Luke Coutinho tells City Times about the importance of integrative health.
Noticing how higher designations in the corporate world were more prone to sickness, obesity and other lifestyle diseases was an epiphany for Luke Coutinho, a Holistic Lifestyle Coach whose simple mantra of listening to his body and cultivating mindfulness helped transform his lifestyle.
“Fitness was just a tick in the box – one yoga class with a trainer, annual checkups, sessions with gym trainers, etc. There was no focus on lifestyle,” Luke recalls in a conversation with City Times. “When I observed this, it just didn’t make sense to me. I identified this huge gap and worked in this area to fill that gap. That is how I moved into lifestyle medicine.”
Many years and success stories later, Luke is now a globally renowned and award-winning Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Holistic Nutritionist practising across India and overseas. His endeavours in food and lifestyle also earned him the ‘Best in the Industry – Nutritionist’ tag by Vogue in 2018, along with many other accolades.
We speak to Luke to find out about his journey and the importance of reclaiming our health in an integrative way.
Why, according to you, is there a need to reclaim our health in an integrative way?
We believe that lifestyle disease, chronic disease, and suffering need not be dependent on allopathy alone, and it can be reduced and made better by changing lifestyles, respecting bio-individuality, and addressing root causes. And, this is what integrative medicine also teaches and believes in too.
While allopathy can save lives and is needed when needed, it is equally important, if not more important, to invest in prevention and treat the human body and mind with healthy lifestyle changes that holistically support health and wellness.
We believe that people can get better when we integrate the best of all that is required to bring about recovery and a reduction in suffering, which could be, for example, allopathy, nutrition, movement, quality sleep, emotional wellness, other forms of alternative medicine if it causes no harm and suits the patient, including the environment because recovery is dependent on that too.
This is why we do what we do. Integrating the best of the best, keeping the patient at the centre and recovery or even an improvement in their health is our only goal.
Why is an unhealthy lifestyle becoming so common in today’s world?
Instant gratification. We live in a world where everyone needs everything instantaneously and conveniently – whether it’s food, gratification, comfort, or success. It is the curse of society. It teaches us that we can gain something for nothing. And while it is a natural human desire to avoid pain and seek pleasure, it’s a problem when it starts controlling and dictating us. And this has plagued almost everyone.
We need to learn how to relax and practice patience. We need to ground ourselves so we do not become victims of instant gratification and start taking decisions keeping the larger picture in mind.
Today, we can be really busy and have fast food take care of that by saving time and effort involved in cooking food, but what are we getting out of it in the long term? Think and reflect. We all know the answers.
How do you simply enable, fix, and guide the human body that “repairs itself?”
You can knead the best dough, but if the environment of the oven is poor, damp, or has the wrong temperature, then the bread will not bake or rise. Similarly, you can have the best medicine and conventional treatments, diets, exercise programs, excellent sleep, solid emotional health, fancy organic superfoods but what is important to make all of the above work is the environment, both external and internal.
The external environment is the one that surrounds the person, which includes air, pollution, sunlight, weather, and so on. Then, there is the internal environment of the body. What if it is too acidic? What if it is too alkaline? What if it has low vitality and energy? What if the immune system is weak? What if cognitive health is poor? What if there is a poor digestive capacity and an incomplete microbiome?
Imagine giving a person the best of all medicines and lifestyle changes, but putting them in an environment that is toxic, unhealthy, dirty, non-supportive, lonely, and damp. The person will not heal, but instead, they will only get worse.
The human body is designed to repair and heal itself. It only needs the right kind of inner and outer environment for the body’s intelligence to kick in. And, this is what we work on. Aligning the inner and outer environment and making it conducive to healing.
As a holistic lifestyle coach, how do you deal with a client?
My team and I like to spend a lot of time understanding the patient as a whole and breaking down their condition to its roots and finding possible associations between their lifestyle and the disease.
This also includes taking a note of their case history, medical reports, lifestyle, emotions, including the deep-rooted ones, their perspectives, childhood, genetic predisposition, ethnicity, region, and every single aspect that affects their life and health.
This is why our first interaction or consultation with them is crucial as it forms the foundation of the strategy, we create for them that revolves around 4 pillars – nutrition, exercise, sleep, and emotional wellbeing.
Based on the client’s case, and post this assessment, we choose the right members from our integrative team who work together with the patient. For example: if the case has its roots deep into emotions and a difficult childhood, then just working with a nutritionist and following nutritional plans will not help. We need to also loop in an emotional counsellor or life coaching. Similarly, if it’s a diabetic condition, then along with nutrition, we also involve doctors and yoga experts, so all of them can work together in synchrony with the client to improve their health.
How has the pandemic affected your coaching?
The most significant one is that I miss the physical contact with my patients. In the line of integrative and lifestyle medicine, I like to see my patients and closely observe physical aspects that signify health like – skin and hair quality, the warmth of their skin, body language, where their body has accumulated fat the most, eyes, oral health, and so on.
While all of it can still be observed online, but it’s more powerful when done in person. I am also a huge believer in energies, and a physical presence of a doctor or nutritionist allows an exchange of energies that can benefit a patient.
Besides that, it has not affected us much. It has helped us expand our reach and presence and enabled people to use technology to look after their health.
What has been your toughest challenge so far?
The toughest challenge has been changing the wrong attitude of people and working with them on this so they can recover. Sometimes it only takes correcting that to improve health.
The ego, pride and wrong attitudes can be so strong that it comes in the way of their healing and becomes an obstacle.
What is the mantra to lead a healthy life?
The mantra is to keep it simple, always. The body is unique and so every day is different and so are its needs. Today your body might need more carbs and tomorrow maybe less, so one needs to find out what works for them.
Listening to your body and cultivating mindfulness is my biggest mantra. If you are mindful, you know what your body exactly needs, and that makes living a healthy life easier.