4 Factors That Determine Your Relationship With Food


Most of us know the basics of what it takes to be physically healthy. If your goal is to lose weight, calories consumed need to be less than calories burned. If you are putting on muscle and building strength, we’ve learned that the right nutrition and timing is key. And if you are trying to maintain your weight and shape, we know that eating well-balanced meals and limiting your junk food intake is important. 

And even if we don’t know this: we have all the knowledge at our fingertips. But often our perspective doesn’t allows us to successfully execute the basics. We make ourselves miserable with short-term rigid diets because "I can’t control my binge eating." That attitude is like dropping your phone and instead of picking it up to salvage it, you stomp on it and smash it to pieces. Would you ever do that? Probably not because you value your phone. 

I’m not going to show you some new workout craze or a diet that will "BURN FAT INSTANTANEOUSLY." There are plenty of other sites you can read to get that. I think workout challenges, nutrition plans and fitness regimens are great. But real lifestyle change and sustainable results occur when we gain a deeper understanding of our individual food relationship. Through my own trials and tribulations with food (and eating disorders) and through observing my clients I have found four elements that determine your food relationship. Food History, Food Mindset, Food Logic and Food Skills.

Let’s break it down:

Food History: What had I been told about certain foods or meals growing up? What was the general attitude towards healthy and unhealthy foods? What associations do I keep with certain foods?

Food Attitude: What is my inner dialogue or mentality when it comes to nourishing my body with calories? What is my strongest emotion when it comes times to eat? Is it guilt or shame?

Food Logic: What is the story I keep telling myself that continues to justify my current relationship/patterns/habits with food?

Food Skills: What is my ability to nourish my body and eat for optimal health? What skills or information do I already have and what am I lacking?

Real Life Case:

It is very common to have more than one food attitude as we associate different emotions with types of food. For example, I seek emotional comfort with butter. My food history with butter/ghee in particular was my mother’s love. She would always make me feel extra special when after making a roti, she would use the back of the spoon to smear tasty ghee or butter on it before feeding me. Then as a budding athlete and teenager I was told that butter was not only bad but also not allowed in my diet. My logic with butter became, “because I am an athlete I cannot have butter.” What happened? When I needed emotional comfort I reached for butter. However, because it was a restricted food, there was guilt and shame associated with eating it. Can you guess what happened next? Bread and butter binge eating sessions.

Through recognizing this, I was able to re-channel a more appropriate way to receive the emotional comfort I was seeking. I also retrained my brain to understand that butter is not “bad” by understanding its full nutrional value. Instead of binge eating something I truly enjoy and need, I incorporate it in my diet almost everyday. No binging, no guilt.

What are your four food elements and how can you improve upon them to achieve a better relationship with food? 

Protein Powered Chickpeas


I’m very fortunate to have exceptionally health conscious parents. My mother, who is an extraordinary cook has nourished her army of hungry athletes while sticking to our Punjabi cuisine. Most people will say, Indian food and athletes?! Not a good mix. Unfortunately the scientifically advanced Indian diet has been diluted and polluted with processed grains, butter, oil, sugar and salt. With the depth of nutritional knowledge we have at our fingertips with Ayurveda, eating Indian could be uber healthy.

One of my favorite dishes packed with muscle-building protein is Chole (chickpeas simmered in onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and cumin seeds, coriander powder, turmeric powder, garam masala powder and red chilli powder).

These legumes offer 39 grams of protein per 1 cup while maintaining a super low amount of saturated fats. They also provide substantial dietary fiber, copper, folate and magnesium. Yay fiber!

Our recipe is low on salt using green chilies to enrich taste instead. We use coconut oil for cooking not butter. What about ghee? Yes, less than 1 tablespoon is used for the whole batch. Chole is served with raw onions that have a cooling effect and helps promote proper digestion. Often Ayurveda recommends avoiding onion (and garlic) with meals and is mostly used for medicinal properties. However, I do enjoy the cooling effect of raw onions especially after a workout. 

