The Pinay “Millennial Mother Hustler” Redefining Health and Wellness

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Prioritizing self-care and incorporating health and wellness practices is new to me. I didn’t realize how important it was for me to find a Pilipin@ role model in the health and wellness space until after college — someone who would be a consistent source of support when it comes to topics related to nutrition and exercise, while also deepening my own understanding of self-care and self-love.

I started following Joanne Encarnacion, known as GOFITJO, on Instagram a few years ago. I’ve been inspired by her fitness and health journey, her openness to sharing real life sh*t that she goes through, and her ability to connect with her audience on a personal level.

Joanne Encarnacion, also known as GOFITJO — Image from gofitjo.com
Joanne is a modern day soul seeker redefining health and wellness.”

With more than 54,000 Instagram followers, she’s multifaceted and always on-the-go. Not only has she made an impact in the health and wellness space (see her Muscle Milk video here), but she is also vulnerable about her journey through career transitions and what it means to be a “millennial mother hustler” to her two daughters.

Joanne with her husband Jon and her two daughters Airis and Olivia. Joanne and her family are based in San Jose, CA.

I chopped it up with Joanne to learn about her path to becoming a blogger and health coach and why health and wellness seems to be a challenging concept within our Pilipin@ community.

“I believe that fitness is not about the perfect body — it’s about getting your life together, overcoming fears, and building self confidence. Fitness will always be a continuous evolution of discovering who you are meant to be.” - gofitjo.com

What was your childhood like?

In middle school and high school, I was learning how to deal with both generational and cultural values. You realize that American culture isn’t the same as Pilipin@ culture, so how do you marry the two? Growing up, you learn about your family values — but I’ve realized that you also need to define your own values.

During your childhood, what did health and wellness look like?

It’s important to instill an active lifestyle at an early age. When I was younger, my only physical activity was P.E. My dad would watch sports on TV, but he never played them.

Health and wellness isn’t one of our cultural values. It’s also taboo to talk about our feelings — for example, my mom would tell me to pray to God if I had problems.

I also noticed that my mom didn’t really take care of herself. She prioritized others over her own needs. I saw firsthand the impact of what it means to prioritize others vs. taking care of yourself.

Joanne with her parents, husband Jon, and brother Jhun Jhun.

What are some of the challenges you’ve observed when it comes to health and wellness within the Pilipin@ community?

A big challenge is our nutritional diet. Our food is heavily based in meat and rice. We layer our dishes with sauces. I want others to learn that you can have healthy meals and you can also simplify our Pilipin@ dishes. (Learn how Joanne meal preps like a boss here and see more recipes here).
We also struggle with body image. We need to have more conversations about this. When it comes to beauty pageants, you see Miss Philippines and she’s usually long and lean. This isn’t representative of the different body shapes and sizes that you see within our community.

You’ve been a hair stylist, you worked at VSCO, and now you’re a health coach and a blogger. How did you navigate these career transitions?

We have these expectations to become something that’s highly esteemed, like a doctor or engineer. I went off the beaten path and I decided to enroll in beauty school. My parents wouldn’t pay for beauty school, so it felt like parental differences held me back and sometimes my dreams felt unsupported. I would say, “Don’t put me in a birdcage! You’re not letting me fly!”

I eventually became a hair stylist and was able to foster a strong clientele base over a period of ten years. But I felt capped as a hair stylist. I wanted a new challenge, and the opportunity at VSCO fell on my feet so I made that jump.

I was employee number eight at VSCO focusing on building a community of curation. I loved coaching my team members, building a community for technology, and curating digital art. But I realized working for a tech startup wasn’t a forever thing for me. I was laid off from VSCO, but I think this helped me move into the health and wellness space.

I know you’ve also participated in bikini competitions. Why did you stop?

I did three different bikini competitions in 18 months. I noticed at one point that all I did was work out and I gave up aspects of my social lifestyle. I also realized I didn’t want to be a “freak show” — people would draw conclusions that this was what an active lifestyle looked like, and I didn’t want to share that message.

You have more than 54,000 Instagram followers. Did you ever expect you’d have this many followers?

It’s not about the numbers for me. It’s about the stories that have an impact on others. I’m reminding people that we can love ourselves at any stage.

What advice would you share with other entrepreneurs?

Understand what you’re fighting for — what you’re willing to fight for. Leave perfectionism behind. Never settle for less.

What’s next for GOFITJO?

I’m building up my clientele, continuing to write for my blog, and I’m also going through a GOFITJO evolution. For example, I’m thinking about what my brand speaks to and what GOFITJO embodies. I think it’s an evolving narrative and fitness is a part of that narrative.

Learn about Joanne’s:

Don’t forget to follow Joanne on Instagram (@gofitjo) as she continues to share her #relentlesslybeautiful fitness and health journey with us.


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