Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach and the world’s most beloved PE teacher opens his heart about parenting during lockdown, his weaning book and future plans

As we approach his last PE lesson, I look back at my interview with the nation’s official PE teacher, Joe Wicks, that happened through a zoom call during the covid-19 lockdown. With his super approachable, friendly and affable demeanour he made me feel immediately at ease. Joe Wicks is loved by not only in Britain but has a huge number of fans worldwide and deservedly so.

Monica: Joe, if you hadn’t been for your PE lessons every day I would be so unfit now. Everybody looks at you as an inspiration and a role model for parents right now. I have felt always so motivated to follow your classes in the morning, I was eager to start the day knowing you would be there to give me a much-needed boost to get through another day in lockdown. Thank you so much for doing that. Your authentic approach on your Live YouTube coaching sessions is wonderful. You show your unique weaknesses and imperfections, you often puff and say that you are tired during and after the workout. This makes people feel that they can relate, especially during the tough lockdown. 

How do you manage to keep up with such high energy and motivation all the time?

Joe: I try to show people that this is real, as much as I can, I try to inspire them to get as much of the workout as possible.

Monica: You have been sharing insights of your personal life with your wife Rosie, your adorable children. You are a truly lovely couple. A strong partnership has shone through.

How have you and Rosie managed the kids during the forced isolation?

Joe: A lot gets crunched down through team work, taking turns and understanding that it’s really difficult otherwise for me to do my workouts, do the emails and run the business. It is equally challenging for Rosie to stimulate, engage and motivate two children all day long so we’ve got a real mutual respect for that. Being a parent is a full-time role and especially when you’ve got to do activities, including craft to keep them away from the TV. She is very patient and I learn from her every day. We can be a team, we can be patient, we can respond really well, instead of the approach of being frustrated. She understands that I need to get to work on time and at the same time I am there to cook dinner, lunch and sitting together. We’ve always lived together like this at home from the start, when Rosie had our first child Indie. Nothing really feels different to us in that respect.

Monica: Yes, I totally get you as I have been working from home for the past 15 years. It has been quite tough for some families, though.

Joe: Some people had a big social life, prior to lockdown. With regards to my family, it’s just me and Rosie. We take turns: she does her workout and I then do mine. It’s about giving your partner the time and the space. Rosie would go out for one hour for a walk on her own so I take the kids. It’s a little breather, away from the kids.

Monica: You have recently written a new cookery book called Wean in 15.

Joe: I’m really proud of this book and I’ve been amazed by the support, the pre-orders have been so high, even higher than my last previous book. I have more followers now but I think people wanted to support it and they are excited about a book that is going to really help them get the kids eating well. It’s the first time that I’ve addressed this as I’ve become a parent and I’m so passionate about seeing children eat healthily. You need to start young so that you can start with healthy habits.

Monica: Absolutely! As an Italian for me food is at the essence of everything!

Joe: I love it.

Monica: This is a mum and child friendly book, with a lovely layout and pictures of you and Indie. On your YouTube channel, during the PE lessons, you mentioned travelling a lot.

What countries and food cultures have inspired your recipes?

Joe: I try to introduce food that I also like.  I weaned very quickly on food like pasta, Risotto, orzo, linguine and spaghetti to the kids so you can have these lovely meals. My grandmother was Italian. If I had to spend the rest of my life in one place it would be Italy for the food. I really believe that. Then there’s Asian vegetable curry, dahls and lentil stews. The book is not just about one culture, really. It’s more about the food I love. I wanted to try Indian food with Indra and I noticed that she has become an adventurous eater so I constantly challenge her with new spices, flavours. I want to push the boundaries so children can eat real food, not always baby food.

We can give them a broad variety of food, also roasted vegetables. Indie is definitely a good eater as I have been persistent in my approach, which is what I am trying to show in my book.

Monica: Joe, you definitely look like an Italian.

Joe: My grandmother is Italian and my grandfather was Spanish.

Monica: You look very Mediterranean.

What’s your favourite recipe from this book?

Joe: My favourite meal, I would say in terms of simplicity, is the Caribbean spicy curry, a good one for both adults and kids. It has a lovely flavour. You can remove the chicken and add peppers or other veggies to turn it into a vegetarian dish.

Monica: When I came to London 22 years ago, I did not think that I would fall in love with curry recipes. Coming back to weaning Indie, I’ve seen her eating snacks very independently.

How did you manage her to become so confident?

Joe: She just likes food and I make a point in the book that it is important for the kids to see you preparing the food, cooking it and stay together. I talk about creating a calm environment. Sitting down together and demonstrating how you eat with the fork and knife makes a huge difference to your children.

Monica: Many children, like my son, although they’ve been brought up with healthy food, they seem to be fussy eaters. Would you maybe suggest that some of the recipes in your book are for older children to learn how to enjoy themselves?

Joe: Fussy eating happens because it is easy to give in and offer alternatives, so you do that and children respond to that by pushing the food away and say no until you bring what they really like. We never offer alternatives, we really stick to what we have prepared, we stick to our guns and we say: ”Look, I know you don’t want to eat it now, I’ll bring it back into one hours’ time”.

