How Top Chef Changed Padma Lakshmi's Relationship With Food

It's no secret that the glitz and glamor of Hollywood are strenuous and demanding on the mind and body, but when you judge and taste-test food for a living, the emotional and physical strain can be even more tiring. In a personal essay for The Hollywood Reporter, Padma Lakshmi opened up about her relationship with food, weight gain, and why looking "red carpet ready" is a never-ending pursuit as a judge on "Top Chef."

"I typically gain anywhere from 10 to 17 pounds every season," Lakshmi penned, noting that on an average film day she'll consume anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 calories. With a destination film set, the calories outside of work during that time frame add up rather quickly, too. "I was drinking bourbon or mint juleps [regularly]," she recalled to The Feast (via Bravo), following "Top Chef" season 16, which was filmed in Kentucky. "You don't think about it because it's a liquid — but it does add up." Combine alcohol with enjoying southern food daily and you'll definitely have a harder time buttoning your jeans. 

In order to meet society's red carpet standards, Lakshmi cut out meat, wheat, cheese, fried foods, sweets, and alcohol from her diet leading up to the Emmys. While this strict regime allowed her to lose the weight she gained from filming, she noticed it had its consequences.

Her post-filming diet began to affect her family

Her post-filming diet may be intense, but it's temporary, Padma Lakshmi explained in her personal essay for The Hollywood Reporter. Her unconventional job requires her to eat copious amounts of food every day and to offset gained weight, she goes into diet mode once filming wraps — just to get back to where she was a few weeks prior. Family pizza night looks a lot different as she swaps out a slice for brown rice with lentils. If her daughter Krishna eats ragu pasta, Lakshmi eats ragu with greens instead.

This worked for the cookbook author until she realized her dieting was affecting her then 7-year-old daughter, who began saying things like, "I don't want to eat because I'm watching my figure," and "I weigh too much." Lakshmi vulnerably wrote how Krishna's remarks not only took her by surprise but sparked self-awareness. She shares, "Her comments stopped me dead in my tracks. Her words scared me. Language matters. We send signals to our daughters every day. And I am her first touchstone of femininity." 

In a more recent interview with Us Weekly, Lakshmi says she's actively conscious of how she talks about body image and self-love in front of Krishna, who's nearing teen-hood. The food personality added that she's altered the way she talks about body marks and scars, too.