As we kick off the new year, the holistic health expert shares a treasure trove of advice on habits, health trends and the power of small changes.
January is the month of resolutions—that time of year when everyone makes big promises for a healthier lifestyle. From experience, and backed by research, we know they often last barely a month. How do you bring about lasting change in your lifestyle? According to Luke Coutinho, it’s all about ‘baby steps’ or making small adjustments. Don’t be overly strict; enjoy that piece of chocolate cake today guilt-free. The key is getting back on track with discipline afterward.
As the new year begins, the holistic health expert and bestselling author reflects on health trends past and present, and shares advice on how to become a better you in 2024.
In Conversation With Wellness Whisperer Luke Coutinho
HELLO!: You’re a big believer in ‘Small Wins Every Day’. Can you recommend three easy-to-implement changes that can constitute as wins for people?
Luke Coutinho: Three easy steps for anyone to implement are: first, utilise time wisely by asking, how can I incorporate an additional 10 minutes of exercise, or if I’m not exercising, how can I start with just 10 minutes? Second, ask how I can get one meal out of two or three right. That’s a small win. Third, consider how to add 30 minutes to your sleep — can you get to bed earlier, or can you wake up half an hour later? It’s these small wins, consistently achieved over a few days, that will propel you to the next step.
H!: How can one successfully turn resolutions into lasting habits?
LC: There’s only one way—repetition, repetition, repetition; practice, practice, practice. That’s how the subconscious mind works. It’s like brushing your teeth — can we encourage you to stop brushing your teeth? The answer is no. Why? Because it’s ingrained in your subconscious mind. How did it get there? Repetition, repetition, repetition. That’s how it works. You repeat any lifestyle change, do it consistently, and soon it becomes a habit. It just becomes a part of your life, and you won’t need to push yourself; it happens on its own.
H!: How does one find motivation to initiate a change?
LC: I’m not a fan of the word ‘motivation.’ It’s for people who haven’t yet decided they want to achieve something. I like to use the word ‘inspiration.’ How can I inspire myself to greatness, to better health, to change? Firstly, by assigning value to my goals. For instance, when I see value in my health, it becomes inherently significant to me. In this context, I don’t require motivation; I am naturally inspired to take care of myself. The same applies to relationships — I’m not motivated to be a good person in my relationships; I’m inspired to be.
When something holds value for me, I find inspiration in caring for it, eliminating the need for external motivation. So, it’s inspiration and attributing significance that are catalysts for bringing about change.
H!: 2023 marked a significant year for Ozempic, and the fascination with weight loss drugs is anticipated to keep growing. What are your thoughts on this trend?
LC: It’s an extremely dangerous trend. There’s a very small segment of the population facing metabolic challenges that may need drugs like Ozempic for their well-being, but for everyone else, there is no shortcut to weight loss. You have to put in the work, make the sacrifice. What everyone needs to understand about Ozempic-type drugs is that you can’t keep taking them; once you stop, your weight is going to come back on. So the key question is: how are you shaping your lifestyle, metabolism and behaviours to either prevent weight regain or achieve initial weight loss? No shortcuts ever work. Look at the historical cycle, from fad diets to pills like African mango or green tea fat burners — if they worked then there wouldn’t be the need for new drugs. The cycle reveals that there are no shortcuts for the intelligent human body.
H!: One of the biggest forecasted health goals for next year is ‘happiness’. How do you suggest we work towards that? You should never really work towards a goal called happiness; rather, the objective should be fulfillment. Happiness can be found in drugs, alcohol, which isn’t the right path — does it truly fulfill you?
LC: When it comes to fulfillment, many set happiness as a goal. They say, ‘When I lose weight, I’ll be happy,’ or ‘When I make a million dollars, I’ll be happy,’ attaching conditions. However, fulfillment is about learning to be happy with what you already have. Happiness is a fleeting state of mind that can shift to sadness in an instant. On the other hand, fulfillment is enduring; even in moments of sadness, we can look around, remind ourselves of what we have, feel cared for, and find a sense of belonging. From fulfillment emerges a lasting happiness, even amid sadness or other negative emotions.
H!: Lastly, does Luke Coutinho have cheat days, and if yes, what do you indulge in?
LC: I don’t believe in cheat days; where there’s cheating, there’s always guilt. I believe in reward days, and those can happen any day. Today, if I want tiramisu, I’ll have it. My body can handle it, and I’ll get back on track once it’s over. So, no cheat days for me, only reward days and my reward day is whenever I feel like rewarding myself. If my soul or inner voice craves something, I’ll indulge it, nourish it right then, but I’ll always get back on track with consistency and discipline.
This interview has been adapted for the web from HELLO! India’s January 2024 issue. Grab your copies right here.