Voices of IIN is our newest content series, where we’ll talk with IIN students, graduates, and staff members who make up our diverse, vibrant, and passionate community ‒ from all over the world! IIN’s commitment to improving health and happiness is what brings us all together, and we aim to celebrate this commitment by sharing the unique stories and backgrounds of IIN change makers. Through this series, we hope to continue working toward creating a more inclusive wellness community, where all feel welcome to create a healthier life.
Gouri Krishna is from Trivandrum, India. She pursued a triple major in nutrition and dietetics, chemistry, and human development at Mount Carmel College, Bangalore. She now runs her own functional health organization based in Trivandrum. She also has an active presence on social media, where she spreads awareness about health and well-being.
To learn more, check out her website and her Instagram page.
Your family prioritized health and wellness while you were growing up. What did this look like for you?
In the early 2000s, my parents, who were in their mid-30s then, were rapidly losing their health. They gained a lot of weight – we were eating unhealthy food at home and had absolutely no exercise routine. It seemed pretty normal, too, because all their friends, coworkers, and peers were following the same unhealthy lifestyle.
Then they became interested in taking nutritional supplements, and that set off a chain reaction. They started reading about healthy living, and suddenly, they were working out every day. Every morning, I would wake up to them jogging to peppy music. They got a set of dumbbells and resistance tubes; they started participating in local marathons. They did a complete overhaul of our kitchen as well. Junk food was pretty much banned inside the house. We also set up a small vegetable garden on our terrace.
Image via Gouri Krishna
For my brother and me, this meant we had to give up our favorite snacks, soft drinks, and fast food. We were forbidden to eat out often. We hated every minute of it then. But looking back, we’re grateful it turned out this way.
Image via Gouri Krishna
Image via Gouri Krishna
Your father actually enrolled in the Health Coach Training Program before you did. What inspired him to enroll?
My grandmother is a doctor, hence my father grew up wishing to be one as well. Interestingly, he ended up being a veterinary surgeon. After working in the government sector for many years, he quit his job and started looking for courses in nutrition and wellness.
He stumbled across the IIN website online and immediately decided to sign up. I believe what really persuaded him to do so was that the Health Coach Training Program seemed like the complete package. The program curriculum seemed top notch, thanks to the faculty and philosophy of the institution, and it offered a whole new career shift. It taught him how to set up a practice and build a business.
The concept of IIN was so compelling that even though it was the first time we’d come across the term Health Coach, we had no second thoughts. As he did his program, we were inspired by how diverse the faculty was and how bravely they pursued the science of health.
Why did you ultimately decide to come to IIN?
Since I come from a family of medical professionals, there was a lot of pressure on me to follow in their footsteps. I thought of pursuing an MBBS degree (equivalent to an MD in the United States), but it is extremely competitive in India. Even getting into a decent college is a herculean task.
So, I enrolled for a course in naturopathic medicine. In a few months, I realized that I wasn’t cut out for it. I felt that there was a lack of “integration,” a lack of understanding, and most important, a lack of “individuality.” I dropped out of the course soon after and joined Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, where I did my triple major undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics, chemistry, and human development.
My college degree helped me immensely in setting a solid foundation for my studies in food and nutrition. However, once I came back home and started working in my father’s clinic, Harmony Wellness Concepts, I realized that the science I’d learned was very outdated. I was trained in the traditional nutritional model, which often put calories and standardized dietary plans at the center, completely forgetting the patient, who’s in the middle of it all. I couldn’t keep up.
In college, I was taught to write down diet charts on a piece of paper after a quick chat with the patient, while my father’s clinic spent hours on each individual, studying their health history carefully. I needed an upgrade, and I had no doubt IIN was the place to come to.
Perspectives on Nutrition and Health Coaching
How are you using your IIN education?
My father set up Harmony Wellness Concepts in a small rented room in 2012, and it has now grown into a clinic with more than 10 health professionals ‒ including doctors, fitness trainers, and psychotherapists. At the core of it all is the philosophy we learned from IIN. I work as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and nutritionist at the clinic.
We deal with a wide variety of cases here, including diabetes, obesity, hormonal disorders, autoimmune disorders, and other lifestyle diseases. We know that to make lasting and sustainable changes in a person’s life, we need to educate them about themselves, the multitude of factors that control their health, and the world around them. This is what we do at Harmony – we educate people, and we encourage them to educate others.
