When you log onto Joanne Encarnacion’s website, GoFitJo, named after her social media moniker, the page says, “A Modern Day Mother Hustler Sharing Her Fitness Journey Towards a Happier and Healthier Life. One Rep At a Time,” and that’s the exact sentiments that come across on both her website and her Instagram channel that now has 79K followers.
For years, I, like many, have followed Joanne on the web because her spaces always felt safe. They felt like a place where you can be candid, engage in dialogue, and have your own, “Yeah girl. I feel you!” moment with her captions or her blog posts. With her platforms, Joanne gives her community a clear look into her life, from her relationships with her husband and two daughters, her fitness journey, cool recipes, and even tips on how to perfect and personalize your bullet journal.
Now, leaving corporate life in the background, Joanne is on a new journey as an entrepreneur helping women develop meaningful relationships towards health and nutrition. We got a chance to speak with Joanne about motherhood, relationships, and the importance of self-care.
For years, you’ve been one of my favorite Instagram accounts. Can you give readers a little bit of background about your blog and yourself?
My blog kind of came up a little after the Instagram. I love to say that because when I started my health journey, Go Fit Jo, started off as a hashtag where I was trying to document my health journey in terms of trying to find a way to cope with anxiety and depression during this really tough time in my life before I was turning 30.
Six months into documenting this life of mine, readers, and followers in my Instagram community were asked if I would start a blog so they could find all this information and how they’d love to go back and read some of my motivational pieces. I was working in tech at the time and I remember thinking, “No, I don’t want to start a blog because it’s just another job. It’s just another pile of things to do and I don’t know how to do that on top of a full-time job, helping my husband run his business, my kids and trying to work out and stay fit.” I started my blog anyway as kind of a passion project of mine because I felt that I needed something that was outside of work that was just mine to own.
I started GoFitJo, and 2016 was when it really started to pick up and make a name for itself and it was really amazing because I started guest writing for different publications and getting a lot more features. It was also maybe three years into my own fitness journey where I was starting to think if I’m so passionate about this space of health and wellness, how can I take what I do in tech and infuse that with health and wellness? At the time, I was working in tech at a startup called VSCO as the Director of Community and Curation. At VSCO, I was managing fairly large teams and people managing was something that was always my favorite because the way that I approached people managing was empowering employees — it always made me happy to see employees understand how to get from point A to point B.
I remember in 2016 thinking to myself, if this startup life is no longer for me because it can really get tiring, I want to find a way to move in a direction where I can bring this coaching, like health and wellness. And funny enough, in the fall of 2016, I felt like the universe heard what I wanted and decided that it was time for me to leave my job because I got laid off, which was actually great.
It’s funny, my layoff story, because ten days before I got laid off, I looked at my husband and said, I think that I’m done. I think it’s time for me to explore a new passion, and it’s just time for me to try it out because if I don’t try it now, I have no idea when I’ll try it out. It was like, Shit, the universe heard me really loud. It took ten days for it to make some moves, but it heard me.
Shortly after getting laid off, I went back to school to get my Health and Nutrition Coaching certification and took my blog full-time, and here I am now. I am a Women’s Health and Lifestyle Coach, and I empower women to redefine what health and wellness mean on their own terms while creating healthy and sustainable habits throughout their busy lives. So yeah, that’s what I do, more or less, part-time because my social media/influencer and blogger life really take up a lot of balance at the moment.
With your blog and business, I would imagine that sometimes it could be used as a form of accountability with your fitness goals, etc. How do you use what you do as a source of motivation?
A lot of the time when I write on my blog, sometimes I think the posts are actually more notes to myself than they are for an audience. They are for my audience, but they’re definitely more self-reflection and my own personal thoughts about certain things or ideas or concepts that are just in my head around health and wellness. There’s always been a part of me that finds sharing my own stories with struggle throughout whatever journey I was embarking on cathartic. I always found a sense of healing or accountability or a sense of self when somebody else – whether in my community or my client – can relate to something that I have said or done.
It doesn’t feel like a tool because it feels like we’re all together in my house having tea or coffee or wine or whatever and just chatting about all the ups and downs and really trying to problem solve together, which I think it’s really awesome.
