"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."
Every year during Emmy Award season, Padma Lakshmi has one thing on her mind: Losing weight. In a recent column for The Hollywood Reporter, the model revealed that she consumes somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 calories a day and gains between 10 and 17 pounds a year while filming for Top Chef. But come award season, she tries to lose all the weight and fit into a "size 0" dress.
This year, however, the 46-year-old has vowed to do things differently—mostly because she wants to set a better example for her daughter and show her the importance of self-love. (Related: What Moms Want Their Daughters to Know)
"I find myself in the unique position of eating for a living while still being expected to look a certain way—let's call it 'red carpet ready,'" she wrote in The Hollywood Reporter. "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."
Lakshmi continues by adding how tumultuous it is being part of the same vicious cycle every year—constantly trying to live up to nearly-unattainable expectation she's set for herself. "It's always a nail-biting extravaganza at fittings," she says, "praying that a few pretty dresses that came down the runway on a teenage model who is a size 0 will miraculously fit my 40-something body."
Also, it's not like Lakshmi lives an unhealthy life outside of Top Chef. In fact, she says she works out for two hours a day and follows a rigid diet. "It's like a poem: no meat, no wheat, no cheese, no fried foods or sweets. And, of course, no alcohol," she says. (Related: Padma Lakshmi's Favorite Fall Recipes)
However, the pressure she was putting on herself suddenly changed when Lakshmi realized that it was rubbing off on her 7-year-old daughter.
"She 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,' " she says. "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." (Related: This Mom Came to the Best Realization After Trying On Bikinis With Her Daughter)
After understanding that responsibility, Lakshmi decided that starting this year, she was going to give up on the idea of looking "perfect" for the Emmys. Instead, she wants to act as a role model for her daughter and women by empowering them to be less self-critical and set reasonable expectations for themselves.
"Every message I telegraph about food and our bodies is important," she says. "So, this year, I've decided my weight will not be my focus," she concluded. "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."