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Episode 35

In our latest interview for our new “Changemakers” edition of the podcast, we’re joined by health and wellness guru Jo Encarnacion, a.k.a. @GoFitJo.

We talk about battling depression through fitness and wellness, intimacy vs. sex, the double-edged sword of social media, lessons from parenthood, and the wisdom of womanhood. We learn about how to embrace imperfection, the power of viewing rejection as “redirection,” and the reality that we are all a constantly-evolving “work in progress.”

Sasza Lohrey

Well, while we’re on the definition train, I’ll ask you for one more. What is your definition of intimacy?

Joanne Encarnacion 

So, that’s a beautiful question. I actually had to break this down a couple months ago in therapy with my partner, because we were having issues between intimacy versus sex. And my personal definition of intimacy is truth. And it’s being able to emotionally connect with somebody on a truth base level. I think it’s one where you can sit with truth and each other you can connect intimately with another human being. And that is emotionally and intellectually. So for me, intimacy is truth on the emotional and intellectual level.

Sasza Lohrey 

Does your partner have a definition of intimacy that was different?

Joanne Encarnacion 

Yeah, actually, I think For years, he believed that intimacy meant physical intimacy, or sex in general or just being physical with each other. I mean, sadly, that’s the definition that society plays. And the narrative that society’s told us for years is being intimate with somebody means you’re physically intimate with them, or you’re physically connecting with them. We just had so many arguments, actually in disagreements of like, wanting to be intimate, because I would say, I want to be intimate with you. And he was like, all right, well, all of a sudden, his clothes are off. My goodness, no, no, I mean, like, I want to talk to you. I want to have like a really beautiful private conversation with you. You know?

Sasza Lohrey 

When you say truth, intimacy is emotional and intellectual truth. Would you elaborate a bit more on that and what you mean?

Joanne Encarnacion 

Yeah, I mean, I think when I think about truth, and I think about intimacy in that way, I think it’s about really allowing somebody to see yourself

Sasza Lohrey  

Like authenticity.

Joanne Encarnacion  

Yeah, I think there’s, there’s authenticity to it. But I also think there’s a raw honesty to it. You know, it’s uncensored. No, it’s not necessarily a confession session, but it’s, it’s, it’s an uncensored version of who you are in that moment. And it’s your truth in that moment. And it could be ugly, it could be messy. It could be emotional. It could be like, tears, it could be joy, it could be whatever. There’s this level of privacy that each person has within themselves, within their soul, within their spirit within their thoughts. And if you can get intimate or if you can, like sit with somebody as truth, where you can truly see who they are as a person. That to me is intimacy.

Sasza Lohrey  

In another one of your interviews, I heard you say that rejection is redirection. And I would just love to have you explain what you mean because I love it. And I do think that there is an unrealistic and or fear of rejection that holds us back.

Joanne Encarnacion  

So for me, I think rejection is redirection. Like you mentioned earlier, we have this negative idea of failure. And I think rejection oftentimes is seen as like a failure. Oh my god, I got rejected, that means I failed. Oh my god, I’m rejected. That means it’s a no or it’s not right for me or, you know, whatever. And I guess the way that I see that, it’s like, for every success point, there’s 1000 failures before you actually reach one success point. You have to make mistakes, and each of them are like a step along the way. And rejection is redirection to me means that, hey, you know what, it may have been a no, but it wasn’t right for you anyways. And so it’s just redirecting you to something that’s even better or something that’s actually more in alignment with who you are as a person. Whether that’s a date, whether that’s a job, whether that’s I mean, you know, I always like reject my kids from having candy all the time. And I’m like, I’m just redirecting you to fruit, like, this is a lot better for you. So I just look at that, and I just think, okay, yes, a door might close but you never know if a gateway is going to open up for you something else.

Sasza Lohrey  

I really love the idea of rejection, being the opposite of success, but being a necessary part of it. And so I wonder how you would define success?

