Well-known nutritionist and health coach, Luke Coutinho‘s childhood was spent in various places abroad with his family of 7 before his father finally decided to settle down in the old town of Goa. His adolescence was about hanging out with friends, seldom attending classes and spending time in nature. Luke shares “The first year in college was fun and I was whiling away my time playing football, hanging out at the beach and availing the free benefits at the Taj hotel where my best friend’s father was the G.M. My father had a vision for all of us and was very particular about having a good education. One day, he had a serious talk with me and enquired what I really wanted to do. I was fascinated by the glamour of five star hotels and dreamt of being a part of the same just like my friend’s dad. I told my father that I wanted to do quit Xavier’s and do hotel management. He agreed and I joined a hotel management college. I hated it but completed my 3 year course nonetheless. However, I fell in love with one subject – food science and nutrition technology”.
Goa – Beaches, rave parties and the drift
Luke shares “I worked part-time on weekends at my cousin’s restaurant in Anjuna and as I hated college, I began working there on weekdays as well! I waited tables, worked in the kitchen, manned the bar and hung out with hippies and locals. I got interested in the rave scene, particularly the role of the DJ. I would sit through the parties with the DJ observing and enjoying the thrill of hundreds of people dancing to the music that the DJ played. One night, the DJ didn’t turn up, and my cousin asked me to play for a couple of hours. I took on the role of the DJ, not just for one day but the entire week, and all of a sudden, I took to this new role with a passion. I learnt more and started to travel with other DJs going to different parties, learning music, and playing different sets. I would DJ at different times of the day and night, attending a bit of college in the day and somehow, pulling through the three years of college”!
Luke worked in the hospitality sector for some time and then moved to a multinational company with postings in Dubai, London and Qatar, before moving back to India and working with IBM for 10 years. Luke shares “I kept studying nutrition on the side, as a hobby. I hung out with friends, travelled and backpacked a lot and just lived a simple life.”
As Luke worked in the corporate sector, he noticed that the top management of companies neglected their health. He says “They had great positions, travelled the world but had poor health. I looked into this gap and realized that all that needed to be changed was their lifestyle. I began to help and consult for free with a few people, and was able to change their health and lives”. Talking about his own health and routine, Luke shares “Around 8 years ago, every Saturday, I would enjoy a Sheehaa with close friends. We did this for a year and one night I decided to go for a run, and to my shock, I couldn’t even run for ten minutes. I was breathless, tired and felt out of shape. I quit that very night and decided to explore the world of health and disease in detail”.
Early days and subsequent rapid growth
Luke continued to work with IBM and completed his studies on the side while also consulting in private. He wrote his first book whilst in IBM, got it published and then realized that he had plenty of clients. He says “I had to make a choice between continuing a stable job with a great salary and position or quitting to start my own business in the health space. I was resisting this change as I was very fearful of what lay in the future. But, I decided to follow my heart, gathered courage and quit my job to be a health coach and nutritionist. That really was and is the best decision of my life. Once we put fear aside which is really just an illusion our mind, we truly open the door to amazing and limitless possibilities”.
Reminiscing his early days, Luke informs “I started my career working out of coffee shops and meeting patients in hospitals across Mumbai, London, Dubai and New York. I love coffee shops though I never drank their coffee and would settle for a green tea and use their space to consult. Many people told me it was not professional and that sick people wouldn’t want to meet me there but they loved it. They loved the idea of discussing health over coffee outside of the hospital environment. I would meet very sick patients either at their homes or in hospital. I got so busy at a point that we had some of Bollywood also come down to meet me in a coffee shop. When we launched the company, we were happy and excited to record a turnover of a million dollars in just 7 months, since then it has just been a gratifying and humbling experience.”
Luke then went on to co-founded GOQII with Vishal Gondal. His list of patients grew by the day and he was loving his life and work as it brought meaning to his heart and soul. Luke goes down the memory lane and says “I just followed my heart, something my dad drilled into my head as we grew up. I didn’t have a business plan or any strategy. I just knew that I wanted to give back health to anyone who came to me. I started off on my own, then I hired a nutritionist. My wife Natashya quit her job to help me manage backend and that was the turning point in my business. The only reports and numbers I understand and am interested in are medical reports and I despise Excel, strategy, math, P&L etc. which Natashya was great at, and in no time we expanded. From one nutritionist and doctor, we grew to 50 plus nutritionists, clinical dieticians, doctors and medical practitioners. In the following year, Karan came into my life and together we opened “Reset“, a holistic health care center”.
On fame and being amongst the most well-known in his field
Luke was recently nominated by GQ for being amongst the topmost influential 50 young Indians under the age of 40 and received the Power Man – 2018 award from the Times group. Talking of his achievements and early fame, he says “I was just flowing with life with wonder and curiosity. I never wanted to be the best, I wanted to be the most effective – that is what’s important to me because if I am effective, it means that I have been able to change the health and life of the person. People call me a celebrity, I don’t like that, I just wanna be Luke and just because a lot of Bollywood comes to me it doesn’t make me a celebrity. I despise that term being used for me”.
