PADMA LAKSHMI, the model, actress and cookbook author, knows it would be hard to ask for sympathy for her occupational plight.
While filming for “Top Chef,” the TV show for which she serves as judge and host, part of her job is to taste food from some of the country’s best chefs every day for five weeks.
“That’s tasting 16 to 17 bites of each dish we test, each with 17 to 20 ingredients or more,” she said in an interview. And because the contestants try to make their foods as delicious as possible, “they have a tendency to infuse them with more fat,” she said.
Each season, Ms. Lakshmi, 38, keeps two dress sizes on the set for when the weight starts to pile on: she is 5-foot-9 and typically she puts on 10 to 15 pounds a season.
“I just try to cut myself a break — I know I’m going to gain weight,” she said. “In my job, I eat the most when I’m working the most.”
But like other people who work with hard-to-resist food and still manage to stay fit, Ms. Lakshmi has devised a host of strategies, some of which could serve as inspiration and guidance to people whose jobs don’t require them to taste a lot of food.
The advice comes down to basics: moderate what you eat; don’t panic when work makes you overeat or when you can’t work out; and pay attention to what you are eating.
“It really comes down to balance — balance in life and balance in food,” said Cynthia Sass, a nutritionist and personal trainer who has worked with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays. “And people who work with food tend to be more aware of their health.”
Not always. The image of the roly-poly chef is an enduring stereotype, and sometimes for good reason. But portly people are the exception rather than the rule on “Top Chef” and other TV cooking shows.
While Ms. Lakshmi is famously fit — she recently posed naked for Allure magazine, in a feature about celebrities and body images — it’s all she can do while filming “Top Chef” to get in a workout here or there. She always keeps a jump rope in her suitcase in case she finds herself with free time.
When the show is not in production, she regularly boxes, walks stairs and does upper body work as part of a daily 90-minute routine. “When the season is over, I go into food detox,” she said, “no red meat, no alcohol, no cheese, until I’m back in shape.”
For Robert L. Untiedt, who owns Graham’s Fine Chocolates in Geneva, Ill., there is no off-season from dipping and tasting chocolates, though some months seem to pack more calories than others.
“Around the holidays, when we’re busiest, it can be hard to get away from work,” he said. “Plus there’s all that chocolate.”
He tries to fit in a workout three days a week before lunch. He also keeps a bike at the office so he can ride to the post office instead of driving, and he take advantage of his downtown location by walking on errands.
That’s at least some compensation for eating about a quarter-pound of chocolate at work every day. He tries to stick to dark chocolate, because it is generally healthier than milk chocolate.
The combination of regular workouts and staying on his feet most of the day clearly helps. At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, Mr. Untiedt’s fit figure doesn’t square with the image many people have in their heads of the owner of a chocolate shop.
“They’ll say, surprised: ‘You’re the owner?’ ” he said. “I joke with them that most people just don’t eat enough chocolate because if you do, your body learns to burn it off.”
But strict regimens like his are hard to maintain, and human frailty often kicks in. Frank Bruni, the restaurant critic for The New York Times, wrote in Men’s Vogue about his quest for a workout regimen that would compensate for the meals he had to eat; he has just written a book about his struggles with eating and bulimia. Meredith Ford Goldman, the food critic for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said she had an eating disorder as a teenager and has had to learn how to keep food in perspective and banish the idea that certain foods are taboo.
She also made fitness part of her life. Tucked into reviews of restaurants, she regularly mentions her gym and her trainer. “If I really blow it out and eat, like, 4 million calories, guess what? You’ve got to get up and go to the gym,” she said in a telephone interview.
Working out has never been the challenge for Dan Guerrera, who owns the Downtown Cookie Company in New York City, which delivers and express-mails large, fresh-baked cookies. He makes most of them by hand.
A former high school and college swimmer, Mr. Guerrera, 38, has been fit all his life and regularly works out six days a week with a group of triathletes. But last year, after a career in finance, he made the full-time career switch into cookies, sometimes putting in 15-hour days surrounded by dough. It took its toll, and he had to adjust his habits.
Today, “I definitely have a mental notepad in my head: O.K., I’ve had three cookies today,” he said. “The work definitely affects how long I spend on the treadmill.”
“I just try to find that balance,” he added.