many, but not for all. Learn to accept your unique differences and live in a way that’s optimal for you.
  • 31- Not everything can be analyzed and understood.
  • 32- Don’t try to change anyone or assume that others will act in a way that’s any different than how they’ve acted in the past. A friend is always late. Why get upset? That’s who they are! You can’t control other people’s natures but you can control how you deal with them.
  • 33- Half of our troubles are caused by saying “yes” too quickly and not saying “no” soon enough. Warren Buffet said the secret to success was to say NO to opportunities until they are right.
  • 34- There’s truth to be found in art, music, and poetry. It’s not all about inspiring speeches and self-improvement books! The philosophers and artists of the past and present have a great deal to offer when it comes to finding meaning in this life.
  • 35- Make health a priority 100% of the time. It doesn’t work to make it a priority only 70% of the time. That means making some tough choices and sacrifices sometimes.
  • 36- When you have a cold, water fasting is very useful. Take the time you need to heal. You’ll never rush healing by eating anything or forcing your body to do more. “Feed a cold, starve a fever” is bad advice. Starving both works!
  • 37- After the age of 18, there’s no reason ever to carry a backpack full of heavy books and stuff. Unless you want to mess up your back.
  • 38- Don’t compare yourself to others. You’ll never win at this game. Instead, ask yourself “where am I doing a mediocre job in my life?” and work on yourself with realistic goals. Your self-esteem will go through the roof when you do this.
  • 39- Don’t train too hard. Keep your heart rate in a zone. It never pays off to push yourself beyond your limits on a regular basis. Proper recovery is needed to make any fitness progress. Overtraining is a common mistake. Also: If you want to exercise when it’s hot out, only do 20 minutes of running or 30% less than usual.
  • 40- Call your mom.
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. robert says:

    there are great lessons. wonderful. Robert

  2. Dianne says:

    Many thanks for your wise insights!
    Happy upcoming birthday!

  3. Matt Jager says:

    Great combo of insightful, fun and just plain practical. Like maxing out memory on the computer!

    Thanks Frederic, happy birthday!

  4. Well said, Thanks – Have a Happy Birthday

  5. jak says:

    Thanks for the refreshing insights. All great…but my favorite for the time is #22.

    Best wishes and stay healthy.

  6. Jacek says:

    I’m 68. Didn’t start getting my nutrition act together until I was almost your age. I’m hanging in there pretty good. You have a nice head start on life. Keep pursuing good health. If you take 8-9 steps forward, and 1-2 back, you’ll do real well. So just keep up your quest for what’s right in the way of good health and you’ll end up alright. Don’t ever give up on your music, too. It’s health food for the spirit.

    Happy Birthday Frederic!

  7. Gail says:

    Love, love, love this article, very inspirational and so true, thanks for sharing your “words of wisdom”

  8. christa says:

    I wonder what you will say when you are 60!?
    Thanks for your insights and A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY! FREDERIC!
    Love YOU!

  9. Ariel says:

    Great article Fred, thank you.
    Happy birthday!! 🙂

  10. Patrick says:

    Lovely list bro.

    Call your mom…


  11. AFAM says:

    It has been a wonderful relationship with you FREDERIC. I wish you all the best. Happy birthday

  12. Gila says:

    Wow that’s an awesome list! Thank you. for these precious health tips. Happy Birthday!

  13. Tony says:

    Great insights, thank you Frederic and have a very Happy Birthday!

  14. Judy says:

    Well done. IMHO, you will live a long and happy life. Nice smile, too.

  15. Jane says:

    Thanks for the tips! I’m sending the list to my daughter! Wish you a happy, healthy Birthday with lots of fun! Celebrate the Yourh! ???

  16. Jane says:

    My iPhone ballon & cakes show up as “???” in your web! Sorry!

  17. Liv says:

    What a lovely way to honour your 40 years upon the earth and thank you for spending the time to compile this and for sharing it with us all. (I wish I’d done the same for my 40 but I’ll save it for 50 now!)
    I like number 34. It’s my favorite! – too often these important things are forgotton. Trying to think of music without the influence of Bach……………..
    Happy birthday in advance – I’m saying it now so as not to forget at the weekend and will ignore French superstition of not giving wishes before the day as it is just that – superstition!

