I’ve interviewed Joe Wicks a.k.a The Body Coach on a couple of occasions, and both times have been struck by his quietly confident, but what also could be construed as slightly shy demeanour. The complete opposite to his vibrant, exhaustingly energetic online persona, which virtually grabs you through the screen and guilts you into getting active.
The first time, Joe came into Dublin’s Q102 for an interview, I have to admit I was a little naïve at just how popular he and his motivational online movement, HIT, was. I was soon enlightened by the growing group of devoted followers, which started gathering, in and outside the building. With ‘Poldarkish’ looks, you can certainly see the attraction, but what is the substance that has made him THE online weight loss and fitness guru, a modern day melange of Mr Motivator and Jane Fonda without the lycra.
In the space of three short years, Joe Wicks has written six healthy eating books and sold over two million. Five hundred people a day subscribe to his weight loss plans and his instagram followers exceed 1.8 million. So what is it that makes Joe, his work outs and recipes such a HIIT (if you’ll pardon the pun)?
Part of the reason for his success is his online presence. And when it comes to social media, Joe admits he’s obsessed. If you, like over 300k other people, follow his Twitter feed, you get an instant understanding as to why so many people on the quest for fitness and weight loss, choose Joe over the millions of other ‘health and Fitness’ practitioners out there – he engages.
Before and after pictures are tweeted in their droves, and Joe, believing in the power of fan engagement, responds. Ok, he admits that it’s a family affair – his brother Nick and his cousin Lucca give him a dig out, but for the most part he replies, retweets and sends his own PM’s.
And in a world where virtual appreciation and positivity is key to many, this is all they need to keep burpee-ing and buying his books. If you flip through his Twitter feed, it’s a constant stream of inspirational stories. “‘Andy’ is about to complete his second Marathon in the space of a week, this time last year he was 18 stone”. His stream is like an easy friendly chat amongst friends, each extoling passionate praise for whatever plan they’re following, and whichever of his tasty dishes they’ve made that day.
Aside from the books there’s a complete cookery range, featuring everything from pots and pans to lunchboxes, ensuring you can “prep like a boss” in style. But while Joe’s devotees are losing pounds, theres not doubt that he’s banking them.
But with an alleged income of over five million pounds sterling, last year does money motivate him, or does he really still just want to change peoples lives? He does, it seems by giving people back the one thing we all take for granted, time. Combining his 15 or now 30 minute meals with short and snappy 15 minute work outs.
His mantra ‘prep like a boss’ also gets his followers cooking up a storm at the weekend, allowing for a tasty, nutritious, easily microwavable dinner, at their finger tips when they trudge in the door from work the next day .
It’s not surprising that much of Joe’s drive to start cooking using “real” food came from a childhood where a picnic consisted of a ham sandwich and a packet of crisps. Growing up on that staple 80’s diet of crispy pancakes and waffles, fresh from the freezer, inspired the future body coach to kick off his working life in a supermarket, ensuring instant access to better quality food.
Neven Maguire recently told me that he would like to see Home Economics made compulsory in schools up to third year, and while Jamie Oliver may be the pioneering the purge of all things evil in UK school dinners, Joe is also an advocate of families spending time together, preparing their meals and eating well.
His accessible fitness techniques are proving inspirational in schools where students are developing their own techniques, as well as following his.
In his latest book ‘Joe’s 30 minute meals, 100 quick and healthy recipes’, he has made the move dishing up tasty, nutritious dinners in 15 minutes, to a more leisurely 30 minutes. With everything from Sambal sea Bass and Coconut rice, to Pork and Kidney Bean Burritos and Chocolate mousse, made with full fat eggs and chocolate, “there’s something for everyone”.
Joe believes the extra 15 minutes allows people to spend more time cooking together, while allowing him to expand his repertoire. All the recipes serve four, and take ten to fifteen minutes to prep – as he says the book does “exactly what it says on the tin”!
But is it all burpees and broccolli for Joe himself? While he advocates using coconut oil, he prefers to cook with butter. And not just any old butter, he’ll only use Kerrygold. He readily admits to enjoying the odd slice of choclate cake. And I think that is The Body Coach Appeal. Getting fit and healthy in a non preachy way, in the online company of thousands more, with the promise of home made delicious dinners that don’t taste of cardboard.
Venetia Quick is the Co Presenter of ‘Mornings with Liam & V’ on Dublin’s Q102, Continuity Presenter Virgin Media 3, & columnist The Irish Sun. Cookbook collector & lover of all things edible!