I guess in a roundabout answer, it’s very cathartic to me and yes, it could be used as an accountability tool because I get to watch myself throughout the day as I go, and it’s almost like a personal digital diary to speak, especially the things I write on Instagram.
In the past, I blogged, but it was music blogging. There were a lot of things that I had going on at the time so I would write in a journal, but it would’ve been cool to put that in a public space and have an audience and still have an outlet for creativity.
Yeah, I remember the first-ever post of Go Fit Jo (not this account, but my hashtag post) was when I came out to the world that I was going on this fitness journey. I was working in tech at the time, and a lot of my friends are creative entrepreneurs, and because they are also creative entrepreneurs in the photography space, there’s a sense of perfection that is a part of that culture; that’s in any artist space. We are so hard on ourselves, so when it comes to putting work out there, it always has to be pretty much perfect in our eyes before we can put it out. That always creates a sense of anxiety because it’s overwhelming to always live in this perfect standard even that perfect standard is something that we create in our own minds.
I remember when I was sharing about my anxiety and depression and I hid it so well from my friends and colleagues. They had no idea that I was going through 18 months of anxiety and depression. It was so terrible that I would be crying in my closet upstairs in my bedroom and my kids and husband would be downstairs because life was just overwhelming trying to do all the things at one time. I remember sharing that piece and just saying, I’m tired of looking at myself in the mirror not knowing who this woman is that I’ve become. I’m tired of being tired of myself. I’m tired of not feeling energetic. I’m tired of not feeling motivated — I’m tired of just surviving.
When I started my health journey, I hadn’t worked out since high school, so here I am at 29 years old trying to start something new and being like, I have no idea where to begin with this.
I think that was the moment that a lot of people were like, holy shit I feel you, I know exactly how that feels, but no one wanted to speak it because who wants to say that they are depressed and anxious – especially as a mom with beautiful kids that are healthy and a roof over their head and on paper everything looks like it is going well.
I remember it was such a great cathartic healing moment because I didn’t feel alone in the struggle. I also didn’t feel bad about that because I wasn’t the only person feeling that way, I was just the only person who was saying it. It was really powerful. So yeah, the sharing piece is a really powerful piece to it all.
Is that what your profile means when you say that you are a ‘woman in progress’?
This year, the whole term “a woman in progress” was something that kind of came about because I’ve always chased my passion. Before tech, I was a hair stylist, and I did that for 10 years. Then I went to tech, and now, I’m an entrepreneur in the health and wellness field – so it’s kind of like I am a passion-chaser. I’m all about chasing passions and chasing dreams. I grew up in an immigrant family, and it’s like you have one career and that’s the carer you’re in for 40 years, and you’re supposed to have your stuff figured out and that’s how you’re supposed to be as a woman – if you’re a man it doesn’t really matter, but, you figure your shit out and that’s your story.
A woman in progress for me was always like what if you’re figuring it out day-by-day, and what if every day is a new moment and you look at things with excitement and joy every day. The process becomes so much more beautiful in its messiness because you’re in constant movement and constant evolution, so that’s what I mean by a woman in progress. I want to embrace that because it breaks this idea of perfect in such a way that makes more sense to the heart.
Let’s go back to working at VSCO. One of the things that I have always loved about your Instagram feed and blog is the photos because they really help to tell the story. For you, how much importance do you place on visuals in telling your story?
Oh my god, it’s huge. I’ve been a storyteller all my life I think. My first love was photography – that was my first art. I took photography in high school and there was always something about photography that was so self-motivating to the heart for me. I remember in high school, photojournalism was one thing that I really loved, and my teachers would always encourage me to share my work in different contests for awards and stuff, and the reason why I think visuals are really important for storytelling is that sometimes, the words are not always enough. There’s something that is so moving when you have a photograph that embodies the emotion of what you’re saying. I always like to call myself a feeler of moments with it comes to photography because I love to photograph the beautiful nuances of human behavior, and it is always so important to me. So yeah, photography is a huge factor because it ties in a human representation of whatever that emotion is that you’re trying to get through.
