The Body Coach talks mental health, fitness and booze

His name might sound like a minor character in Eastenders but Joe Wicks is actually one of the most famous people on the planet. Wicks helped the nation through lockdown when millions of people turned to his online PE classes. He got children moving when they couldn’t go to school and changed the lives of many adults too, inspiring them to get fit, lose weight and improve their mental health. 

I hope that people have good memories of those workouts and that it helped them with their mental health.

In 2020, Joe raised £580,000 for NHS Charities Together. The same year, the 36-year-old fitness trainer received an MBE from the Queen for his efforts during the pandemic. 

“It was definitely a moment in time, you know,” says Joe as we soak up the sunshine on the rooftop bar of Liverpool’s Oh Me Oh My

“That was a big moment. It was busy. But I've had a little bit of time off and this is the first time I've been back on the road on tour. I've been doing a lot of TV and radio for the last few weeks and you can't get away from me at the moment. I was on every TV show in the UK.”

Joe Wicks The Body Coach Liverpool Feel Good Food
On top of the world - Joe Wicks Image: Confidentials

Joe Wicks - aka The Body Coach and best-selling author of 10 cookbooks - is in Liverpool for the launch of his new book, Feel Good Food. It’s already jumped straight to the top of the UK book charts and today’s signing event at Oh Me Oh My has been long sold out. 

Wicks grew up on a council estate in Epsom and says that his father’s drug addiction was instrumental in getting him into exercise and fitness. From a struggling personal trainer, he’s now the author of the second highest-selling cookbook of all time and has stacked up 11 million social media followers and three million YouTube views.

“I think it was all about people's mental health. For me it was about making people feel good and have a laugh and have a bit of structure to their day,” he says on the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“It wasn't really about fat loss and physical change, I just thought - I’ve got to get people through it - and I hope that people have good memories of those workouts and that it helped them with their mental health. For those that did it, it anchored them back a little bit and got them feeling more positive.”

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Gettings kids moving during lockdown Image: The Body Coach

As somebody whose main job is to eat (and drink) for a living, Joe’s disciplined lifestyle is a bit lost on me. I’ve never bought any of his books or joined in with his PE classes, but I suppose I can appreciate the appeal. He’s chatty, modest, and overall a very likeable bloke, who has helped millions of couch potatoes like me become fitter, healthier and happier.

Can a person who loves eating out still be part of the Joe Wicks gang? 

“I don't think it's an issue to eat out every now and again, to have a little blow out and enjoy a nice meal out,” Joe says. 

“I mean, I've been on the road and it’s so much harder when you're eating out all the time. The temptation for me is that I can't order the salad. I order the burger or the steak and chips because I love food and I just find it difficult to choose the healthier option. 

“When I’m at home, I'm more in control of things because I'm predominantly cooking. But you know, eating out once a week is fine. If you're going to eat out four or five times a week, you are going to find it hard to stay in shape, unless you've got really good discipline to choose the healthier option.

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A world record breaking workout in 2020 Image: The Body Coach

“I think the message is essentially that to feel good, you have to put good food in your body, because there's a link now between our gut health and our brain and how it affects our mood and our energy levels. When we eat good food, you've got more vitality, you've got energy to actually do more.

“If you put good food in your body, you're allowing yourself to sleep better. You don't feel as bloated, your skin improves, your hair, and your energy to wake up in the morning and exercise.”

Still a little out of breath from the trip up to the rooftop of Oh Me Oh My (even though I used the lift) I wonder what Wicks makes of me. I tell him that when my partner bought his first book, Lean In 15, our packed fridge looked like we were feeding the five thousand.

Joe Wicks The Body Coach Liverpool Feel Good Food Facebook
The new book has a focus on positive mental health Image: The Body Coach/Facebook

Does his latest recipe collection make it possible to eat well on a budget? 

“It's quick, simple food,” he says. “I've got a lot of tips in the recipes around what you can remove if things are difficult. There's a lot of breakfasts using oats and eggs and things so they're not all like you know, salmon and avocado. I know that people feel restricted and they feel like they can't access those recipes. So yeah, I'm conscious of that.

“You can obviously save money if you do things in bulk and start batch cooking. So that's something I really talk about a lot in the book as well.”

I'm a gin man. Gin and tonic's my thing. But I'm more like, you know, just one.

I ask Joe what his stance is on alcohol, assuming he’ll say that he doesn’t drink.

“I'm a gin man. Gin and tonic’s my thing. But I'm more like, you know, just one. I like the taste in the flavours of gin and I’m not really a proper boozer. But, again, it just depends what your goals are. I think for me, alcohol isn't the issue. It's the next day, it's the hangover. It's my mental state, my energy. 

“I don't want to exercise, I just want to eat crap food all day. So it's normally the knock on effects of the alcohol that kind of makes me think, it ain’t worth it. The hangovers and just waking up feeling a bit groggy it's not for me. It doesn't serve me.”

This all sounds familiar. Ironically, Joe tells me that I have his dream job. But how can I be more like him?

“The first thing should be change your mindset from it being about fat loss and body image and shift it to more of a mental health focus on how you want to feel better after you exercise, how it changes your mood and helps you with your productivity.

“Take it one day at a time you know, no day is perfect. You're gonna have days where you slip up and you don't want to train but just keep coming back and just be consistent with it - that’s the most important thing.” 

'Feel Good Food' by Joe Wicks is published by Harper Collins and available from Waterstones Liverpool ONE.

Since interviewing Joe Wicks it was brought to our attention that he has a working relationship with The Sun newspaper. The author of this article was previously unaware of this relationship - why would they know, they don’t read The Sun? We asked his PR company for comment but they’ve yet to respond. Confidentials decided to publish this interview so that you can decide if you want to read it.

Read next: 'Boiling Point' - Stephen Graham’s kitchen nightmare is a must watch

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