How I Learned to Forgive Myself



Forgiving ourselves is one of the most difficult yet rewarding things we can do for our inner wellness. Sometimes its scary to let go of the all the guilt, shame and disappointment we bury ourselves in because those feelings have become familiar and ‘safe’. We dare not think what might replace that heavy burden and how we could feel differently about ourselves. In a weird way we get comfortable with feeling down and bad about ourselves. It can even be a form of penance to wallow in our own self-pity.  

In my own personal experience, I recognized that those feelings were no longer serving me (they never were) but I wasn’t ready to let go of them. They had been a huge part of me for many years and I was scared of what would happen if I actually released the guilt and forgave myself. To my delight what has replaced the disappointment is feeling really good about myself, something I’m growing more and more accustomed to.

It has taken a TON of work; daily habits, nurturing exercises and heightened awareness. I had good days and bad days and I still occasionally have bad days.

What is most rewarding about the self-work is that I can look back at those old emotions and see how distant I am from them. They no longer hold power over my mental state or my perspective.

How I forgave myself and released guilt:


Admit out loud to a trusted friend(s) what you have been unable to forgive yourself for. “I am guilty for not having done better in tennis.” “I am guilty for getting an eating disorder and for the pain it caused those around me.” In my case, I had to say this out loud numerous times and fill pages and pages of my diary to finally admit I felt guilty about it. 


Recognize the unrealistic expectations you have placed on yourself and your actions. This one has been exceptionally hard for me to recognize; what is reality based and what is fictional. The way I picked this apart was by a fact vs. fiction exercise. You write down 6 statements you believe to be facts and then label them as fact or fiction.

Here is a sample of what mine looked like.

1. Not being unhappy will make me complacent.  Fiction.

2. It is raining outside. Fact

3. You must always set your goals too big in order to achieve your actual goals. Fiction.  

4. Starting out small is no good you have to have a big plan. Fiction.

5. I played tennis at an elite level Fact.

6. Not being perfect makes me less worthy. Fiction.


Whenever I thought about the issue - guilty thoughts and hurt feelings would lead to the sharp pain in my chest or an anxiety lump in my throat.  I became more aware that it was the thoughts and physical manifestations that were making me feel bad not the actual past issue. This allowed me to focus on changing my physical state when those thoughts crept in.

Often I would be riding the subway to work and suddenly get a sharp pain in my chest. It would make me shrivel up and want to hide in my bed all day. It was a real struggle to commit to breathing through the anxiety instead of giving in to it and getting down.  It took me 3 months to get rid of that physical reaction. 

I feel that personal forgiveness is one of the road blocks we face when moving towards self-love and life success. 

How to Recover from Muscle Soreness

One of the most annoying things about training and competing is muscle soreness. My trainer used to tell us "soreness is weakness leaving the body." That still didn't really help me recover faster. Muscle soreness from fatigue or overexertion benefits from a variety of approaches and the focus should always be on bringing fresh blood to your body as quickly as possible. Here are a few methods that help me get fresh legs fast. 

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My Workday Morning Routine

Hello lovely people! Since some of you have asked what my morning routine was like, so I thought I'd show you. This is my most current WEEKDAY morning routine. I found this morning routine keeps me healthy, mentally balanced and super productive all day. Check it out. 

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Pretty or Strong? Redefining Female Beauty in Sports

I had the opportunity to discuss female athletes, body images and societal perceptions of beauty on Al Jazeera English this week. Its such an important topic and happens to be trending right now thanks to Serena Williams. Check out the video below and let me know your thoughts! 

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Beliefs That Block Passion


In so desperately wanting to do something grand and impactful with my life, I forget that the little things are what actually count. In setting my sights so high and dreaming I become inactive and as a result I lose out on gaining momentum from my current situation. The opportunities at present, as simple and as insignificant as they may seem are indeed what will lead me to “greatness.”  

I remind myself that small steps was how I became an elite athlete,  small steps is how I achieved my degree. Tennis matches are won stroke by stroke. It’s bit by bit not any other way. So why should I expect career success to be or look any different? The best part is, I can take as long as I need to get where I want to go.  I came across this reflection from Lori Deschene founder of Tiny Buddha that succinctly articulates my situation.