Joanne Encarnacion  

Oh, you’re getting really deep with these questions. I was recording a podcast not too long ago, like the other day actually. And she asked me what does it mean to live healthy? And I was thinking about that question. When you said the word success because to me being healthy means you’re living in alignment with your purpose and for me, success. is kind of the same thing. It’s knowing that you know,

you are attaining the things that you want in your life and your desires. But based on what you feel is innately true within yourself, what makes you come alive. I don’t ever measure success points on the type of house or the type of car I drive or the money, my bank account. To me those things can go away. But Success to me is knowing that I am doing everything I can every single day to live my life on purpose, and to live my life feeling alive, whatever the hell that might mean. And that could be completely different on one day to the next, and change and evolve. But I think for me, that’s what success is, it’s an opportunity to learn every single day.

Sasza Lohrey 

I think I’ve mentioned this before, and I don’t like repeating myself, but this was a very impactful moment for me when somebody asked me How often I feel successful? And my answer was a percentage in the very low range. And then I kind of just sat there and I clarified with them. And I said, well, what’s your definition of success? I love operating definitions, you know, what’s your operating definition? And they said, feeling content with the amount of progress that you’re making in the direction you’d like to go. And I was like, This is a huge, insane moment for me, where not only were my percentages, totally switched. But I just found myself thinking, why couldn’t I have learned this sooner? Why wasn’t this Where on earth had this definition of success? then, I mean, wow. If we could teach that in schools. I think we’d be shifting our society in a big way.

Joanne Encarnacion  

Yeah, I love that. I mean, that’s the, it’s probably the reason why I like to call myself a woman in progress. Because there’s no destination per se for myself. To me, I think I’m, I’m just always gonna be constantly evolving. And I know for some people, that sounds frightening, because it’s just like, uh, when are you going to stop growing, but I love the idea of just constantly learning how to be a better person so that I could be a better member to society, whatever that might look like, you know,

Sasza Lohrey 

yeah, that part you mentioned too, about being healthy. I think it’s so interesting to, you know, people look at skinny people or models or people on social media and think they’re healthy, but that says nothing about their mind or their heart. Yeah, and I remember being at a health conference at Stanford, is amazing speaker. He asked, you know, raised Your hand how many of you are healthy? And I remember sitting there thinking, Well, you know, I get all these comments all the time. Oh, you’re so healthy if it’s, you know what you’re eating or because I like exercising, and I was sitting there, probably month eight have chronic pain due to a kind of a chronic disease that had come up after an operation I had had to treat another chronic disease. I had gone undiagnosed and sitting there thinking, I don’t know that I am healthy, yet. I get these comments from the outside because oh, you exercise or you eat and it’s like, well, I already have so many health problems. So I just think that if we could really take that perspective and that questioning of the status quo, and kind of really flipping things upside down and looking at it from a different angle, I think that we could grow a lot. And learn a lot more. And kind of shape our lives completely differently as a result. 

Sasza Lohrey  

As we get ready to wrap up before a set of rapid fire questions. I just kind of wanted to circle this all back. Because I think it’s so important for an individual level, we kind of all need to hear so much of this. But for those of our listeners who might be parents or may be hoping to become parents, I would love to kind of bring it all back to that and how everything you’ve learned, some of which we’ve discussed, but obviously so much more. You’ve been able to then apply to parenting and what lessons you’ve learned, be it small tricks to redirect kids from and also the questions you still have and then as you start struggle with because as I love to say, I think parenting is the most perfect example and evidential proof that fake it till you make it is very much a real thing.