Then we try again and nine times out of ten she would take her food. In the book there is a section which is 12-month plus and there are lovely recipes like lamb and lentils, shepherd’s pie with potato mash, chicken and mushroom burgers, lovely chicken curry, Thai green curry, falafel black beans. All these are very good for anyone as they have lots of veggies and it’s a great way of getting the children to eat them with their family. Lamb kofta with cous-cous is another one of my favourites. That’s really good for a barbecue. The book is mainly for babies but also for families. Look at this one, the chicken and mushroom burgers.

Monica: What is your parenting style? You seem like a super fun dad!

Joe: I like to be involved and I like to have fun and take my kid on bike rides. I want to be present! Although I am an entrepreneur and I work really hard, I still put my phone down and I spend time with my children and my favourite time of the day is night time to do the bath and bed routine. I love reading to Indie. We read so many small books every day, two or three, like the short Gruffalo’s. It really has a massive impact and I’ve never had that as a kid so I want to be a good patient dad and I’m learning to do that every day.

Monica: I love watching Indie coming to do the ballerina moves during the PE with Joe Classes online. You have entered all these homes every day and become part of our families.  I never even liked online classes before but during lockdown we have been forced to do everything online.

I am thinking, what are we going to do in the future when this is going to be finished?  You should continue.

Joe: Oh, thank you. To do it forever!

Monica: People love you so much now that I am sure they want you to continue.

Joe: I haven’t thought about when to stop it all together and I want keep doing it.

Monica: Great news! It’s good to know that you have being enjoying it as much as the public.

What’s your main motivation to stay fit and healthy?  How can teenagers, who tend to lose interest quickly, regain it?

Joe: I think it is important to keep doing it together, modelling, trying to have fun. I am trying  to make kids having fun with quizzes and fancy dresses. It’s about engaging rather than forcing it. It’s about showing how it makes you feel, it’s all about mental health. When you are a teenager you are very emotional, you are up and down. With exercise you can really control to feel more positive on the day. When Indie will be a bit older, I will try to keep exercising with her and hopefully she will get in to that and hopefully she’ll continue on her own and she’ll enjoy it.

Monica: Now that you are the officially most beloved PE teacher in the world, what are you up to next? I am sure brands will fight to have you on board to be their ambassador but at the core, what do you want to do? What is in your heart? What is your passion?

Joe: This school project has been a four-year journey. I’ve been trying so hard, visiting schools, getting TV and radio to support me but nothing did it so quickly like these daily PE lessons. Now I have really achieved what I knew I was going to achieve. I dreamt of this, I manifested it. I thought it would have taken me ten years, it’s taken me seven weeks, as it has just been exploding online through YouTube.

But my ambition is to continue this legacy. How can I make sure that families like yourself, keep this up and want to continue? I need to generate content, on my free online platform.

There could be an online platform including regular workouts. I don’t want to give up on this dream.

It has got potential to live beyond me. There could be a platform where you can tap in and have a lot of content and workouts, a resource for parents and schools to keep their kids active. All my energy, effort and passion is going to young people’s fitness. This is really the next step for PE with Joe, I suppose.

Monica: I’m very pleased because I will continue doing it every day even beyond my other social sporting commitments.

 

WEAN IN 15

UP-TO-DATE ADVICE AND 100 QUICK RECIPES

BY JOE WICKS

14th May 2020 – Hardback – £16.99

The all-you-need to know weaning guide for modern parents from Joe Wicks, Britain’s favourite healthy cook

Joe Wicks is Britain’s favourite healthy cook. He is also the author of Lean in 15 – The Shift Plan and several other cookery books. He is also the BBC Children in Need Schools’ Ambassador. Throughout this journey, Joe has worked with Charlotte Stirling-Reed, a Registered Nutritionist specialising in maternal and infant nutrition, to ensure that every piece of advice he gives his readers is evidence based and safe. Charlotte has helped Joe to find confidence in the weaning process and explore new flavours and textures with Indie to make the food as exciting and nutritious as possible. In this book with Joe, she shares all the up to date research and NHS guidelines on weaning, so that parents can be armed with what they need to set their child up for a lifetime of healthy eating.

Wean in 15 includes everything you need to take your baby from breastfeeding, through first foods, to enjoying family mealtimes. Joe draws from his experience of weaning his daughter Indie and working with a leading registered nutritionist to create the most comprehensive baby bible for modern parents. Weaning can be a daunting prospect, but Joe cuts through all of the confusing information and shares the simple trustworthy knowledge that he’s found so helpful.

Whether you’re a first-time parent or not, this book guides you towards getting the best for your little one, from figuring out when to start weaning and how much food your child needs, to adapting your own meals into purées and finger foods. Joe knows how difficult it can be to manage your time, so he also shows you how to prep like a boss with shopping lists and freezable items.

With one hundred tasty recipes split into age stages, expert help with nutrients, allergies, supplements and fussy eaters, as well as knowing how to understand your child’s signals, this is the only weaning guide you will ever need to lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy, happy eating.

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