Free knowledge sharing
Luke is often asked why he shares so much information on social media for free. He says “I share because my parents taught me the more you give, the more you get and that there is abundance in the world but an attitude of lack. They taught me to believe in providence and just do my work to the best of my ability and not worry about anything else … my vision is to see more people heal and less people fall sick and for that I need to share everything..after all I learnt from the best and they shared their knowledge and experience with me too…it is a cycle and it shouldn’t ever be broken”.
On his programs being expensive
Since they stand for quality and integrity, Luke says he has no regrets about the high charges. He explains “I create free content in detail for people who do not want to spend money on programs or if they can’t afford it. It’s all out there, from cancer to diabetes, to weight loss, to MS to rare syndromes – enough content that people can use. Hundreds of thousands of people across the globe have used my videos to change their lives and health. When it comes to my program, I’m supported by an elite team, and I can point blank say, the highest paid in the country and probably the world. Our clinical dietitians, doctors, nutritionists and coaches earn in a model that makes them wealthier every month. If I grow, everyone in my team grows . I pay them the best there is so that they are motivated . They come with passion and that’s why they are in the team. We select maybe 1 out of 200 people that we interview because we want the best of the best of the best and the most effective. It’s very easy to hire them and pay them a fixed salary month on month and extract as much of work as possible but that doesn’t sit well with me. If someone is handling someone’s health and life, I need them to be there for them all the time, in every possible way, put them first, heal them and for that I need every other aspect of their life to be taken care of. I don’t want them thinking about money and financial issues, I need all that energy to go into our coaching and support to the client/patient. We celebrate every victory and learn from every loss. This comes at a cost and for us, our time is priceless. I am a firm believer that you can get a refund on almost anything you can every buy in life but never on time. Each of us sacrifices our time with our family, loved ones, holidays etc. to put our clients first and that it comes with a price. I don’t feel bad about our costs. People can spend loads of money on new phones, clothes, alcohol , socializing, so when it comes to their health, I see no difference except that it is more important that the former. We are an integrative team and our clients go through dietitians, nutritionists, doctors, coaches – the whole deal and that’s the reason why we are super successful. We have a dream and we chase that dream, the money follows abundantly. Time is priceless and so is experience. On a monthly basis, we sign on several people who are extremely sick and cannot pay. That is a personal decision that we make. For everyone else there is content or a program”.
On integrative medicine and doctors consulting him
Luke believes that it is in the best interest of the patient that all verticals of medicine work in tandem. He says “In our field of integrative medicine, we are not against medicine or allopathy, or medical treatments, if they are needed they are needed. They can save lives and reduce suffering. We work along with them and not against them. In fact, our team has several allopathic doctors on board too. I believe the patient can heal better when they have a set of heads of expertise looking over their case and helping them. Over that last two years we have seen an increase in allopathic doctors, paediatricians, gynecologists and even surgeons, coming to us for help for their personal health. We are truly happy to see this openness and acceptability for what we do. I have complete respect for all forms of medicine and the professionals too, when done the right way and in line with the oath that was taken. We help them work with their lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress levels and the healing is beautiful . Ego and pride are the biggest obstacle and we see this slowly breaking down”.
On drug abuse
Though many people experiment with drugs, Luke says that everybody knows that it can ruin lives. He opines “The problem is never with the drug or alcohol but with the person using it. Whether that person will abuse it, get addicted, sell it, over-consume depends on various factors. We should never use drugs to fill voids in our life or use them as coping mechanisms to feel better when things are not too good for us. We need more awareness, counseling, and more love and care and nurturing from the time we are kids…keeping and choosing the right company is also so very important. Knowing our self-worth is extremely important to keep us on the right part. More awareness needs to be created to encourage drug users to seek help and advice when necessary”.
Dreams and aspirations
Luke wants to create so much awareness that people can actually prevent disease. He feels that most people don’t have to get sick. He says “If they are aware and make lifestyle changes, they can prevent and even heal. I want to create that and share as much as I can. I want people to live simpler yet fulfilling and meaningful healthy lives
I want to support every farmer so that the quality of our food improves. I want to make healthcare as simple as possible and guide people back to their roots. In my personal life, I want to be the best father, partner, sibling and son”.
Luke says that there are different people that he is inspired by, from rapper 2 pac and Notorious BIG, he says he learnt about following one’s passion and not allowing the world to dictate or influence your choices. He says “From Whitney Houston, I learnt to understand my soul, follow my heart and dreams. Of course, my parents influenced and still inspire me a lot. My driving force right now is my beautiful daughter Tyanna. I also learnt a lot through my yoga practice as well and from the super mentors I had in my life”.
Expanding his team as well as Reset is high on Luke’s agenda. He says that due to the massive inflow of sick people, there is a dire need to increase his team size. He also wishes to develop an app that can guide people on cancer and how lifestyle and nutrition can be its most powerful drug. He wants to make this available to everybody free of cost. Luke says “I wish to invest time in relationships and myself, write more books and shoot for a series on health”.
More than food, Luke prescribes yoga, pranayama, deep sleep, sunshine, love, care, family, prayer and movement …and rest and deep breathing. He says ” I believe with all of this, the body has a solid foundation and then we build our nutrition and everything else”…
Images Courtesy: Luke Coutinho