Joanne Encarnacion 

Oh my god, it’s such a real thing. I think I get so many questions about parenting from people or like, give me some advice. I’m like, the only real advice I have for you is that you’re gonna fuck up. Just accept it, you’re gonna fuck up? It’s fine. It’s totally fine. They’re not gonna fuck up, but you will. And I think like when as a parent, when you when you sit with that, understand that you’re gonna fail multiple times, like in parenting, that’s okay. Because you’re not perfect, where your child is not going to be perfect. And there’s no guidebooks there’s no rule books that really can tell you how to raise your child in the best possible way. I think the biggest lesson that I’ve, I’ve learned and I actually got kind of going back to like growing up with my mom. My mom didn’t share very many details. her upbringing or her life with me prior to having kids. I remember like, when I was a teen, and I was getting curious about my mom’s life, she would just kind of shut me out and shut me down about her own history. And I, as a child, wanted so desperately to know how my mom walked this earth or experience earth because I wanted to know for myself, what are some of the things that I might have to experience? And so I took that, and I remember thinking to myself, I’m not going to raise my kids in that way. I want them to know, I want them to know the nitty gritty. And I think I think the reason why my mom didn’t share those things was maybe she was trying to protect me from some of her own mistakes, which I completely understand. But in doing that, it just didn’t give me an insight looking into what her world was like. So I remember thinking like, I want my kids to intimately know who I am, and intimately know my struggles and know my emotions and know the ways that I felt when I would go through my struggles or my triumphs or my accomplishments. So, you know, we share a lot of those intimate details. For the most part, there’s some things that obviously are still very, very much so private with our kids, because I think it’s important. They’ve seen me struggle with depression, they’ve seen me struggle with anxiety. And, you know, I love being able to model the struggle, the process and the success to my kids, so that they know that there is a way to work through them. And it’s not just like, well, they’re having a problem now all of a sudden, it’s fixed. So to me, that was like, really, really important. The beauty about Parenthood is just like anything, you can design it the way that you want to. Some people might not want to do parenting the way that we do parenting meaning like, we want our kids to grow up to be autonomous and independent. And so we’re a little bit kind of hands off in terms of the day to day logistics with them in terms of like, chores or like cooking and whatever. We still cook meals for them, but they’re definitely dependent on the kitchen, they cook for themselves at a certain age. And I think that was just important for us because we wanted them to know, the feelings of intrinsic motivation and intrinsic success, that they’re like, holy crap, I clean my room. And my parents have to tell me, like those are important little tidbits for them to be able to gain that self esteem. But I also think the biggest life lesson as a mom is that you’re never going to get things right. Everything is an experiment. And I think that’s the beauty of it. And if you can, say, admit to some of your own mistakes as a parent, that’s another amazing thing. The amount of times I say sorry to my children, for like messing things up or like not getting things right or, you know, whatever, allows them to see the humaneness of me. And it doesn’t make me just like mom on a pedestal. It’s Oh, right, my mom’s human. She makes mistakes. So that means if I make a mistake, I can have grace and self compassion on myself too.

Sasza Lohrey 

Yeah. And I think that, as you mentioned in the very beginning of that, you will fail or you will kind of have these failures that are really just your process of success. I loved that part. You mentioned wanting to know more about your mom and these personal stories and their narrative because it gives us kind of the window into how they came to be the person they are, which shaped them, what struggles, what joys, what, you know, transitions and all of that. We mentioned, we’re kind of slowly becoming our parents, but I think that it is only through that capacity to understand them that we get through knowing the events and these stories that we can begin to see one, why they are the way that they are, kind of have empathy and understanding for that. Acceptance of those traits so that when we begin to show them, we can recognize, you know, what are these good qualities that I want to keep? And what are these ones that I know won’t be healthy for other people around me? or for future children? I mentioned in my interview with Mike the concept of compounding daddy issues, and that when somebody explained to me, you know, we all have daddy issues, to think of your daddy’s daddy issues? And their daddy and he was hilarious but also profound. But I think it is that ability in to kind of recognize what do I want to keep and what do I want to change because there are certainly parts that you know we admire about our parents and would love to emulate and other things that perhaps we know don’t serve as much and so this comes from experiences as well in school and friends. So I think it’s a great exercise for people to write down. What are your strengths? What are your growth points as I refer to them instead of kind of weaknesses because they’re an opportunity to become stronger. And you know, where did they come from? Who did they come from? What experiences did they come from and really begin to understand how the past has influenced and shaped us. So that going forward into the future, we can navigate it only with that knowledge understanding. 

Joanne Encarnacion 

Yeah. Love that. 

Sasza Lohrey  

That’s a wrap. Thank you so much for joining us. 

Joanne Encarnacion 

Thank you for having me 

Sasza Lohrey 

Thank you so much for having me in your bed. 

Joanne Encarnacion 

Oh, you’re so good, anytime.

In this week’s episode, we chat with Joanne Encarnacion — better known as @gofitjo — a holistic health and life coach based in San Francisco who is dedicated to helping womxn “redefine wellness of the heart, mind, and soul on their own terms.” We discuss her personal journey of battling depression and the watershed moment when she decided to take back her life through health and fitness. We also chat about the double-edged sword of social media, the importance of sharing your “highlight real” instead of the “highlight reel,” and lessons from parenthood. The conversation is full of self-love, body positivity, and the power of womanhood — we hope you enjoy the wisdom shared!