“I started living a life guided by my passions when I stopped believing that purpose meant doing something big. Previously, I thought I needed to change the world, or save the world, or travel the world, otherwise my actions wouldn’t be good enough. This paralyzed me because I had no idea where to start. I realized then that I needed to stop worrying about the big picture–how all the dots might connect–and focus instead of creating that first dot, following my heart. That first dot was one simple tweet, and since then I’ve taken it one passionate dot at a time.”

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"Believe in Yourself" and other advice from Venus Williams


This interview was taken on October 18th 2010. Reposting it on the blog for some inspiration. 

Venus Williams, is currently ranked number four on the WTA tour, has 22 Grand Slam titles, is an author, fashion designer, student, philanthropist and icon, but sitting there on her living room chair with her hair pulled back wearing no make up and a plain white t-shirt, you would never know.  She was recently named one of the World’s Most Powerful Women by Forbes Magazine, a list she claims is “always inflated.”

Having already met her a few times, during my time playing on the WTA tour, I was eager to hear her speak as I was now on the other side of the lens.  Off the court, Venus had always been a delightfully friendly person, humorous and giggly. She was like an old soul that is comfortable anywhere and in any situation.

Venus was at home and out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury and agreed to do an interview with 15 Princeton University students via skype. I started the questions by asking her if she remembered me. She giggled, nodded her head and said “yes, your hair is so long”. The response was diplomatic and at the same time honest; a trend that carried on for the whole interview. At 29 years old and in the later stages of her career, her responses tended to be more introspective and uncontroversial giving insight in to her perspectives, lessons of life, her goals and future aspirations. When asked about how she imagined her life in ten years, she responded with “that always changes…I love design, I’ll definitely being doing that because I love it just the same way I love tennis…and of course I’m giving back to tennis in some way…I’ll probably be fairly quiet”.  One could tell, Venus is still figuring it all out.

Listening to her responses to questions about gender equality in sports, being an ambassador to the US and philanthropic work, one could tell Venus is very aware of the power and responsibility bestowed on her because of her athletic achievements. “For me, its great to be in women’s tennis at the premier level…really giving an example to women and…all people around the world…trying to be leaders and trying to give back…” It was refreshing to hear an athlete taking initiative and using her fame and wealth constructively “being a role model is even more rewarding than winning a tournament” she concluded. Furthermore she was very aware of the fact that many athletes abuse this power given to them “you have to stay true to yourself and be responsible and not every athlete is and that’s definitely a shame…”

Venus has done thousands of interviews that have probably covered many of the same questions we asked her but she never gave us stock answers, they seemed genuine, Through her giggles and big smiles she offered nuances and humor about her imperfections and insecurities such as her love for junk food,  going off tangent in interviews, her inability to correctly spell women vs. woman and forgetting lessons she has learned through life. One would expect her to be a lot more boastful but she was the complete opposite and almost self deprecating.

Although she was fun, relaxed and welcoming Venus definitely kept a lot of private information from us. She is a very “low key” person in contrast to her sister, Serena and did not divulge information about her personal life. However she did share her strong views on how her religion and family has helped her reach such great heights stating that “I think that’s [faith] been the main difference between Serena and I and our contemporaries and the reason why we are still here…having a good family I think [also] helps a ton.”

Venus has accomplished so many amazing things in her life; becoming the first African-American to be ranked world number 1, win 3 Olympic Gold medals, start a charitable foundation, create her own clothing line, model, author a book and recently, become a part owner of the Miami Dolphins. When asked how she finds inspiration and creativity to manage it all she quoted her sister, “[Serena] said if you take your opportunities, more will come. Just by us… trying to be positive, trying to be good people, trying to be role models, trying to be innovative…more opportunities came.”  

She is a superstar that doesn’t require superfluous accessories. Her self confidence and stately demeanor were apparent even in the simplest of settings; sitting at home with a knee injury babysitting her dogs. The best piece of advice she gave us was “believe in yourself”.

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