Joe Wicks makes the claim that diets don’t work, you should just eat his meals instead. But is that a distinction without a difference?


Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 cookbooks have been an international phenomenon topping the Amazon bestseller list to rave reviews. Even now, over a year since publication, his first cookbook is #1 in the Men’s Health & Lifestyle, Healthy Eating, and Weight Control listings of the Kindle Store. But does the central claim hold true? And, perhaps more importantly, do the meals taste any good?

Does it take fifteen minutes?

If I’m being completely honest I’ve never been a big cook. Maybe this is the millennial in me speaking but even 15 minutes seemed like a big commitment for one meal.

I’m more prone to cooking massive amounts on a Sunday and eating it over the course of the week. I’ll slap a couple of whole chickens in the oven and put them in Tupperware. Then they’re ready to be slathered in Red’s True Barbecue sauce at a moment’s notice. Failing that, I’ll spend all my money eating out. It probably nets more time spent in the long run but it frees up my limited mental RAM for other things. Some productive, some not … mostly not.

So setting aside time every day to cook was new to me. But while the cooking itself does take 15 minutes, the prep takes a bit longer. So the title is slightly misleading if you’re expecting a magical 15-minute meal. That’s not counting the exercises which we’ll get to later.

Does it taste good?

During student life I was better than your average student when it came to food. While the average student was having Pot Noodles, instant ramen and pasta for every meal, I might cook myself a Malaysian turkey curry once in a while or failing that I’d wrap some bacon around a piece of chicken and have it with some rice. It’s not Gordon Ramsey good but it’s something.

Joe Wicks’ recipes don’t require much more effort than that. While they may not be ideal for the actual starving student (I managed to scrounge a lot of the ingredients from my family) they’re perfect student meals if you’ve got the time and the budget. And the result is fantastic. Of the ten recipes I tried none of them were duds and some made several appearances at the end of my fork.

Seriously, if you try anything try the beef stir fry.

To those of us still adjusting to the graduate lifestyle, Joe Wicks could well be our bridge into cooking like actual adults (can you imagine such a thing?).

Does it work?


Unless you’re living the 1950’s dream and your other half is at home dusting, shopping and preparing meals for you, you probably don’t have time for three home-cooked meals per day. And if you include the prep time you’re not gaining much over an Uncle Ben’s curry (my go-to meal). Over the two weeks I spent using Joe’s books I managed to cook once, sometimes twice a day. Perhaps I’m not a born cook but I always feel as though there’s something better to be thinking about and a more efficient way of doing things.

No doubt there are some people who have the time, patience and facilities to make a Wicks recipe for every meal. If you’re a dedicated Wickan (not to be confused with a wiccan) you’ll lose a lot of weight and feel better for it, but for the average person it’s not a sustainable model.

All this to say that when slotted into a normal 9 to 5 working pattern, my weight decreased 0.3kg, and I didn’t start out ‘lean’ by any definition.

The books also contain brief exercise routines to help get you in shape. These are largely basic bodyweight workouts which are great for a beginner but are otherwise quite simple. I tried some of these exercises and even some variations with the weights I have at home, but unless you skip dinner you’re still missing the central goal of getting lean in 15 minutes.


Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 books are cookbooks masquerading as diets masquerading as ‘not diets’. The ‘Lean in 15′ branding is little more than a sales gimmick. That’s not a criticism, in a crowded marketplace you’ve got to do what you can to get noticed. But the fact is you’d have just as much dietary success following the cookbooks of Jamie Oliver or Delia Smith (if you stick to the healthier options).

While the recipes are simple and delicious, a cookbook on its own is just a tool. It can’t substitute for good old-fashioned calorie counting and exercise — something Wicks’ books are essentially recommending in a very roundabout way.

They’re definitely worth your money just for the delicious recipes inside, but remember you’re not purchasing some weight loss panacea as the advertising suggests. You’ve still got to put the effort in. Something the diet industry thrives on us forgetting.

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