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Celebrity Health – Joe Wicks

The Body Coach Joe Wicks talks to Liz Parry about the mental health benefits of healthy food and exercise

Images of Joe Wicks © Dan Jones

Q Do you think there has been a shift in people’s attitudes towards their health and wellbeing since the pandemic?

Joe: Yes, I think people now realise the connection between food and exercise and how much that affects our mood. So many people were, and are, still suffering with their mental health and with anxiety. My message has shifted a lot from being around exercising and getting lean to exercising for your mood and your mental health. And I think a lot of people are realising that it’s not just about the weight on the scale. They want to feel good and to have the energy to be productive.

Q Tell us about some of the main themes in your new book.

Joe: It’s called Feel Good Food, and it’s all about understanding the effect that food can have on our digestive system and on our mind. It’s about the fact that healthy food can really set you up for a positive, energising day. You can have a great night’s sleep, and you can be exercising, but if you’re not getting good food in your body you’re just never going to feel energised.

Q What would you say to people who say that they don’t have the time to eat healthily or to cook meals from scratch?

Joe: I think it’s about changing your mindset from seeing barriers and resistance to believing that you can find time to do these things. Otherwise you end up relying on takeaways. It’s about getting back to the basics, which is simple home cooked food. When you cook from scratch and you remove the processed stuff, you are going to lose weight and feel more energised.

Q You have young children now. Do you like to involve them in cooking?

Joe: Yes, it’s one of the things I love sharing the most. Kids really pick up on everything they see. My kids obviously saw me exercising all through the lockdown and now they’re interested in fitness and movement and they want to be active. And I think it’s the same with the kitchen. If you can get your kids to help with stirring the pot and throwing in some spices then it really brings food to life for them. They interact with the food more and are more curious to try things.

Q Do you have any tips for how parents can encourage their children to eat more healthily?

Joe: I think the key is to start them young and offer them multiple things. I think there’s a perception that children need to eat bland food, like boiled vegetables. But if I gave Indie [Joe’s three-year-old daughter] some boiled broccoli or cauliflower she wouldn’t go near it. So instead I’ll roast some courgettes in the oven with some paprika and cajun seasoning and she thinks they’re crisps. If, for example, I make a curry and I chuck in loads of really big, chunky bits of veg then Indie and Marley [Joe’s two-year-old son] won’t eat it. But if I chop the veg into little bits they’ll scoop them up.

Q Have you switched to a more plant-based diet in recent times?

Joe: I still eat meat. I still love a steak and a burger now and again, but I think my attitude has changed a lot. I did a veggie book a few years back (Veggie Lean in 15) which got me thinking and changed my mindset. You don’t need to have beef in a massaman curry; you can make a really wonderful veggie one. Or you can have a really nice stir-fry without prawns and chicken. I’d say I’m probably 60 per cent veggie and then 40 per cent of the time I’m having meat.

Q What do you tend to eat during a typical day?

Joe: On a typical day for me, breakfast is normally porridge with some of my favourite toppings like berries, peanut butter and coconut. Then for lunch I’d say it’s normally a veggie meal. So that could be a veggie stir-fry or avocado on toast. And then in the evening I might have a chicken curry or a prawn stir-fry.

Q What is your current exercise regime like at the moment?

Joe: I usually train in the morning at about 6am. I like to get up before the kids are awake. I try to get to bed and asleep by 10pm so that I get about eight hours of sleep. I do a quick 25 or 30-minute workout before the kids are up and then I have breakfast with them. I do that about five days a week. It’s mainly HIIT training and I also do a lot of bodyweight stuff and weight training. I also have to film workouts as well. So sometimes I’ll do my own training in the morning and in the afternoon I’ll film a workout.

Q Do you have any tips for how people can fit exercise into a busy lifestyle?

Joe: I think it’s about keeping it short and sweet. So, finding 15 or 20 minutes to carve it out. For example, today I’m taking all my calls outside, so I’m doing some power walking while I’m speaking to people. That way I’m being productive but I’m also moving my body. You just need to find the time, because when you exercise your life improves in so many ways. Don’t see it as this thing that you’ve got to squeeze in. See it as something you really deserve to give your body. You deserve to be active. You deserve to have energy and to feel good. So just find 20 minutes a day, and you’re really going to feel the benefits.

Feel Good Food by Joe Wicks is out now in hardback (HQ, £20).

Try Joe's Asparagus, bulgur and egg salad with miso dressing recipe here...

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