From the outside looking in, it seems like Donal Skehan has it all together. Star food writer, doting dad and loving husband, the always-beaming Dubliner radiates happiness and enthusiasm, and his decade-long career in the spotlight has gone from strength to strength.
But in a recent interview, he revealed his struggle with burnout, as a grueling filming and writing schedule pushed him to his absolute limits.
Looking back on his career, which has seen him publish nine successful cookbooks, host roughly 20 television projects and launch his own production company, Appetite Media, in Ireland, Skehan reflected on the hard work that made those opportunities possible, saying that they came at a cost.
"I had real burnout at the end of my twenties," he tells John Meagher in the Independent's Weekend Magazine. He explains: "I had thrown myself into it all so deeply I said 'yes' to everything. I didn't stop. Now, I know when to say 'no', but back then I had a feeling that if I turned anything down, I'd pay for it in the long-term."
Although the Skehan we see is undoubtedly fit and healthy - healthy eating is the focus of his new cookbook and RTÉ series Super Food in Minutes coming to RTÉ this Wednesday - he says he suffered from bouts of exhaustion as he put work ahead of his health at times.
"It was relentless," he says. "I was so competitive in my twenties and I simply didn't take the sort of downtime that I should have done."
He tells the magazine that things came to breaking point while working in Vietnam, where he was filming a programme for the Food Network in the US.
"I was ill going out there and I knew that as soon as the work was done, I had a full nationwide tour across Ireland doing cooking in theatre venues. I hoped I'd get through it, but I literally collapsed in a fricking street food market. And, you know, there was no time in the schedule to get sick. You've cameramen getting paid, producers getting paid and the Food Network are expecting a show and you have to keep going."
After that leg of intense work, he took two months out where he scaled back on what he was working on. "I was still working, but not nearly to the extent that I was. And ever since then, it's something I've been able to recognise - that need to just slow down."
Skehan has been sharing more of his life behind the cameras recently, especially when it comes to parenting as he and his wife Sofie prepare to welcome their second child in a few weeks. The new addition will join Noah, who the couple welcomed early last year, and Skehan has been writing candidly about juggling parenting with work and home life.
In a recent Instagram post, he said: "It's been so intense work-wise for a while I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel but very glad that it finally feels a little calmer, there’s time to play, time to just be and time to really appreciate where we’re at.
"Parenting is bloody tough work mixed in with everything else life throws your way, it's relentless, frustrating, exhausting and unbelievably rewarding all at once and it leaves us with plenty of situations where if you’re weren’t laughing you could cry (sharpie on the kitchen counter!)!
"That being said I never knew I could love a little human as much as I do, and despite the tearing your hair out moments, the delightful trail of destruction and the early morning wake up calls, they manage to have every bit of your heart!"