When Padma Lakshmi was told she would appear in the 2023 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, she immediately got to work.
“Luckily, I was trying to lose the weight from ‘Top Chef,’ so I was in the gym a lot,” the culinary star told Page Six on Sunday.
“But I only had three weeks’ notice,” the 52-year-old revealed. “It was surreal.”
Despite savoring delicious grub for a living, the “Taste the Nation” host told the outlet that she was adamant about not trying any crash diets to get her in bikini-ready shape quickly.
“I can’t do that,” she said. “I tried the Atkins diet for four hours one time and I had a wicked headache and was angry. I don’t need to change my body. I just need to be toned and in shape. I’m not a different size now than before I got the call – I’m the same size.”
Still, the author admitted that she broke a serious sweat to ensure she would look – and feel – her very best for the sizzling shoot.
“This was a three-week boot camp of boxing, jumping rope, working out with weights and rowing machines,” she said. “Every day.”
The mom of 13-year-old daughter Krishna was photographed by Yu Tsai in Dominica. For the upcoming issue, she rocked an itsy bitsy bikini by Toxic Sadie beaded with golden mother-of-pearl sequins. She also modeled a two-piece made of seashells, a suit that resembles seaweed and a sunshine yellow bikini.
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Lakshmi, who got her start as a model in the ‘90s, recently told Fox News Digital that it was empowering to appear in the magazine at her age.
The original swimsuit issue ran in 1964. It has been a launching pad for models such as Kathy Ireland, Christie Brinkley, Elle Macpherson, Kate Upton and Ashley Graham.
“It’s a weird thing. I would’ve killed for [this] when I was a model in my 20s,” Lakshmi chuckled.
“[Now] that it’s happening to me at this point in life – it’s kind of sweet, actually.”
The bestselling author stressed that staying in shape all year long isn’t always smooth sailing, especially in between filming “Top Chef” and “Taste the Nation.”
“I’m not gonna lie. You have to work out all the time,” Lakshmi explained. “I probably work out when I have the time one to two hours a day, six days a week. I eat a lot of food both on ‘Top Chef’ and on ‘Taste the Nation.’ And, honestly, I eat very simply at home. I don’t eat a lot of red meat. I eat mostly plant-based, though I will have fish and chicken and eggs. I eat a lot of beans, a lot of lentils. I have to give up alcohol, fried foods [and] a lot of sweets.”
“It’s really difficult,” she admitted. “It’s just a push and pull. I have a great wardrobe stylist on ‘Top Chef’ who buys me things in three different sizes.… I always tell women, ‘Don’t try and squeeze into those jeans you wore in college. Just get a bigger size.’ Because you’ll look slimmer in the size that’s right for you.”
“No one is going to check the label on the back of your jeans or your blouse,” she continued. “Just be comfortable. And I do gain weight. I gain like 10-15 pounds when I come home from filming each season. It takes me six weeks to gain, it takes me 10 to 12 weeks to lose. And there’s no magic bullet. There’s no other healthy way to do it.”
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According to Lakshmi, her secret to staying in shape is simple.
“Just watch what you eat, drink a lot of water, get enough sleep and exercise your little butt off,” she noted.
The pinup also said she’s mindful of what she eats whenever she’s traveling.
“When Krishna was younger, she used to travel with me, and I didn’t want her to have hotel food,” Lakshmi explained. “So, we would set up a kitchen in any hotel room I went to. We had a hot plate, we had a little blender, and we had a little cutting board. And you’d be surprised at what you can do.”
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“When I’m traveling, I always try and get the hotel kitchen to make me an egg white omelet with a salad and just some roasted potatoes, not fried potatoes. Even mashed potatoes are better than french fries. And usually, they’ll do it that way. You’re getting some starch, some protein and some vegetables.”
The Bravo star is also a big fan of lassi, a yogurt-based Indian drink that keeps her feeling full longer.
“I try and drink a glass of lassi before I even go out,” said Lakshmi. “And that tides me through until dinner.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.