When it comes to self image and body positivity, Instagram can be a rather discouraging place to turn for inspiration. It's so easy to get sucked in to social media and to find yourself feeling completely overwhelmed by the saturation of content that insists our appearance must adhere to a specific standard. Joanne Encarnacion, better known as @GoFitJo is an admirable leader in the health + wellness sphere, and she's taking back her power and calling bullshit.
The thing about Jo is that she's the kind of blogger who resonates. Not because she resembles mainstream ideals, but because she's the kind of influencer who feels more like a friend who makes you feel empowered. She radiates authenticity, not just in way of her fitness routine or eating habits, but in all facets of her life. Furthermore, she's honest to core and she's wildly inspirational.
When I attended Create & Cultivate LA in February, Jo sat down in the row in front of me, and I recognized her instantaneously. When I finally came around to embracing my inner fan-girl and asked for a picture, she couldn't have been more gracious or kind.
Jo strikes me as the kind of woman that the world (desperately) needs more of. She talks honestly about the ups and downs, sharing her personal struggles in way of self love, body image, relationships and more, and ultimately cultivates a community that exudes a realness that is contagious. She took the time to share her thoughts with me in way of body positivity, self image, confidence and beauty, and I hope it inspires you as much as it inspired me.
VV: Jo, you’re a leader in the health + wellness field in addition to being a quintessential badass. What’s been the apex of your self-image journey to date?
JE: WOW!! Apex…hmmm, I feel like its so hard to place one thing on that pedestal but I think one that comes to mind would be the moment I saw my stretch marks as badges of honor rather than imperfections.
VV: One of the reasons I initially gravitated towards your Instagram was that you were so real about your journey. You’ve always had this tremendous ability to be so transparent with your followers, and it really seems that you’re cultivating a new attitude and a new kind of conversation around self image. What inspired you to forge ahead in your own way?
JE: I’ve always believed in transparency and that proverbial saying of “the truth can set you free”. I chose to show up and share all sides of my story because I was so tired of feeling alone when I clearly knew that out of 7billion people inhabiting this planet that I wasn’t. I also wanted to slowly reshape the current state of social media where things seemed to be this overly cute wrapped up with a bow version of our fitness/wellness journeys. So many people were sharing how amazing they felt and no one was sharing their struggle. Some days I’m weaker than others and other days I’m strong as hell. I am both sides and I wanted to honor that and show others that they can honor that too.
VV: What advice do you have for cultivating a positive self image and embracing the mentality of loving your whole self?
JE: My biggest advice I think is to start seeing yourself as whole rather than in segmented pieces. I feel like most of the time we see ourselves as parts and we’re trying desperately to fix one part. Its sorta like when they tell you that you can’t target train a specific area in the body. Its the same thing you can’t love on just one part of the yourself and expect to embrace your whole self.
VV: How do fitness and wellness work in your own life to complement one another?
JE: Ahh well I think to me our bodies crave movement and that allows us to feel well and whole. So whatever you choose to do as far as fitness goes, do that and move your soul.
VV: What’s your reaction to recent brand initiatives that are instigating a different narrative? Like Darling Magazine’s “No Woman In This Magazine Has Been Retouched” and Aerie’s commitment to featuring unedited photography? How might these efforts work to inaugurate change in the long term?
JE: I’m so in love with it and so proud of magazines that are starting to really take a stand and changing the narrative of the female body. There’s too much perfection showcased and it really doesn’t give us any room to grow, learn, and cultivate that strong sense of self that society demands so much of.
VV: When you start to feel discouragement and self doubt sink in, how do you silence the negativity and get back on track?
JE: Truthfully some days I suppress the feelings and its honestly so terrible! I hate it, but other days when I’m feeling like my inner strength can champion strong for me I think about all the things I’m grateful for and focus my heart and love into that. Gratitude has been such a practice for me and I’ve seen the greatest impact on my self worth when I’m practicing daily.
VV: Where do you turn for inspiration? In life, in style, in wellness, etc.
JE: I turn to fellow bloggers and friends when it comes to inspiration for work/blog. But for other things in life I honestly turn inwards for inspiration. I draw from my own personal experiences to help fill that area. But there are other times when I go to museums or galleries to find inspiration for my creative heart.
VV: How do you keep yourself inspired and maintain motivation once you’re in a groove?
JE: OMG this one is challenging but I think once the momentum is there its hard to stop.
VV: Ariana Huffington’s Thrive Global named you one of the top 20 new health + wellness role models. What’s the biggest message you want to share with your followers?
JE: That self love is the key to owning your wellness journey.
VV: #RelentlessyBeautiful is something you reference frequently in your posts. What does relentless beauty mean to you? How would you encourage other women to unleash the things that make them feel relentlessly beautiful?
JE: I am the most beautiful when I can unleash my inner goddess to be openly honest with her fears, her frustrations, her dreams, her hopes, her everything. I feel the most beautiful when I’m speaking to other women about empowerment, inner growth, and spiritual change. I feel the most beautiful when I can be who I am despite my curves and my edges. I don't need to be understood by everyone or accepted or even loved by everyone. I just want to be loved by me, THIS IS when I feel the most beautiful. My challenge to other women is to look within themselves and honor what makes them feel the most beautiful, despite what society says.