Part II – Paul Huljich
Paul Huljich co-founded Best Corporation, a pioneering organic foods company of which he was chairman and joint-CEO. In leading the company to great success, during which its value grew to more than $100 million. Over time, Huljich developed a number of stress-related conditions. Ultimately, in 1998 he had a complete mental breakdown as a result of years of unchecked stress. He lost his rights as a citizen and was made a ward of the state.
Despite seeking the best care available, Huljich was informed that there was no cure for his illness and that he would inevitably relapse. Determined to free himself of his conditions, he began a comprehensive search for answers. He traveled to the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and voluntarily admitted himself to the Menninger Clinic in Kansas for treatment.
Aided by exhaustive research, Huljich ultimately succeeded in fortifying himself and mastered his stress. He was able to overcome his debilitating condition by using empowering techniques to achieve a healthy, positive way of life, by developing and implementing his nine-step LifeReStyle Process.
Since the year 2000, Huljich has not taken any medication related to his conditions, suffered any relapse nor needed any further treatment regarding any kind of mental illness. He has fully cured himself and has never felt better.
He is back in business and, better and stronger than before. He shares his personal story and his path to recovery and wellness in a holistic way, in Stress Pandemic: The Lifestyle Solution.
Huljich is a Public Speaker, Stress Management and Lifestyle expert, a member of the American Institute of Stress and blogs for Psychology Today.
More at www.StressPandemic.com and www.LifeReStyle.org.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, I’m back! I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food!
Are you comfortable and relaxed, or are you stressed out?! Well, we have some solutions for you to relieve some of that stress because we all have it. And maybe I shouldn’t even say relieve some of that stress. I think what we’re going to learn in the next half hour is how to master that stress and how to make it fit into your lovely lifestyle and make your lifestyle or life restyle, you’ll understand that in a minute, how to make it more enjoyable and more beneficial for you and for everyone around you. Okay, so I’m going to bring on my guest organic foods pioneer, Paul Huljich, developed severe underlying… severe stress-related condition was diagnosed as incurable after he was CEO of a highly successful publicly-listed food company determined to heal himself. Huljich traveled to the world renowned Mayo clinic. After exhaustive research, he succeeded in mastering stress and curing himself by implementing his 9-step overall wellness plan and we’re going to hear about that right now. He’s got a book out called Stress Pandemic The Lifestyle Solution – 9 Natural Steps to Survive, Master Stress, and Live Well. Welcome to It’s All About Food, Paul!
Paul Huljich: Yeah, thank you for the opportunity to be here!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well, I was very excited and happy to meet you at the book expo recently which was a recently wonderful event.
Paul Huljich: Yes, it was.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t usually enjoy being enclosed in one of those conference type exhibit environments with so many human beings, but it actually was a really good one.
Paul Huljich: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Alright, so people love gloom and doom stories with a happy ending, and you have one.
Paul Huljich: Yes, I’m very lucky that even though I was a victim of stress, I’ve now mastered it. So my story has a happy ending.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t want to say that it was lucky. You worked really hard to figure out what you needed to do. There was no luck involved there.
Paul Huljich: Well, thank you. That is so true, thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: I come from… I don’t have the same story, but I was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in 2006. 10-20% survival rate, and people tell me I’m lucky to be here. And it’s not luck. I worked hard. I did similar to what you did. I figured out what I needed to do to solve my problem and get over it. Okay so we want to hear more about you and the stress pandemic. Tell us a little bit about you first and where stress came into play.
Paul Huljich: As a teenager, I bought into the Hollywood dream. That is work hard and be your own boss.
Caryn Hartglass: And this was in New Zealand, the Hollywood dream.
Paul Huljich: Yes, it was. But I used to watch movies and American television shows so I bought into it. The people seemed very happy and more successful. They lived in a safe neighborhood and they could travel the world and I thought – Gee, I want all that too. So sure enough I worked very hard. It was around about the age of 40 that I thought I had the perfect life. As you said, Caryn, I was the Chairman-CEO of a multi-million dollar pioneering organic food company. It was listed on the stock exchange and I’d just built for the people I love most a grand mansion. And of course, I had the Ferrari and the Porsche parked out on the driveway. But, due to stress and making poor lifestyle choices, I lost everything. Most of all, my freedom. I was made a ward of the state, my bank accounts were frozen. My credit cards were taken off me. All contracts were made null and void. All due to stress. And where did it all start? It started with some symptoms of stress. My symptoms were grinding of the teeth.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm… so many people do that today.
