I’m not proud of my eating habits. I don’t know many who are. I skip meals, feed my body a lot of not-so-healthy food, and am hardly conscious of when and how I eat. Like many others, I’ve hated my body on some days and have often taken for granted what it does for me, every day that I wake up. Amidst the din of meeting deadlines and making it to calendared dinners, there are only a few instances where we actually tune in and listen to what our body needs—whether it's rest or nourishing food.
When I spoke to Radhi Devlukia-Shetty, I realised that such mindful practices are important not only for our bodies and to carry on with our daily lives, but also for healing our minds and things that we may be going through. Radhi has been a student of nutrition and Ayurveda and is a strong advocate of conscious cooking. From her morning thoughts and affirmations to her everything plant-based recipes, she’s an absolute sunshine girl who radiates warmth and positivity within the realms of the virtual world but even more so beyond it. During our conversation, she got candid about her relationship with food and her body, and let us in on how we can cultivate mindful habits in everyday living. Here’s what she had to say.
Cosmopolitan India: What has your journey with food been like?
Radhi Devlukia-Shetty: Well, I feel like my whole life, especially with my family, every celebration, every happy moment, has been centred on food. I think it is very normal, especially in Indian families, where food basically connects everyone together. It really does. My experience with food is my comfort, my nostalgia and everything that feels good. My mom would ensure that, without fail, every single day, there was a fresh meal on the table and it would have everything that you needed to stay nourished. So, I feel like I've been spoiled with really great nourishing food my whole life. And, during our travels, my mom captured the place by learning recipes from there and when we came back, we’d be exploring different cuisines.
Cosmopolitan India: You've previously spoken about the fact that you were bullied in school. Can you take us through that? And how did you come out of it?
Radhi Devlukia-Shetty: Every single person goes through something like that in their life when they're younger. Although it felt like such a big deal then, part of me feels like it shouldn't happen, but at the same time, I also think that it really seems to have moulded so many people into who they are today. I used to get bullied for being overweight. And the only thing I remember from it now is that it made me feel sad when I was younger, but when I decided to come out of it and started working out, I noticed people treated you differently when you had a little less weight on you, which I thought was so sad. And I said to myself, well, look, there may be a lot of things I don't like about someone, but I will never talk about them, about their physical looks or appearance because I know how that feels. It's something that God's given us. It's something that we can't control. And I don't think it should be something that people should be judged on. So, I'm actually grateful for the incident because it really moulded my perspective about judging someone based on their appearance.
Cosmopolitan India: How has your relationship with food evolved since and what led you to study nutrition?
Radhi Devlukia-Shetty: My mom has always been a big anchor in my life for making these decisions. She kind of knows me better than I know myself, so she was the one who actually recommended I studied nutrition. And I'll be completely honest, it was because I didn't get the grades to become a paediatric dietician. Around that time, nutrition and dietetics was coming up and they were really pushing funding behind it. So, at first, I went into it without giving it much thought. Then when I started studying it, it made me realise how food can heal our body and the amount of medication and the Western way of treating things wasn't something I connected to at all. I don't remember the last time I took a painkiller. Nutrition is more about what using spices and eating a balanced healthy diet can actually do for your body—how it can help boost your immunity and improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. Then, when I came across Ayurveda and started studying it, I fell in love with it. I have no doubt that every single thing that we need for our body exists in nature. Everything that can heal us can also harm us, depending on the quantity or the quality of it. And with everything that can harm us, there is something that can balance it out and heal us. That's how nature is created. People tend to think that Ayurveda can be restrictive, but Ayurveda is about knowing when to eat something, where to eat it, how to eat it, and in what proportion, and understanding your body so much deeper.
Cosmopolitan India: We’ve seen a lot of your content online. What made you want to put your knowledge and message about Ayurveda out there given that it’s such a vast subject?
Radhi Devlukia-Shetty: I would say I am still learning. And the truth is that I am definitely a beginner in Ayurveda. I’ve spent time reading and learning about it, but, I, by no means feel that I am an expert. What I do feel, as I feel in all other parts of my life, is that I can be a bridge for people. I don't live an Ayurvedic lifestyle, I still have my milkshakes and I still love pizzas and pastas. But I think having knowledge about Ayurveda has been useful because I understand what these things can do to me, and how I can tune into my body and understand what it is feeling. So if did eat something heavy the previous night, I know I definitely need to incorporate some particular spices into my diet the next morning and make sure I'm eating lighter things. It has helped me understand how to reactively eat versus eating monotonously. I think it's less about following all the rules and principles because that can be really difficult in this day and age. But even if you understand the basics, it can transform your life—simple things like how to drink water can make a massive difference. I would say, I took the principles and learned how to incorporate that into the life that I want to live.