I know from speaking with my parents that they always say that you’re never really ready to be a parent. For you, what was your journey into motherhood with your two daughters?
Motherhood kind of slapped me in the face – it was unexpected. I always tease that my first daughter was an “oh shit” baby because we were like, Oh crap we’re pregnant and we have to figure out life now with a child – it was really frightening, to be honest. I was 20 years old when I found out I was pregnant, just about to turn 21. I was just starting my first career as a hairstylist, and the idea of having this baby while I was trying to build this career and clientele was just nuts to me. It was frightening, but I think the biggest thing that it taught me in terms of that was just to adapt and to know that things will always work out as they’re supposed to as long as you continue with heart and love, and lots of passion.
Motherhood is like jumping into an ocean of unknown creatures, you never know what the day is going to be like. You’re never going to know if it’s going to be crappy or what, and at the end of the day, when they all go to sleep, you’re like, This is the most beautiful and chaotic crazy day ever, let me have some wine and shut things down.
It’s taught me a lot because with becoming a mom so young, it taught me how to have focus and how to have a purpose in everything that I do. I looked at things with a lot of intention. Let’s say for example, with new friends or new experiences, I had to make sure that this was meaningful enough for me to step away from my children my family as a whole. I think it’s hard to do because you have to give certain areas of your life a really hard “no” in order to make things thrive, and I learned that pretty quickly and at a very young age.
What are some of the things that you’ve learned about yourself from being a mother?
I think one lesson I learned in terms of motherhood was that it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s version of motherhood, and that was super important. I learned that pretty quickly because I was the only one of my friends at the time that had a child at 21. All my friends were partying and in school and starting their careers, and I was too, but they didn’t have the element of a child – they weren’t changing diapers at 21 — and so it taught me that big time.
I learned to just focus and to be honest. I didn’t think I knew that I could love that hard. I grew up in a slightly abusive household, and I had a lot of pain and abuse in my past from other people outside of my house, too. I had a dark history, and I think because of that, I always thought either I’m not going to be loved enough or I don’t have the capacity to love because of all the things that I’ve been through. Having children teaches you that your capacity to love is so deep – it runs so deep to the point that it’s self-sacrificing for a lot of women that I know, even me.
I had a moment of self-sacrificing for myself, but it also teaches you boundaries so that you don’t constantly sacrifice yourself. I think for this journey over the last five years, not just with my journey through motherhood, but my journey through being a woman, I’ve learned that boundaries are so important not only with just other people but with your family too because it teaches them responsibility and teaches them respect when you give them boundaries around your space as a mom and as a career woman and as an entrepreneur. That has definitely some of my biggest lessons I’ve learned with motherhood throughout the time.
I know that many people don’t like the word “balance,” but how are you able to balance giving your full self to your children and giving your full self to your career —while finding that middle ground between both?
I love to say that balance is bullshit. I say that balance is bullshit all the time because we strive for this idea of balance and it’s supposed to be perfect. Over the last four years, I started just searching for harmony, and that has felt so much better to me over balance. Everything just ebbs and flows; not everything is going to be equal every single day. I never feel that I’m going to be 100% perfect like giving four hours of time here and four hours of time there, it’s never like that.
I always just search for harmony, and the way that I like to describe that is in the same way that an acapella group harmonizes, there’s a mixture of highs and lows in between the day to make this beautiful sound, right? And so that’s how I look at balancing career and life and kids and my husband. Every single one of you is singing a different note, but at the end of the day, that all makes sense and that’s totally fine for me. I know at the end of the day, I can sleep when things feel like they are in harmony.
One of my favorite blog posts that you wrote somewhat recently was about how you and your husband saved your marriage. For you, how important was it to be raw and vulnerable when sharing what you two were going through?
I think that it was important for a couple of reasons. First, I thought it was super important because, with fitness culture, there’s this constant messaging of no pain, no gain, no excuses. It doesn’t matter what things get in the way, always put your health first. For me, I felt like during this period of our lives where my marriage needed so much time and energy, my physical fitness or physical progress definitely declined. I gained some weight back, and even though I wasn’t on a weight loss journey so to speak, I put on some weight because of having to shift my focus.
