Cover Mayuri Punjabi (Photo: Pim Yanaprasart for Tatler Hong Kong)

Holistic health coach Mayuri Punjabi transforms her clients’ relationship with food. She discusses her own journey to wellness

They say that it’s more important to feel good than to look good. But why not both? In a world where we like to have our cake and eat it too, the Indonesia-born, Singapore-raised health coach Mayuri Punjabi has become a favourite among Hong Kong’s South Asian community, many of whom swear by her no-nonsense approach to wellbeing.

After earning a degree in genetics and biochemistry in London, Punjabi moved to Hong Kong, where she has lived for the last 13 years. A health coach certified by the Institute of Integrated Nutrition in New York, Punjabi has built an impressive client base that spans the entire globe. As her business is built on being there for clients when they need her, work keeps her occupied from 8am to well past 11pm most days.

When meeting clients who struggle with their weight, Punjabi can relate: she was once overweight herself. “Growing up, I never thought about health or my lifestyle. I just lived life and ate and drank what I wanted. I’d eat a double pepperoni pizza and wash it down with a cold beer. My life was the complete antithesis of what it looks like now,” she says. Then, 11 years ago, a stark look in the mirror drove her to change. “I found myself 32 kg overweight, pre-diabetic, with Hashimoto’s [an autoimmune disease that can cause hypothyroidism] and suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome [PCOS].”

So she decided to make healthier choices—not just for herself but for her two young boys—and started to change her eating habits. “This was my eureka moment,” she says, a reference she uses in her Instagram handle @myeurekalife as well. Armed with a background in science, Punjabi didn’t let herself fall prey to fad diets, instead opting for a slow and steady process of eliminating her former vices to bring herself back to health. Within six months, she saw vast improvements.

“Our bodies are miracles. As humans we’ve not just evolved, we’ve thrived. We’ve made it through famines, droughts and the plague: our bodies know how to perform optimally if we just step out of the way. We don’t need to buy all these expensive supplements. It’s all within us,” says Punjabi.

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With more than 8,000 people following her daily advice, healthy recipes and transformation photos on Instagram, Punjabi is often referred to as a game-changer and confidence booster by her network of devoted followers, who sometimes wait up to a month to secure an appointment with her. From there, a free 30-minute phone consultation gauges each individual’s needs and health goals, followed by an option to sign up for a 12- or 24-week regime. “My 24-week packages are usually for those clients with underlying health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer patients in remission or those who have a lot of weight to lose,” she adds.

Exercise is not part of her plan; Punjabi’s focus is wholly on food intake. With neither meals delivered to the home nor calorie-counting imposed, she instead empowers her clients to make the right choices by respecting certain food rules and guiding them during grocery shopping and dining out. Her main areas of focus are gut health, systemic inflammation, hormonal balance and insulin resistance, control of which can relieve a host of ailments, including PCOS, diabetes and thyroid issues. Clients first take a blood test before Punjabi monitors what their bodies are responding to during weekly consultations.

All her client interactions take place virtually, either through voice or video calls. Punjabi recognises some might find this approach odd, but she feels it enhances her closeness with clients: “Some do raise this concern. However, I reassure them that this virtual method is far superior to meeting in person. This way, they have access to me 24/7 via WhatsApp.”

For those with plans for a “new year, new me”, Punjabi has three simple tips: watch your alcohol intake and substitute booze with water, black coffee or plain tea whenever possible; avoid snacking in between meals; and pay attention to the back of the packet when shopping and favour products with fewer ingredients.

Using a combination of weight loss methods, her key philosophy lies in a holistic approach that addresses different people’s bodies and biochemistries. “Understanding that each person is unique, with their own set of internal and external circumstances, allows me to curate [a programme] according to not just how much weight they have to lose but also according to their health condition, personality and lifestyle,” says Punjabi. “No matter what state [clients] come to me in, every step of their progress inspires me.”

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