Food & Drink

Joe Wicks on why 15 minutes is enough time to change your life

The cookbook author and PT reflects on how far his outlook on food, exercise and life has come. By Prudence Wade.

Joe Wicks is back with a brand-new book
Joe Wicks Joe Wicks is back with a brand-new book

Now on his 12th cookbook, Joe Wicks isn’t the same person he was when his first came out in 2015.

He’s become a global phenomenon, with 4.7 million followers on Instagram as well as being awarded an MBE for his efforts getting us moving during lockdown.

Plus, he’s now a married man, and has three children with wife Rosie: Indie, five, Marley, three, and one-year-old Leni.

But for Wicks, the biggest change is internal.

“The narrative around movement and mental health and physical transformation has shifted, because now I’m talking a lot more about how exercise makes you feel, as opposed to just the fat loss and the transformation physically,” he notes.

“I understand human behaviour, what’s really motivating people. A lot of people initially start to want to lose weight or lose inches, but it’s not really what keeps them going. I think what keeps them going is the mental health benefits and how it makes them feel at the end of the day.”

Wicks, 38, has been open on social media with his own mental health struggles, and when we speak, some issues are weighing on his mind.

“I’m stressed, I’m overwhelmed at the moment,” he admits. “I’m getting hit every day with messages from people about what’s going on in Israel and Palestine, so I’m finding it overwhelming.”

And Wicks’ go-to whenever he feels this way is the same: moving his body.

“I need to exercise, I need to release some of that anxiety and that emotion, so it’s really powerful for me.”

And while the internet can often be an upsetting place, there’s always joy to be found.

“I love those funny accounts, where people are making sexy puddings and desserts and all that sort of stuff,” Wicks says with a laugh, referring to the viral videos where people make recipes in a hammed-up and suggestive way.

While working out is a must for the PT and cookbook author, he finds “staying consistent with my diet much harder than the exercise”.

He diet is remarkably healthy, but that hasn’t always been the case. “As a kid, we were on benefits and we had a very low income, so it was very much ultra-processed food – probably 99% of our food was ultra-processed,” he says.

“It was quite beige and frozen, and I was a very fussy eater.”

Recently, he’s been looking into ultra-processed foods a lot more, and while he admits he does use things such as pre-made pestos and curry sauces in his meals – to help get dinner on the table more quickly – he’s becoming increasingly aware of what he puts in his body.

“When you think about things like bread and yoghurts and tortillas and all the condiments we use, in isolation they’re OK – but if you’re eating them every meal, or you’re eating sweet treats every day, biscuits and cookies and things, you’re going to feel a bit lethargic,” Wicks says.

“You’re going to feel bloated and stuff – and it’s not just a guilt thing around the calories you’re eating, it’s really how it makes you feel.”

Even though he’s now become much more adventurous with food – for example, noting with glee that he loves sushi and sashimi, despite not really eating fish until he was 25 – he says he’s always been an “all-or-nothing guy”.

In the past, that might have meant eating a whole tub of ice cream in one sitting – but as he’s got older he’s adopted a more intuitive approach.

“Like today, I’m really busy and I’m really energised – I will eat more food. If I’m sedentary, I might just remove things and have a few more hours of fasting, and eat when I’m hungry,” he explains.

“That’s probably just come with age – knowing my body a bit more. I’ve become really aware of what foods make me really unhappy and bloated – certain foods, like if I eat ice cream or drink lots of fizzy drink, I get so bloated.

“So I’m learning what I used to think was a treat isn’t really a treat any more.”

Wicks has channelled his wisdom into his latest book, Feel Good In 15, with a whole host of quick recipes, 15-minute workouts and more.

A quarter of an hour might not seem like much, but he’s convinced it’s enough time to change your life.

“In this world we live in now, where time is so short and people are so busy and so hectic with the way we live, 15 minutes is a manageable amount of time to do one thing productive, which could be anything from doing a quick little workout, doing some meditation, doing some journaling, or even calling up a family friend and having a chat while you go for a walk.”

These are what Wicks calls “daily wins” and he says they can be “a catalyst for more change”.

Releasing a health and wellbeing book in December might seem a little counterintuitive – after all, this is the time of year most of our health goals go out the window – but Wicks is an advocate for balance, all year round.

This Christmas day, he’ll be enjoying all of the festive food on offer, and then on Boxing Day he plans to “use that energy for a good workout”.

Feel Good In 15 by Joe Wicks

Feel Good In 15 by Joe Wicks is published by HQ, priced £22. Photography by David Loftus. Available now