Combating Depression With Health & Fitness 

We don’t need to read the countless studies extolling the physical and mental benefits of exercise — by now we know that breaking a sweat is a tried and true remedy for managing depression, anxiety, and down days in general. But just in case you needed a factual reminder, here’s a quote from Dr. Michael Craig Miller, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School: “In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression.” 

With that said, putting to practice what we already know is difficult, even more so if any level of depression is involved. This is why it’s important to be mindful of suggesting exercise as any easy fix to those who are dealing with depression (or feeling guilty yourself). Start slow, nix any shame, and learn to relish the process of being active.

I refer to exercise as “endorphin therapy.” I’m a strong believer in it being my number one, most important medicine. 


Anti-Depressants Are Palliative, Not Curative

Jo mentions how she chose to eschew anti-depressants (which she had previously taken as a teen) and instead turned to health and fitness to cope with her depression as an adult. While anti-depressants may help treat depression, it’s important to note that they are a palliative treatment, not curative. What’s more, only one third of people with depression benefit from antidepressants at all, making it clear that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment.

Social Media: Damaging or Beneficial?

Half a million tweets and Snapchat photos are shared every minute. It’s clear social media has become the latest addiction, but how is it affecting our mental health? A study from 2016 found that people who regularly used social media were three times more likely to be depressed and anxious, while another study found that viewing people’s selfies lowered self-esteem. Jo points that social media can be overwhelmingly toxic and incredibly beneficial — depending on how (and how much) you use it. She suggests doing a “social media cleanse” by unfollowing any accounts that elicit a negative reaction and being mindful of time wasted by using the screen time app.

What Relationship Do You Desire With Your Own Body?

The relationship that I desire with my own body is one that feels liberated from the inside out. When I think about the idea of liberation and what that embodiment means, to me that means the freedom to speak my truth, no matter what it is . . . I want to be my best friend, ultimately.

The Wisdom of Womanhood

Jo recounts the moment she truly stepped into her womanhood: while breastfeeding her second daughter, she realized that she had a purpose that was deeper than and beyond herself. “I knew that life wasn’t just about me anymore. And it wasn’t necessarily just about my kids, but I just remember feeling that I’ve got a greater purpose.”

The word “woman” is truly an embodiment. There’s something about embodying a sense of life wisdom, where you know that you’re giving it back to somebody else. That to me is the moment you cross that threshold of womanhood. 

Define Intimacy

“Truth. Being able to emotionally and intellectually connect with somebody on a truth-based level…it’s an uncensored version of who you are in that moment.” Jo explains how she and her partner had to work through their own disparate ideas of what intimacy really meant. Whereas her partner initially viewed intimacy as solely physical, Jo describes the importance of emotional and intellectual intimacy.

“Rejection is Redirection”

Rejection is so often seen as a failure, but Jo urges us to view it as a necessary stepping stone to finding things that are more in alignment with our true selves. 

For every success point, there’s a thousand failures before you actually reach one success point. You have to make mistakes.  

What is success?

Jo defines success as living each day with purpose, whatever that might mean to an individual. “It’s an opportunity to learn every day, that’s what success is.” She emphasizes that although your purpose may change and fluctuate, the power lies in working your way towards that purpose and reveling in your own constant evolution. 

Lessons Learned From Parenthood

“You’re gonna fuck up,” Jo laughs candidly. The truth is, there’s no all-encompassing guidebook on how to be a parent. Instead of trying to be perfect, Jo urges parents to embrace (and own up to) mistakes. By showing your children that you are a flawed, evolving human, you give them the space to make mistakes gracefully.

About the Expert

Joanne Encarnacion

Joanne Encarnacion

A modern day mother hustler sharing her fitness journey towards a happier and healthier life, one rep at a time

Episode Discussion

Home Forums Episodes 34 & 35: “Humans in Progress” with Joanne Encarnacion

  • Episodes 34 & 35: “Humans in Progress” with Joanne Encarnacion

  • BBXX 

    November 6, 2020 at 1:25 am
    • What did you learn about yourself?
    • What did you learn about culture?
    • What was your favorite quote?
    • What surprised you most?
    • What is one way you can enact what you learned in your own life?
    • How can we each help shift the culture and the conversation surrounding this topic?

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