Paul Huljich: That’s right. That’s a big warning. And another one was having insomnia.
Caryn Hartglass: And so many people can’t sleep today.
Paul Huljich: And then I had a bit of a dull feeling in my tummy. But because I was conscious of health anyway, I did reach out for help. So of course, I went to the doctor, the psychiatrist, the dentist, and I wore the mouth guard –that’s not too attractive wearing that at night – that’s for sure. But I did everything. But I kept getting worse. I developed anxiety. I developed depression. I went on medication and I went to the top psychiatrist in the country. She was rated in the top 3. So I had all of this help around me. But I kept getting worse. And no matter what I was told to do and I took up meditation and yoga, and I thought I had a good lifestyle. I thought I was eating good food. We’ll come on to that a bit later but what happened was, I was out of control. In the end, I had severe depression, lying in the fetal position in the bed, feeling afraid, unloved and total darkness and from there I became a runaway train, developing mood swings and then I had a debilitating mental breakdown, a terrifying one. And this is when I lost my rights. Now you don’t want to go there.
Caryn Hartglass: No, but so many people have some of those symptoms and they may not ultimately reach what you achieved or I don’t know how to put it but they may not have that climax of depression and totally breaking down but there’s so much that we can do to prevent that. Now, you said that you, at 40, you thought you had the ideal life, but were you happy or did you think you were happy? What was going on in your head?
Paul Huljich: What was going on was I was questioning my happiness, I was actually questioning it. I’d actually speak to a lot of people a lot more successful than me, who’ve got the Picassos in their office and everything else and I used to ask everybody – Are you happy? And they’d say – Ah, yes, of course. I’m taking over this company and I’m doing this and that but the more I looked at it, they were in denial too. I started to realize – what is their lifestyle about, and I started to look at mine. And I started to say – Man, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel contentment. I think it lost it when I was a kid because I’m way unhappy. And why is my happiness fleeting. You get the new buzz on something, it evaporates later.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s almost like an addict. You get a new toy, it’s good for the moment and then you need a big rush.
Paul Huljich: Yes, that’s right. All of us out there, we want the bigger high, we want the bigger promotion, we want the bigger holiday. But where are you, are you really happy? Are your goals and ambitions merging with contentment? The chances are they’re not. My contentment was down on the ground, my goals and ambitions were reaching for the sky. And I paid a huge price. You don’t have to believe in what I’m saying, just think of Elvis. He had everything. He had the world at his feet. He had fame, fortune, power. And same with Karen Carpenter. What were her destructive coping mechanisms? She had a short life too, being anorexic. If you look at Michael Jackson and recently Whitney Houston. All wonderful people, but all of their lives shortened. Why? Due to stress.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve read your book and you had mentioned just sitting at night, having dinner, finishing a bottle of wine or something and I know so many people that do that every day. In France, for example, it’s part of the culture, but a lot of times, it’s the only way that they can unwind and they don’t realize that they’re alcoholics or close to it. And the alcohol isn’t healthy for them and in some places they drink the alcohol, a fine wine, it’s expensive, it feels good, it helps you relax. But then to wake up, they need coffee! Espresso. So it’s up and down and up and down and nobody acknowledges that these are really drugs. So, let’s get to the good part. There is a way to manage stress. We can’t get rid of it. But we can manage and master it.
Paul Huljich: It is so true. There’s always going to be sources of stress but you can take the first step. You can take charge. You can have an awareness that the world is a bit of a bullying place. And then a lot of us have difficulty in being able to say no. The Stress Pandemic Lifestyle Solution helps guide you to take charge and empower you and fortify you against stress and to be able to kick bad habits as you mentioned earlier. Those 4 famous people, they had destructive coping mechanisms and if you think of the Mental Health America survey, 37% of us Americans reach for food to cope with stress. And 27% of us reach for alcohol, drugs, and smoking and the remainder of us are taking up anything from gambling, sex, or even addiction to the internet. So you’re not alone, and as for me, yep, I was into CRAP – caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol, and processed foods. And I thought I was just a social drinker. I thought I haven’t got a drinking problem; I need one or two glasses a day. Well, I wasn’t really being honest. After I’d fallen over and started to analyze and research everything, I realized I was infringing. I wasn’t honest. I was drinking more than a couple of glasses a day, and I was into crap, junk food, comfort food. Even though I was eating good meals in between and at night I was grazing and eating a lot of rubbish.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to believe, I do believe that we all have the power within us to make positive change and the mind is really powerful but more and more it’s becoming more difficult and we’re being more manipulated and corporations are using more sophisticated marketing tools. They’re using psychiatry. They’re trying to figure us out at all different ages – from birth really, they want to get us from birth as consumers to ageing seniors and they use really sophisticated techniques and people really want to believe they have free choice. They really want to believe they’re in charge and to some degree we’re not. We’re highly manipulated, we all want that dream. We want that 30,000 sq ft home.