Cosmopolitan India: Would you say that there is a connection between spirituality and food?
Radhi Devlukia-Shetty: Definitely. When I started studying Ayurveda, I fell in love with the concept of conscious cooking and conscious eating. I strongly believe that the energy that you put into food while preparing it and the energy and mindset that you have when you're eating and receiving it, can digest into your body differently. If you're looking at it as food that is nourishing every cell in your body and having gratitude for what it gives you to be able to do what you want to do in the day, it digests so differently. And this not only helps our physical body but also improves our mental health. We always see eating food as an activity on the side, but it is such an integral part of being able to do everything else in our day. So the mindset you have becomes really important. You must have heard about the experiment where water was kept in different rooms with different music—how loving and affirmative music creates a beautiful snowflake-like composition, and the aggressive and angry sounds form a disjointed frame. More so, 70 per cent of our body is made of water. So, the energy that we're feeding into it makes a difference. Then there's a subtlety of the types of foods you're eating, and the different energies that they carry determine how your mind and body will feel—whether they make your body feel lethargic, tired and heavy or whether they maybe full of light.
Cosmopolitan India: Did you also find that there is a connection between loving your body and the kind of food you give your body?
Radhi Devlukia-Shetty: Yes. I find that these days, we have a very negative relationship with food—it is either an unconscious relationship or you're not thinking about it at all. And even when you are thinking about it, a lot of people develop unhealthy eating habits. A lot of the food we eat, whether it is carbs or fats, ends up getting demonised these days. But when we think of it in a balanced manner and in a way that really fuels our body, it’s a form of love. When I switched my mindset to eating for nourishment versus eating for a specific goal, it made a really big difference in how I started giving love to myself.
Cosmopolitan India: What advice would you give to cultivate mindful practices?
Radhi Devlukia-Shetty: Well, the first one is not having any distractions around you where you're eating. You have to think about it this way—your body has so many things to focus on in a day, so wherever your attention goes, that's where the energy is flowing in your body. And so if it's time to eat, but you're distracted by watching TV or speaking on the phone, then you're not listening to your body. You’re not signalling your body that it’s time to eat and produce enzymes and relax your muscles. I would also say how fast you eat and the number of times you chew your food also matter because when you chew your food, it allows the enzymes in your mouth to be produced to start the digestive process. So, take your time with each bite. Whenever I'm rushing through my meals, I remind myself to go slow and I just put the spoon down on the side, every few bites. I think being mindful means slowing down, paying attention and being present in that moment. And then the final thing before you start eating is saying the prayer of gratitude. Think about every single person that's been involved in preparing the meal you're eating—from the farmers who have grown it, and the sun, soil and water, that has nourished it, to the person who has cooked it. You'll be surprised when you realise the number of people that have been involved in bringing the meal to you at the table. I think it is a very beautiful part of starting the eating process.
Cosmopolitan India: You’re in the process of publishing your cookbook. How was the experience? What was the vision?
Radhi Devlukia-Shetty: The book is a mix of recipes and wellness rituals you can practice throughout the day. My goal is that by the time you get to the end of the book, your spice cupboard will be filled and hopefully, it will become your go-to place instead of a medicine box for whenever you're not feeling well. And it's been such an incredible process. I love being in the kitchen. I love creating. It's been so fun thinking about the different ways to incorporate different flavours and what I want people to learn from it. It’s also a beautiful way to share in-depth knowledge rather than just a quick Instagram reel. It gives you a chance to retell a story and help take people on a journey.
Cosmopolitan India: What is your headspace now?
Radhi Devlukia-Shetty: I feel like I'm in a transition phase. If I'm completely honest, I definitely want to go back to doing more YouTube content and creating more food content. That's something I really miss doing. But I have to focus on my book for a while. So, as much as I've enjoyed sharing things from my heart on my page, I really love creating content. And I think of getting back to that routine. I have also been thinking about doing a podcast. I'm really looking to do longer-form content where I can, you know, have conversations like this and just really get to the depths of things a bit more.