What Padma Lakshmi’s Young Daughter Said That Scared The ‘Top Chef’ Host
Padma Lakshmi lives with the particular tension of looking gorgeous while in her current position as a judge and host on Top Chef. Her job requires her to consume thousands of calories a day and yet look svelte and gorgeous.
It’s thoroughly unfair, considering that men aren’t held to this same standard by any means.
It’s also something that has made her consider what message is being sent to young women, and in particular, her young daughter.
Here’s what the 49-year-old wants her daughter to know, and what it has taught her as an adult, as well.
What Lakshmi’s job entails
As noted, Lakshmi has a job that is every foodie’s fantasy: eating incredibly rich, creative, and basically fattening food all day. However, the native of India has the added pressure of not looking bloated or overweight.
“When filming Top Chef, I consume about 5,000 to 8,000 calories a day,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2017. “We start with anywhere from 15 to 18 contestants, and I have to take a bite or two from each of their plates to adequately judge each dish.”
“Every day. It adds up. I typically gain anywhere from 10 to 17 pounds every season. Once I get home, what’s taken me six weeks to gain takes me 12 weeks to take off.”
What Lakshmi heard her daughter say
The host, in the column she wrote for The Hollywood Reporter, shared an incident in which she heard her daughter say something that scared her. Her column was striking in its honesty.
“While I can clearly point to the many ways our society constantly reinforces this pressure, the truth is, my own vanity also plays a big role. I want to look good, to be fit and to fit into those fancy couture dresses.”
“Recently, I realized my daughter . . . has been listening to me talk about my weight. When we have taco night, I have taco salad with just a few crumpled chips. . . When we order pizza, I get it for her, but I have leftovers of brown rice and lentils. When we make pasta, I have only ragu with greens.”
“She’s noticed, and suddenly she’s told me and others in our circle, ‘I don’t want to eat because I’m watching my figure,’ or, ‘I weigh too much.’ I wasn’t thinking anything of the sort when I was 7 or 10 or even 13.”
The changes Lakshmi made
Lakshmi realized at that point that her daughter was internalizing some kind of message that she was defective or not good enough. It startled her to know that she had been promoting within her daughter any kind of negative self-assessment.
“I can’t block my child from reality and the culture that we live in. But I have a responsibility to make sure that she has a healthy self-image and a normal childhood. I don’t want her to ever be ashamed of her body.”
“Every message I telegraph about food and our bodies is important. So, this year, I’ve decided my weight will not be my focus. If I need a bigger dress, so be it. That one day — or any day — on the red carpet isn’t nearly as important as making sure my daughter doesn’t measure her worth by her dress size.”