THREE years ago, cooking diva RACHAEL RAY was a svelte hot tamale, but now she looks more like an overstuffed couch potato!

Recent photos of the perky TV chef show the extra baggage she’s carrying. Insiders believe the 45-year-old star has packed on at least 37 pounds and likely weighs a gut-busting 177.

“Sadly, Rachael’s letting herself go,” said a source. “She used to work out six days a week, but it seems like she doesn’t care anymore.”

According to another insider, Rachael is “now tipping the scales at the highest she’s ever been, well over 170 pounds. She needs to get back in the gym. The only arm curls she’s doing these days are when she’s reaching for another dessert.”

In our June 7, 2010, issue, The ENQUIRER reported that 5-foot-3 Rachael had dropped 28 pounds – thanks to regular gym sessions – and was weighing in at a trim 137.

But part of that success was due to her getting off the bloat-inducing steroid medication she’d been prescribed to shrink a cyst on her vocal cord.

“Rachael doesn’t have those issues anymore,” the source said. “She just isn’t being as healthy as she was in the past. And she can’t resist the desserts or pasta dishes she prepares.”

Rachael tests recipes for six cooking shows and, according to the insider, af­ter the cameras stop rolling she chows down on whatever she’s prepared.

Another source says Rachael “has been eating more to cope with the competi­tion she’s facing in the syndicated talk show world, explaining that her flagship “Rachael Ray Show” is “fighting fatigue among its viewers” now that it’s in its eighth season.

In recent rat­ings, Rachael’s show was beat­en by those of Dr. Phil, Kelly & Mi­chael, Maury, Dr. Oz, Ellen, Katie and was tied with Steve Harvey.

“She’s been pigging out to cope with the stress,” said the source, adding that she’s also eating due to “trust issues” from her childless marriage to her kinky husband of eight years, John Cusimano.

As The ENQUIRER reported in 2006, a Florida woman named Jean­inne Walz carried on a five-year relationship with John that con­tinued after he married Rachael. John and Rachael denied Walz’s claims. Another woman claimed John – a 46-year-old attorney and musician – paid her to satis­fy his weird fetishes with acts too degrading to print. And in our Feb. 4 issue this year, we report­ed that he allegedly frequented a sleazy swingers’ club where he was sexually active with other women both before and after he married Rachael, although Cusi­mano’s lawyer denied the story.

“While John has assured Rachael Rachael that he’s not cheating on her, his track record is spotty,” said the source. “When he’s on the road with his band, friends say Rachael can’t help but worry about their marriage and that her weight gain is at least par­tially caused by trust issues.”