Paul Huljich: That’s true. And with that destructive coping mechanism, a lot of research that the people you’re talking about realize we get our dopamine hijacked. We get artificial stimulation. Dopamine is one of the important neurochemicals that makes up who you are – that’s your thoughts, feelings, emotions and moods. That’s your reward pleasure center. So when you reach for that candy bar or alcohol or smoking or gambling or sex, whatever it may be, it’s actually giving you an artificial release which makes you more dependent on needing more as time goes on. And that’s what happened to me. I needed more junk food, I needed more crap. I needed more alcohol.
Caryn Hartglass: Now let’s step back a little bit. Do you think you learned any of this from growing up? From your parents or from your culture?
Paul Huljich: Yes, we do. We actually adopt a lifestyle from the moment we are actually conceived in our mum’s womb. Very shortly after, 5 neurochemicals come into play in our lives – serotonin, epinephrine, nor epinephrine, dopamine, endorphins. By the time you come into this world, the stress hormone cortisol is playing a huge part. So if mum was having issues while she was pregnant, or if she was abused or gotten into financial worries, or having a poor diet, it is affecting your behavior right then as a newborn when you come into this world. And we buy into our lifestyles of our parents. If they’re into junk, we are too. If they’re into a healthy lifestyle, the chances are we will also. But as we grow up, we get bullied. We get manipulated, as you said Caryn, with sophisticated advertising. How can we hook these children onto these products? How can they be a lifetime customer?
Caryn Hartglass: It’s terrible. Did you see the movie Silver Linings Playbook?
Paul Huljich: No.
Caryn Hartglass: You should. It’s about a young man and he’s bipolar and he had what seemed to be a nice life. He was married. He was a teacher. The story opens where he’s just coming out from being in some sort of a mental hospital because he had a serious,, almost violent breakdown and the story continues how he meets a young woman who is also bipolar and how they help each other and he has to go to therapy and his doctor is always saying to him – you need to find a strategy – and that’s it. Whether it’s a mental issue or anything in life, if you want to make a change, you need to have a plan, a strategy. And you offer your 9 Natural Steps. So let’s talk a little bit about the 9 Natural Steps and one of the things I like about it is, you put it all in a circle rather than in a list. It’s all in a circle. And what’s nice about that I think is we’re continually saying this more and more but you have to connect the dots. Everything is connected. I’m looking for the circle here, I’m not quite sure where it is but I know it’s in here.
Paul Huljich: It’s right here. Here it is on page 33.
Caryn Hartglass: 33! That’s a good number! So it’s a circle and the thing is that all of these things are connected and you suggest starting with some of these steps if you can’t jump in and do it all at once but each one of these is so important and my focus is always on food of course and food and stress are always related.
Paul Huljich: They are.
Caryn Hartglass: So you could be eating healthfully and eating healthfully will help you to some degree manage your stress and if you have a lot of stress and you’re not managing it well, it’s going to encourage you to not eat healthfully and those things are continually like feedback loop to each other. Which is why it’s good that you put all of these things in a circle because they all interact with each other.
Paul Huljich: They are and actually, think of us having a bit of a weight issue around our tummies like I had a big one. My boys used to say I got a football.
Caryn Hartglass: I can’t imagine, you’re so slim and trim!
Paul Huljich: But when stress was controlling me, 16 years ago, I had a potbelly and cellulite and I wasn’t the best in health and my issue was that – they’re all inter-related and they’re all help you to take back control but there is a relationship between having weight issues and having a destructive coping mechanism and having a mind condition. They’re all interlinked, and understanding that and having awareness of your lifestyle, that’s how you can break the cycle of stress.
Caryn Hartglass: We do have to understand it because those things are all interconnected, that’s what makes it so much harder.
