When top chef Sean Connolly was diagnosed as pre-diabetic last September he realised his indulgent diet had caught up with him and decided to make some lifestyle changes for the sake of his health.

Six months later he's reaping the rewards, improving his health and shedding 12kg.

Changing his lifestyle wasn't easy at first, he told the Herald on Sunday, especially given his average work day involves taste-testing butter and chocolate or gourmet fish and chips, steak and beer.

"I travel two weeks of each month, for [those] two weeks I just go to all my tastings. I'm a slave to my cuisine. My chefs make great pasta. I have to try my desserts. I love the food my restaurants serve.

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"I didn't know what to do to get out of it. Every day's like Christmas day in my world. I can eat and drink like a king every day but it eventually catches up with you."

When his lifestyle started to take its toll on his health, Connolly, the owner of Auckland's The Grill and a well-known TV chef, knew he had to slim down.

"I didn't recognise myself when I looked in the mirror. [The doctor] was handing me lots of tablets and I was thinking surely I should just lose weight rather than trying to combat it using tablets."

After taking two weeks off work and doing research on different diet philosophies Connolly came up with a plan that worked for him.

He cut back on the booze and started paying more attention to what he was eating when he wasn't working, starting his day with porridge and swapping greasy chips and gravy for salads.

"I always carry snacks with me, so if I am hungry I eat the right food not the wrong food. I feel better for it. I'm down to closer to where I need to be now."

At his biggest Connolly weighed 85kg but is now a trim 73.5kg.

"I do feel more motivated and I have got more energy," he said.

"I fit into small or medium clothes now instead of large and extra large. It's been awesome going shopping again."

Sean Connolly in Under The Grill. Photo / Supplied
Sean Connolly in Under The Grill. Photo / Supplied

While Connolly tries to reduce his intake of bread, dairy and alcohol, he says that with his job it's hard to avoid those foods completely.

He still taste-tests his chefs' cooking, but stays mindful of portion size.

"I try a little bit. I don't eat everything and go back to healthy eating when I can. At the end of the day the only thing I can put [the weight loss] down to is calories. I cut down to 800 to 1000 calories a day."

Understanding his own body and metabolism was the key to losing weight and keeping it off, he said.

"I think you've just got to find the right diet for you. Some things work for some people and not for others. Once you do make that change, nothing is without hard work and a little bit of pain."

Setting aside time to exercise was difficult with his hectic lifestyle, Connolly said.

But Sean Hughes, personal trainer to All Black Malakai Fekitoa and Warriors star Shaun Johnson, helped Connolly develop a fitness routine that worked with his schedule.

"He knows I travel a lot so I do lots of swimming in hotel pools. I really love swimming so he puts me through lots of water-resistance training. It's more about meditation, going through the motions. For me it's better than an hour massage."

A day in the life of Sean Connolly

Healthy day

Breakfast

: Porridge with water or a breakfast salad of leaves and lemon juice and a splash of olive oil

Lunch

: "Good Green" protein shake or a beetroot smoothie

Dinner

: Fish and salad

Snacks

: Raw almonds

Drinks

: 3L of sparkling water, espresso and peppermint tea

Tasting testing day at the restaurant

Breakfast

: Espresso and butter tasting

Lunch

: Fish and chips

Dinner

: Steak and beer

Dessert

: Chocolate tasting