    • Thank You Liv! If you love Bach, I think this is the most gut-wrenching, melancholia-inducing, ethereally beautiful aria he ever wrote!(from St-Matthew’s Passion) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvqarcasbW4

      • Liv says:

        Love it! St. Matthew passion is one of my favorite works by Bach – played it, sung it, studied it, played it again, you get the picture! Will revisit it again this week just for listening pleasure and sort of inspired to start a Bach practice streak – I always think if you start with Bach you can’t go wrong. Thanks for the link – nice recording. Liv

  18. Mrs. T says:

    Thank you for these. And have a very happy birthday!

  19. Gail says:

    Thanks, these were fun, and very wise. Keep up the good work! And keep having fun while you are doing it!!! Happy Birthday.

  20. Kell says:

    #32 is especially wise.

  21. Banshan says:

    Thank you Frederic,

    It is obvious that you spent a lot of time to share this gift to the world. It is also obvious that you are wiser than the average 40, 50, 60 year old in many things (Wisdom is my specialty in life, not that I have a superabundant amount).

    There is a huge gaping hole in that you, like just about everyone else in the modern world, has been programmed with scientific-materialist dogma. The scientists are the priests of this religion — but they have been at it for only the last century at most. It does not mean that they have nothing to contribute but it is based on a set of assumptions that are not what I would call scientific (looking at all the data).

    If you look at various wisdom cultures, the Chinese have the most developed and integrated system that is relatively intact (the Indians may have equaled or surpassed this but English colonialism destroyed this almost completely). I totally agree with your statement on working daily for health. But only 10% of our health is physical in basis — the other 90% is a function of qi, mind (heart, which is foreign in the west), and spirit. I am going to trust the Indian and Chinese, and Tibetan wisdom doctors who have thousands of years of data over some guy who spent a few years to get his Ph.D. on the basis of MAYBE 100 years of data. Modern science falls into the category of fad.

    The problem is that your living depends on catering to people of your level of awareness or below — it can not be any other way — this is not a criticism. If you come up with a significantly better formulation that does not jive with modern religion (materialism), you are out of business. Think about this.

    Thank you again
    and be well,

  22. Chris says:

    Happy upcoming birthday to you Fred! In 20 years you will be middle-aged! You have contributed more already to humanity than most people do in ten lifetimes.

    Great list esp #34. The part of #30 about raw not working wonderfully for everyone however is not really true in my experience with everyone I met in my life. Sure, it may not appeal to every person or they may not desire it or have the knowledge for same, nor have what it takes to see it through long enough, or on an emotional level, but a properly nutritionbally executed 100% raw food intake for complete healing and top physical performance is truly nature’s first law. It works 100% when they are committed 100%. Since most people are not committed to more than the run-of-the-mill in life, we see what Socrates meant when he said, “If you want to be wrong then follow the masses”.

  23. Penny says:

    This is a great list. Good job, and Happy Birthday!

  24. Linda says:

    I want to shout some of these things out to the world! Fantastic list, very inspiring, as you are. I have learned a lot from you and now a little more. Love the #40, better still if you can, give your mum a hug and tell her you love her and are grateful for all she has ever done, mum’s always love to hear that their sacrifices and hard work has paid off. Forget the fancy presents on Mother’s day too, cook her lunch or dinner and do the dishes afterwards, take her for a walk somewhere beautiful.

    Happy Birthday, you don’t look a day over 30. Wish I was 40 again, and had the knowledge you have.

  25. ilse says:

    Hi Fred, it’s been 7 years now since I follow you…don’t stop! happy B-day 😀 Ilse from Belgium xxx

  26. StevenQUrkel says:

    This was a great article! Very solid info here, thank you!

  27. Emily says:

    So many good points! Thank you for taking the time to compile and offer your wisdom at such a young age. Number 27 is the one that lurched out at me. Sometimes we just don’t commune directly with people that mean a lot to us! Time to change that! Happy, happy birthday…

  28. Cynthia says:

    Dear Frederic,
    Happy Birthday! I’ve learned a lot of good stuff from you over the last 11 years of my 65. Looking forward to the next 40…

  29. Nadia Harper says:

    What a great post! I love all of these things that you have shared and learned along the way.


    Warm wishes for the days and years ahead and I hope you always enjoy the journey!

  30. NuNativs says:

    That thumbnail brought back memories of seeing you guys back in your “yut”, (mine also).

    Please do a tell all book about D Wolfe in the next few years 😉

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