Paul Huljich: Yes, but you can take small practical steps. Like, as you mentioned earlier, nutrition is very powerful. It affects your neuro-chemistry. You could also take up exercise and understand that when you wake up in the morning if you were to have some fresh room temperature water and drink as much as you can up to about a liter and then seize the urban gym. Here I am on the granite rock here in New York City, now being here for 3-1/2 years, I’m always out in the urban gym. No matter what the weather’s like. You’re giving your 7200 nerve endings a huge workout. They are connected to every part of the brain and the body. So you’re taking a brisk aerobic walk which I call central pattern generator – no interruptions, waving your arms up to eye level, briskly walking nonstop. It will empower you. It will de-stress you. You’ll have more energy to be able to take on the challenges of the day, and when you come back, again nutrition. You juice some vegetables like spinach and celery and carrots. All these vegetables, you get the maximum benefits for your neurochemistry – for the brain and the body. And that’s how you fortify yourself. So if you start getting CRAP a kick in the behind and start embracing good mood foods, you’re going to feel a lot better.
Caryn Hartglass: You know the fascinating thing about all of this is that it’s not expensive and it’s accessible to everyone.
Paul Huljich: That’s right. I used to have a trainer.
Caryn Hartglass: You don’t need a big gym membership or a trainer. You just need to get outside and there are some recent studies you may have seen that have been showing that exercising outdoors is more effective than exercising indoors.
Paul Huljich: Well, it’s so true. And that’s why I’m in a one bedroom apartment. I’ve got noise and sirens going. I put myself in that position when I was writing Stress Pandemic. I do my exercise by just moving the lounge little coffee table. I pull out a towel and do it right there. I don’t waste any time. These steps are for you mums and dads who are working two jobs, trying to keep it together and you’re on the go. You can find the time. You will be surprised.
Caryn Hartglass: I believe you. It’s a particularly a problem with parents of young children. I think that’s the most challenging because not only are you trying to manage your own life but you’re managing these small lives that are so impressionable and requiring so much. So that’s probably the biggest challenge where people with time constraints come from but you could even exercise with your children right there.
Paul Huljich: Well you can, and you’re not wasting a lot of traveling time. You’re maximizing the whole benefit. Let’s face it – it all starts with you saying no to stress. And this is all about you. If you care about your loved ones, where will you be, where will they be if you got sick? You can’t afford to. So this is about you taking that control; and when Caryn talked about nutrition, a lot of us are not aware, and I wasn’t aware until I researched everything about stress. But we got a second brain. It’s right there in your gut and your small intestine. That’s where 95% of your serotonin is. Your good mood foods, your good mood feelings which I mentioned earlier, those 5 neurochemicals – that’s where it is. So it all starts with food.
Caryn Hartglass: It is all about food, at least in my world. Now you mentioned your loved ones and I want to ask you about some of your loved ones and I know that this whole process did lead to a divorce between you and your wife. But what happened with your brothers and your children after you were born again. How did they respond to this and have they learned from what you learned?
Paul Huljich: Well, I’m very proud of my 3 sons. They’ve all embraced the lifestyle a lot and they’ve learnt a lot. And of course it was very painful for them and it was painful for my former wife. We’d been married for nearly 24 years. And it was very tough on everyone. And I’m very good friends with her and we’re very blessed to have 3 wonderful boys. And I’m a grandfather. I’ve got 3 grand-children. And as for my brothers, well, I love them enormously. But what caused me to have the nervous breakdown. The stresses of life. It wasn’t so much of being a workaholic. The lifestyle came to due to the stresses of family. And those stresses came from my sister-in-law and my older brother, but she’s like that and that was my Achilles heel. That’s what really took me down. That was pretty tough.
Caryn Hartglass: We can really allow other people to take away our energy, take away what’s important to us. But we allow them to do that and you just have to say no.
Paul Huljich: That’s right. But as I said earlier, I didn’t know how to say no. I was a martyr. I was always pleasing everyone else. And the more I did, I suffered. Because I wasn’t following my innermost feeling. I didn’t know how to say no. And in developing the 9 steps – it’s not all about will power. It’s about you having the awareness and understanding of stress and the stress pandemic and how you’re caught up in it and how you can be guided to breaking that cycle by just adopting one or two practical steps because they actually empower you to take up the other steps. They help you to take charge. Learn to say no, and kick your bad habits.
Caryn Hartglass: Now some people would say, saying no, thinking about yourself is rather selfish. And some of us are often taught that being selfish isn’t very nice.
