Joe Wicks On Why Diets Don’t Work

Joe Wicks, 32, also known as the Body Coach, has won legions of fans thanks to his no nonsense approach to weight loss and fitness. He’s famed for his Lean in 15 plans, and this time is no different – except now, it’s suitable for vegetarians. Here, he tells us why he doesn’t believe in diets, how to feed your family when you have a busy schedule and what he does when he feels demotivated. Plus, he shares two tasty recipes from his new book.

Why do you think that diets don’t work?

I’m all about teaching people to cook nutritious, tasty food that is good for your body. I don’t believe in depriving yourself. When you diet, you feel miserable, lose a bit of weight and then feel more miserable, so you stop dieting and put all the weight back on. A healthy diet is about eating three meals a day and two snacks. No one goes hungry on my watch!

What do you recommend for those looking to lose weight?

Putting in place smaller changes will help in the long term. This could be anything from learning to cook three more recipes this year, setting an earlier alarm to do some exercise first thing, or drinking more water to help your body work better. You’ll personally invest in these goals so will work hard to stick to them. It’s important to also exercise alongside eating well because you need both to make a real difference, then you’ll start hitting your fitness goals.

Do you have any tips for busy mums who have difficulty finding the time to cook healthy meals?

It’s all about prepping your meals so that you aren’t reaching for the fast food or unhealthy option. Batch cook on a Sunday so you have healthy lunches to share with your family for the rest of the week. You can also prep meals and freeze them to cook for later – my lovely lasagne recipe [right] from the veggie book or the quesadillas are great for this. Cook them early in the week and then reheat mid-week for a great and filling meal that will keep your family full.

What made you decide to create a vegetarian recipe book?

Five years ago, I never imagined I would be releasing a veggie book. I was a little uneducated about veggie food back then, and there’s this idea that veggie food is boring but that’s not true. I can honestly say I know a lot more now and I’ve grown up! I’m enjoying veggie food more than ever and I am so much more aware of the effect my food choices are having on both the environment and my health, so now felt like the right time.

What’s the most effective exercise for someone short on time?

By doing a HIIT session 15 minutes a day, four to five times a week, you’ll have so much more energy. You can do this from home so you don’t even have to go to a gym. High intensity interval training is about pushing yourself as hard as you can for 30 seconds and then resting for 30 seconds and, if you follow it up with carbs, you’ll be burning fat for hours afterwards. You’ll feel positive, confident and more motivated to get the next session in.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

A veggie three-course meal. I’d start with a burrata salad, followed by a tasty peri-peri halloumi burger for the main. I love a burger!

For a treat, I’d have to go for a slice of chocolate cake.

Do you ever have days when you don’t want to work out or eat healthily?

Of course – there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cheeky treat here and there. You should never deprive yourself. If you have a sugar craving, try eating some fruit instead of raiding the biscuit tin. I always say a naughty meal once in a while is fine but just don’t let a bad day turn into a bad week!

What tips do you have for someone who’s struggling to get motivated?

Smash out a HIIT session first thing in the morning and it will set you off right for the rest of the day. You’ll want to stay active and eat well because you’ll be in that healthy mindset from the moment you wake up. Get rid of the weighing scales, or as I call them, the Sad Step, as they won’t give you an honest picture of your body composition. Before and after photos, and measurements of your waist, thighs and arms, are so much more helpful and will really keep you motivated to keep going.

Green Turkish eggs

Serves 1
  • 1tbsp coconut oil, plus a smidge
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced (green bits and all)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 100g asparagus tips, each cut into three pieces
  • 2 handfuls of kale, stalks removed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of mint leaves
  • 2 eggs
  • ½tsp smoked paprika
  • 2tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1tbsp toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • Crusty bread, to serve – I like sourdough

1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil.

2. Meanwhile, melt 1tbsp coconut oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Chuck in your spring onions, garlic and asparagus. Fry for 3 minutes until the asparagus is just tender, then stir in the kale along with a good pinch of salt and pepper. When wilted, turn down the heat to its lowest to keep the greens warm. Stir through the mint leaves.

3. Come back to your saucepan of boiling water. Turn down the heat until the water is just ‘burping’. Crack the eggs straight into the water. Poach for 3–4 minutes or until the white has set but the yolk is still runny, then carefully lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen roll.

4. While your eggs are poaching, melt a smidge more coconut oil in the microwave along with the paprika.

5. Smear the yoghurt onto your plate. Top with the pile of greens, then make a space and nestle in the poached eggs. Drizzle over the paprika ‘butter’ and scatter over the almonds. Serve with bread for dipping.

My lovely lasagne

Serves 1
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 100g asparagus, each cut into three pieces
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 100g frozen broad beans
  • 100g pesto
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 150g mascarpone
  • 50g vegetarian hard cheese, finely grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 lasagne sheets
  • 4tbsp milk
  • Green salad, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C, gas mark 4). Grab yourself a smallish ovenproof dish.

2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Crush in the garlic clove and tip in the asparagus. Cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the frozen peas and broad beans. Cook for another minute until the peas and broad beans have thawed.

3. Take the pan off the heat and chuck the greens into a bowl. Mix through the pesto, lemon zest, 100g mascarpone, half the grated cheese and some salt and pepper.

4. Spoon a third of the mix into the ovenproof dish, then top with two sheets of lasagne. Repeat the process until all the filling and pasta are used up. For the final layer, mix the remaining mascarpone with the milk. Pour this over the top of the pasta sheets and sprinkle over the remaining hard cheese.

5. Bake for 35–40 minutes until the pasta has no resistance when you prick it with a fork. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before diving in. Serve with a green salad.

Recipes extracted from Veggie Lean in 15 by Joe Wicks, out now (Bluebird). Recipe images by Maja Smend, headshot by Conor McDonnell.

Health & Wellbeing