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Episode 35: Humans In Progress (2/2)

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 health and fitness, 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.”
The transcript wasn’t added for this episode.

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. 

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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

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