Paul Huljich: Well I agree with that and as a little boy I was always sharing my lollies till I had none left for myself. But I paid a big price!
Caryn Hartglass: You have to be selfish. You have to love yourself.
Paul Huljich: Yes. I don’t really call it as being selfish. It’s about us setting parameters knowing that we all deal with stress in different ways. Your sister or your brother or your husband or wife – they could all react to stress differently. You might find something stressful when they don’t. It’s about you sticking up for yourself. Hey Charlie – this stresses me out! It doesn’t stress you out but what about my feelings? This is hurting me and if you respect me and love me, don’t you want to see me happy? Don’t you want to see me well? And that’s what it’s about.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, let’s get to the food part because that’s where it’s all about – Food. And I think we’re in line for the most part on food with what you recommend. It’s so important to drink a lot of water and I’m a big proponent of juicing. I know it saved my life. I can’t say enough about juicing although there are some mixed feelings about juicing out there.
Paul Huljich: There’s always door-knockers. There’s always tire-knockers. But the thing is, there’s no way I would have overcame my huge conditions of health. Even if you go on Google, there’s no cure. And I was encouraged by the doctors to write this book because they were amazed, and my family were. So I juiced and my mother juices and I tell you what, before she juiced, she was overweight. She was always sick and everything. And I had to tell her – mum, maybe you don’t love yourself, but I love you, and if anything happens to you, that’s going to affect me. So please mum, fight back. Well, she looks better than all her other friends. She’s 83 and she’s doing so well. She juices every day and she looks amazing. She looks nothing like her age.
Caryn Hartglass: The thing about juicing is it’s the fastest way to get a great amount of nutrition to your brain which for so many people is starving. And it’s the easiest way to start on the path to get off of all those other things. So yay to juicing. Then the other thing is of course, it’s the plants. It’s the plant world that makes all the difference. It makes it so much easier to attain your natural weight and it feeds our brain and the rest of ourselves and our bodies. You do mention the importance of limiting dairy because dairy is at the top of my super bad list of foods.
Paul Huljich: It’s very bad. A lot of listeners out there might not be aware that all the antibiotics, toxins, everything is stored in the animal fat. And what is happening is you are eating it, again and again. And it’s addictive because your body will always crave sugars and fat and you need to have an awareness that you’re getting a dopamine hijack. I was into the cookies. I was into the desserts and desserts spelled backwards is stressed.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I got to remember that! That is so good. Desserts spelled backwards is stressed! Okay so I’m going to remember CRAP and desserts – going to remember what those things stand for. I’m glad you brought that up. I’m a vegan and I don’t encourage eating animals for so many reasons. I personally came to it because I don’t believe in killing and I think there’s so much beauty and intelligence in other species but they have those chemicals in them too like we have and when we put animals through stress, especially in factory farms where they’re in stress their entire lives and then it’s slaughter where it’s just a nightmare and then you eat it! That cannot help your own stress levels.
Paul Huljich: No, and it’s leading to cancer. It’s leading to diabetes. It’s leading to heart attacks and strokes, and serious mind conditions like severe anxiety, severe depression, bipolar disorder, all comes from stress. And the animals that we’re eating. Look, I was into crap and I was eating hot dogs and bacon and everything and I tried to make them healthy, but no matter how much I tried to make them healthy as a manufacturer, I knew they were no good for us. I still ate the nitrites, I still ate the additives, and they’re still animals. So you who are eating animals have an awareness. Don’t eat the fat. Try and cut down. Try and say no.
Caryn Hartglass: Try and say no. I like that. But let’s say yes to taking charge of our lives and even if someone says something is incurable or you can’t fix it, don’t believe them. Maybe you do have something that’s incurable but you can do so much to make your life so much better. And who knows, maybe you can find a cure. You don’t know.
Paul Huljich: That’s right. You should never give up. Think of that child learning to walk. No matter how many times he or she falls over, they pick themselves up again and again.
Caryn Hartglass: What else you have to do with your time anyway right, you may benefit from it! You probably will. Well, Paul thank you so much for joining me on It’s All About Food. You told me you have a bunch of websites, where should we be going?
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you Paul. Let’s all take a big deep breath now. Let out that stress! Thank you so much. I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food and join me on my nonprofit website responsibleeatingandliving.com and remember, have a delicious week!
Transcribed by Jyothi Parimi, July 9, 2013