One of India’s most renowned Holistic Lifestyle Coach in the field of Integrative Medicine, Luke Coutinho dons multiple hats and with great élan. What sets Coutinho apart from everyone in the pool of wellness is his simplistic and back-to-nature approach. With a firm belief that nature has the answer to all our questions, he has been manoeuvring trends and rediscovering the way we look at fitness and diet.
In an exclusive interview with Outlook’s Eshita Bhargava, Luke reveals that a person’s fitness is based upon four pillars of lifestyle – balanced nutrition, quality sleep, emotional detox, and adequate exercise.
Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us something about your entrepreneurial journey. How did you start as a health professional and what was your idea behind the concept of Luke Coutinho Holistic Healing Systems?
My entrepreneurial journey started off with consulting patients and clients all across the country and then the globe. The more I consulted, the more I identified gaps in people’s lifestyles that are affecting their health and wellbeing and how there is chronic illness everywhere which is only being suppressed with pills and medicines for short term relief but pushing the root cause deeper and deeper. That is when I began consulting them, I realised how acidity, lack of hydration, constipation, not sleeping well every night as common amongst every other patient I consulted.
What do you do as a holistic lifestyle coach and integrative and lifestyle medicine expert?
Our core is consulting with people with regard to their lifestyle and health all around the world, along with personalised programmes to handhold them in this journey of making a lifestyle switch. For this, we have experts from the field of clinical nutrition, pregnancy care, kidney care, yoga, allopathy, and homoeopathy – everything built into our ecosystem. When a patient comes to us, we spend time diagnosing their condition and thus designing a suitable programme and integrative team handling the condition.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the world’s focus has moved to wellness and fitness. What are your views on the new normal?
The new normal ideally was supposed to be the way humans should always live. It’s unfortunate that we needed a pandemic of this scale to realise how important health is and without it nothing else matters.
Today people are eating home-cooked food, spending time with family, living on basics and essentials, being wise in expenditure, working towards building a strong immune system, concerned about their health, slowing down, etc. which should have been the case always. A lot of our own clients have lost the stubborn weight during lockdown which they were never able to earlier.
What do you suggest for better mental health and wellbeing?
Deep breathing, a simple breathing exercise, nature therapy, sleep, music, and visualisation is an interesting and inexpensive exercise that can be done daily and at any time to help you handle stressful situations in a better way.
Also, in an age of uncertain work hours and thereby uncertain sleep hours — how does one combat insomnia?
Insomnia is real and there are some people genuinely suffering from it, however, for some of them, the lockdown is just an excuse for not being able to sleep on time. If you were able to sleep properly before the pandemic, but struggle with it now, there is certainly some problem with the lifestyle you are living right now. Yes, uncertain work hours are genuine, but it all comes down to how well you plan and manage your time.
The causes of insomnia can be varied right from the kind of stress you are going through to some unseeingly significant aspects like your environment. Hence, the first step to address insomnia becomes addressing the root causes and factors that prevent you from falling asleep naturally.
Some lifestyle changes:
Start living according to the circadian rhythm, and wake up with the sunrise.
Avoid tea, coffee, alcohol, sugar foods close to bedtime. These are all stimulants.
Add sleep-promoting foods like magnesium-rich foods, tryptophan-rich foods, chamomile tea, and nutmeg.
Calm down your mind and body by practising a few rounds of left nostril breathing.
Dim the lights as the sunsets. Melatonin is a light-sensitive hormone and ideally secreted in response to sunset. However, today we live in a world where we are constantly exposed to artificial bright lights from gadgets and gadgets, which prevents melatonin secretion and thus the process of falling asleep. The way out here is to honour the natural rhythm.
Start weaning off from gadgets and artificial lights – if not from sunset onwards, then at least from 2 hours before sleep. Invest in blue light blocking glasses, dim screen brightness, dim the lights.
Expose yourself to natural light as much as you can, and to artificial light as less as you can. Exposing to sunlight helps reset your circadian rhythm. Even better if you could allow sunlight (rising or setting sun) hit the retina of your eye by starting at the rising or setting sun for just for 2-5 minutes.
Why is losing weight such a struggle for most people?
The biggest reason for this is not understanding what works for your own body. People who are on a journey to lose weight find it a constant struggle to find the right diet, right exercise and lifestyle changes because they are constantly trying what worked for someone else. It is important to understand that everybody is unique and what helped someone else lose weight is not doing to help you.
The day we realise what is our root cause of weight gain – which could be due to poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, emotional stress or lack of sleep and work out a way to address that root cause, is the day we will start seeing results of successful weight loss.
Secondly, it is a lack of self-discipline. Today, you can have the best diet plan in the world and the best nutritionist to guide you, but if you aren’t disciplined enough to keep up to that guidance, everything is a waste. Discipline and consistency are the centres of all success, including successful weight management.
What kind of workouts would you recommend for those who sit and work for long hours?
Workouts don’t need a lot of time anyway, however, if someone finds it difficult to fit in a regimented fitness routine into their day, the simplest way to overcome this is to focus on “movement”. Just move. It could either be standing up in between work, stretching, taking calls while walking or even better, add a couple of squats, lunges, jumping jacks. It takes 3 minutes to do a couple of these exercises every 1 hour.
How do you rate the Indian diet?
The beauty of Indian food is the “synergy” between two or more ingredients. Look at a traditional Indian plate – It has got some rice and lentils which make a complete protein, vegetables, salad for fibre, vitamins and raw enzymes and some pickle on the side which acts as a perfect probiotic and helps in stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes.
Almost every Indian curry has a base of onion, tomato, garlic, turmeric, black pepper, cumin or mustard seeds and a source of fat like ghee or coconut oil. This is an absolutely fantastic anti-inflammatory and immunity-boosting mix for the human body.
Then there is a variety of spices and chutneys using basic kitchen ingredients that can add a whole lot of flavour and nutrition to the meal.
You talk a lot about the importance of rest and sleep. In a world where deadlines dominate schedules, what are some practical ways to ensure we sleep as much as we need to?
The problem is not the deadline, the problem is lack of time management which ultimately leads to doing things that the last hour and unfortunately, sleep bears the brunt. Human beings are the only specie that can sacrifice sleep for everything else – work, travel, socialising.
Sleep is non-negotiable. Our bodies do not care about any deadline we may have to meet. It only cares about survival, and if it isn’t getting the daily dose of rest it needs, it will start compromising.
Every second person is suffering from depression and anxiety. What do you have to say about that? How to overcome it?
Before we begin to find out ways to handle anxiety, it's important to understand that anxiety is NOT a disease. It is our body's survival response. It becomes a disease when it goes out of control and starts to control our behaviour. It's a survival response to help us handle the stress and do something about it.
The three simples, free and yet most powerful ways to go about handling your stress and breaking its loop:
Identify your stressors and problems that cause anxiety. Write it down.
Reflect on what if you didn't have this problem. How would you feel?
Identify that feeling and try to feel exactly that way even though the problems still exist. Fake it till you make it because it's because of the absence of these feelings, you feel stressed. One needs to break that loop of anxiety by tricking your body and mind. Always remember, you can change the way you feel, by changing the way you think. You only need to put in a conscious effort to change your thoughts.
Any five things one should include in their lifestyle?
Chew slowly, daily pranayama, early dinner, eat local, stick to the staple foods, and gratitude – There is always something to be grateful for, no matter what is going on in your life. We drain our energy and focus on negativity and things don’t serve us way too much.