I think it was important to share that because the way that I view health is that health is everything that nourishes you on and off your plate. That’s your career and your relationships and the way you deal with your spirituality and the way you connect with other people. If one of those areas is not working, then your health is going to decline in other areas because there’s a lack of love or energy being placed there. It was important to give people a holistic impression of what I felt and not only just my [digital] community, but my coaching clients too, because we talk about health, wellness, nutrition and physical activity, but a lot of the things that come to me are almost like life coaching. We can’t even get to the nitty-gritty of how you’re feeling until we start talking about all the elements of life and how that affects how you should eat and how you move. It was important for me to showcase the holistic part of health.
The second piece of why it was important was because I think so many times, especially through social media, we showcase on these beautiful moments with relationships and that makes people feel so alienated when things are not going well. That’s how I felt, alienated, for a short moment in time because of our struggles. We were struggling for about maybe a year and a half before we actually verbalized to each other that we need to fix this. There’s stuff that is wrong here, and that we are not as connected as we were before. I think because I kept hearing people say hashtag #couplegoals, for me I’m always like, but this took work. This took a lot of love and choices to make this work. So I think it was important to bring transparency, to show that it’s not always a fairytale, just like with fitness journey transformation videos — we only see here’s the good vs. the bad, we never see the in-between. I felt like it was important to showcase a little bit of that struggle.
How important is it for you to make time to do date nights?
It’s important, it’s really important for both of us, especially because my schedule as a blogger and an influencer and as a coach is so erratic sometimes and it can get pretty crazy and my time is spread very thin. So it’s important for us to just go on these dates to actually reconnect with each other and to also remind each other why we chose each other in the first place. It’s so important for us. Lately, the date nights have been just furniture runs since we’re trying to furnish our new house, but even that kind of reminds me of when we first started dating and when we first moved in with each other and that was such a fun experience, too.
For a mother who may be in your shoes, if you have to give them one piece of advice – what would you say?
I didn’t do this, but I heard it recently and thought it was the smartest thing ever. One piece of advice is meet with an accountant to have them lay out a plan of when you’re going to be profitable. When I heard that advice, I was like this is incredibly smart. That doesn’t necessarily help a five-year plan but it’s showing you, Here’s what you need to do, here are some steps that you need to take to get there. Having that financial plan ahead of time sounds incredible; screw a five-year plan, have a financial plan to know how to get there. I wish that I had that earlier.
The other piece is if you’re passionate about something, let your passion carry you and your passion will always find a way to carry you. I’ve always believed in that, even more so now because these days I’m a firm believer in purpose and passion. At the end of the day it will always equal out in terms of profit, but you have to have passion and you have to have to let your passion lead you.
With such a busy schedule, how do you make time for yourself?
If there’s a minimalist, I’m a simplistic. What I mean by that is sometimes the only thing I need for self-care is walking outside and soaking up the sun for five minutes without anybody. And that’s something that I definitely do for my self-care practice. I work out for my self-care practice, and getting my nails done and having my girlfriends over once a month is also a self-care practice for me. I think I just find it in whatever ways make sense for me, and self-care really means, ultimately, is taking care of self, whatever “self” means.
For me, in my eyes, the way that I define that is whatever Jo needs outside of all of her other responsibilities. Whether that’s work or my family or my marriage, what it is that I need to take care of myself and me alone. Sometimes that’s just sitting and meditating for five minutes in my day, so I’m pretty simple about that.
Joanne Encarnacion is The Everymom…
What was one of the last songs that you listened to that made you feel really good?
“Timeless” by Sergio Mendes and India Arie.
What’s one of your favorite places in the Bay Area that everyone may not know about?
Brown Sugar Kitchen! So good! I feel like everybody knows about that but it’s never on a list – I’m sure it’s on some list and it’s definitely not healthy, but their chicken and waffles are so good.
What’s your favorite quick and healthy snack?
Sliced pears and almond butter. It’s super easy and sweet, but not too sweet.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
Brene Brown would be my top. She pulls at my heartstrings.