IIN also gave me the confidence and courage to start my own YouTube channel, where I talk about health and well-being.
Image via Gouri Krishna
What about your IIN education inspired you most?
I think the concept of looking at the individual as a whole and putting them at the center of the healthcare system is what inspires me most. This is where the concept of primary food comes in. For many of my clients, just introducing the core concepts of primary food ‒ that their relationships, spirituality, careers, etc., have a role to play in their physical health ‒ brings about a lot of change. It opens up several conversations, sheds light on many suppressed issues, and makes healing very holistic. The concept of seeing health not as a destination but as a vehicle has had a profound impact on me.
During the program, the founder of IIN, Joshua Rosenthal, was a major influence for me and my father. He opened my mind to many new concepts, and changed the way I look at new things and learn.
What does being a Health Coach mean to you?
First and foremost, being a Health Coach allows me to create a safe space for people to open up about their health and well-being. It’s a space where they can talk and be listened to without judgment. The conventional medical system looks only at symptoms and then designates them a certain disease.
As a Health Coach, it is my duty to investigate the root cause of these symptoms, and this means listening to clients’ stories. It means honestly approaching someone who’s been struggling with disorders and being their friend and coach throughout their healing process.
At my clinic, we work as a team of experts. A physician, nutritionist, Health Coach, and psychologist work together as a functional team, with the patient in the middle. Being a Health Coach also puts my own personal problems into perspective. Getting to know so many people and their struggles makes it easier for me to deal with my own issues.
How do you apply bio-individuality in your life? Your clients’ lives?
Bio-Individuality: This unique IIN concept means that we’re all different and must embrace our uniqueness to best take care of our health, from the food we eat to the environments we thrive in, and everything in between.
Our entire practice is centered on bio-individuality. There are no standardized plans, no diet charts, no one-size-fits-all theories. Each individual is different – we are all products of specific genetic, dietary, lifestyle, emotional, and spiritual factors. What leads to a health disorder in one individual need not be the causative agent in another. We spend hours studying these factors. So we treat every patient differently.
Nutrition, Healthcare, and Equity in the Wellness World
Your struggle with your own health issues has impacted your work as a nutritionist and Health Coach. How do you use your own experience to create space for clients to resolve their health concerns?
I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2019. “Why me?” I asked my gynecologist. I had fairly good dietary and lifestyle habits. She told me there’s no specific reason and that it just happens to some people. This disturbed me. How can a disease randomly pop up, and how can we be okay with not knowing why? In my research later, I realized that perhaps stress is what triggered me.
A lot of people around me struggle with physical health issues they don’t understand, and the conventional medical system begins its work only at the diagnosis of the condition. My job as a Health Coach is to go back even further and discover the root causes of these conditions, the core clinical imbalances that trigger it, and work to fix them.
If we traveled to your country, what would we find in terms of food, wellness practices, etc.?
India has a great healthcare system. It’s up to date and affordable, and many hospitals – especially in my state, Kerala – are on par with private medical establishments. As a society, we revere our medical professionals. Most important, people trust the medical system. The government also recognizes Ayurveda, homeopathy, naturopathy, and mainstream medical services.
In terms of wellness practices, we are limited to mostly yoga and Ayurveda centers. The concepts of organic food, self-care, etc., are just beginning to become widespread here. I believe there’s huge potential for the wellness market here, and if done right, it can positively impact the lives of many people.
Our food habits primarily consist of eating polished, refined grains – wheat and rice. Vegetables are sparse and sometimes laden with pesticides. Many global fast-food chains have hundreds of outlets across the country today, and this has contributed greatly to conditions like childhood obesity in urban India.
Image via Gouri Krishna
Personal Goals for Social Impact
What is your “why”?
“Why” – This refers to one’s purpose and the reason(s) behind their chosen work.
I want to educate people about why they are suffering and help them be happy. I want to listen to them and hold their hands on their journey toward well-being.
If you wanted your audience from your country to know one thing about health coaching, what would it be?
It’s always easier when you have a coach by your side. Be it sports, arts, or health – if you have a professional guiding you, taking care of you, and looking out for you, the journey becomes a hundred times easier.
Diet, lifestyle, exercise, mental health, spirituality, and work-life balance all play a huge role in the health of a person. Conventional medical systems might not always be able to dedicate resources or time for this kind of health care. But Health Coaches can. We spend an average of one hour with every client in each sitting. We go back to their roots, understand them, and help them understand themselves better.