Joe Wicks: I'm healthy, fit and I've never tracked my calories
In his latest book, The Body Coach is focusing on the mental benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Prudence Wade finds out more
FOR someone who made his name five years ago with a food and fitness empire based around shedding body fat, Joe Wicks – aka The Body Coach – has a remarkably different perspective on life now.
“My Lean In 15 brand was all about physical transformation and how you’re going to lose weight,” Wicks admits. “But as time has gone on, I’ve realised that the most important thing is the mental health benefits of exercise.”
The 34-year-old now has two young children, Indie and Marley, with wife Rosie Jones. “When you’re younger, it’s very much about body image and looking a certain way, but then I started to realise I exercise to feel good, to have energy, to be better with my kids and more patient,” he explains. “Do it for yourself, change your mood – that’s the important message that people don’t often think about.”
30 Day Kick Start Plan is Wicks’ ninth book in five years, and he’s been a constant online presence throughout 2020 with his virtual PE lessons – for which he was awarded an MBE in October. With so much exposure, you might think we’d have reached ‘peak Joe Wicks’ – but it’s hard not to be endeared by his genuine enthusiasm for getting people healthy.
To be clear – his latest book isn’t about encouraging a crash diet. Wicks doesn’t think anyone can “transform their life in 30 days”, he says. But he believes you can start good habits and feel some momentum. He sees 30 days as a “nice, manageable timeframe” to start your journey to wellness – “with the hope that it’s going to have a longer-term effect on people’s mental health”.
Wicks has realised if people want to permanently change their life for the better, looking good is “not a big enough motivator”.
“In this book I talk a lot about how exercise is going to make you feel, how it’s going to give you more energy and change your mood,” Wicks explains. “And by focusing on that and focusing on sleep, goal setting and all these emotional things, I believe that is a really positive way of transforming your life.”
These are extras to the main event of the book: 100 new meals. “I’m really proud of the recipes,” Wicks says – but it was an uphill battle coming up with his 900th lot of new ones.
“It’s getting harder and harder, because it is difficult to come up with really new, creative ideas,” Wicks admits. “I’m always thinking about making comfort food healthy, so burgers, pizzas, pies and things. Yes, it’s getting more challenging, but I still love it.”
So why has Wicks’s food won so many fans? “The truth is my recipes are very basic, they’re very simple and quick,” he says. “I think that’s the reason I’ve sold so many books, because you know with me you’re getting a really simple recipe that you can follow at home.”
You won’t see any overwhelming details about calories or macros in this book. One of Wicks’s biggest criticisms of the dieting industry is the “pressure to not only cook really healthily and exercise, but you’ve also got to track your calories and know your macros and all this stuff”, he says. “I’m healthy and fit and I’ve never tracked my calories. I don’t know how much I eat, I just know if I eat three meals a day, and I don’t eat loads of chocolate and junk food, lay off the booze and have a few treats, I just get leaner.”
Wicks doesn’t want healthy eating to be about “depriving yourself on this really restrictive, low-calorie diet”, he says, “yeah, it works and you can lose weight, but it’s miserable, and you’re soon going to regain the weight.”
You will probably shed some pounds if you follow Wicks’ new plan, but that’s not the only side effect. “It’s more that you’re going to feel happier, you’re going to wake up feeling more productive, and you’re going to look forward to doing it,” he says.
30 Day Kick Start Plan: 100 Delicious Recipes With Energy Boosting Workouts by Joe Wicks, photography by Andrew Burton, is published by Bluebird, priced £18.99. Below are two recipes from the book for you to try.
TANDOORI CHICKEN BURGER WITH CUCUMBER RAITA
1 medium sweet potato, skin left on, cut into 8 wedges
1 x 200g skinless chicken breast fillet
1 tbsp tandoori curry paste
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 brioche bun, cut in half
1½ tbsp low-fat Greek yoghurt
Big pinch of garam masala
2 leaves of iceberg lettuce
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp crispy onions – optional
Put the sweet potato wedges into a microwaveable bowl with two tablespoons of water, cover and zap on high for six minutes.
Meanwhile place the chicken between two pieces of cling film or baking parchment on a chopping board. Using a rolling pin, meat mallet or any other blunt instrument, bash the chicken until it is about 1cm thick all over. Spoon the tandoori curry paste over the chicken breast, rubbing it into the flesh, and season with salt and pepper.
Melt one teaspoon of coconut oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium to high heat. Once melted, lay the chicken in the pan, cook for around four minutes on each side.
While the chicken is cooking, melt the remaining coconut oil in a separate frying pan over a medium to high heat. Carefully uncover the sweet potato wedges, tip out their water and place the wedges into the hot pan. Season. Fry for three to four minutes, turning halfway, until crisp. Once nearly cooked, move the wedges to one side of the frying pan and toast the burger bun, cut side down, in the other.
Make the raita. Grate the cucumber, squeeze out as much liquid as you can, dump into a small bowl. Add the Greek yoghurt, garam masala, salt and pepper, stir together. Slice the lettuce and squeeze over some lemon juice.
Come back to the chicken, which by now will be cooked through. Check by slicing into a thicker part to make sure the meat is white all the way through with no raw pink bits left. Cut the chicken in half.
Assemble your burger. Spread half the cucumber raita onto the base of the bun. Place the lettuce on top, followed by the tandoori chicken, remaining raita and crispy onions, if you like. Serve with the sweet potato wedges.
4 rashers of streaky bacon (120g)
2 small ripe bananas
2 heaped tbsp peanut butter
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Big pinch of baking powder
Drizzle of maple syrup – optional
Preheat your grill to maximum. Lay the rashers on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Slide under the hot grill. Cook for about four minutes on each side, or until done to your liking. I like my bacon crispy on the outside but still a little soft.
Meanwhile using a fork, mash the bananas in a bowl into a rough puree. Crack in the eggs, spoon in one tablespoon peanut butter, sprinkle in the cinnamon, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Give everything a good stir. Pancake batter sorted.
Melt the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over a low to medium heat. Once bubbling, spoon the batter into the pan to make four to six pancakes. Fry the pancakes without moving them for three minutes on the first side, or until the batter has set, then flip and fry the pancakes for a further minute on the second side.
While the pancakes are gently frying, mix the remaining peanut butter with half a tablespoon water in a small bowl. This will loosen it, making it easier to drizzle on the pancakes.
Pile the banana pancakes onto a plate. Top with the bacon, drizzle over the peanut butter along with a little maple syrup, if you like. Gobble down, Elvis-style.