Next up on my interview is a friend of mine, Joanne (gofitjo). I met Jo over a year ago and immediately was drawn to her I got this mentality. I remember being at Wanderlust with Jo, asking her questions about how she got into her fitness journey. She was totally open and told me the story (you can find in the interview below), which really made me feel more connected to her. We had only met a few times, but I loved that she just laid it all out there. If you follow her on Instagram, you know that Jo is honest and open about the shit she is experiencing. (I've shed a few tears during her Instagram stories!)
I'm so grateful she said yes to being part of my influencer blog series and am so excited to share her interview.
Can you tell us the story of Jo. How has your relationship with your body and with yourself evolved?
The story of Jo can be a long one so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet! I became a mother at 21, which alongside with all the other challenges that motherhood and parenting have, comes the challenges of facing your body changing due to your pregnancy. I was like most women who undergo their first pregnancy. I rubbed all the creams and oils to try to keep my skin elastic through the changes of my body while my first was growing within me. My sister and mother didn’t have stretch marks so I thought I’d probably have the same luck. I remember the first time I saw them, I was in my final weeks of my pregnancy and I saw them after coming out of the shower. “SHIT!” I thought to myself, “I’ve got stretch marks!” My body didn’t concern me in the first year of being a new mom. I was more concerned about keeping my baby alive and making sure I had enough sleep as well as building my clientele as a new hairstylist. But as the years passed I realized my body wasn’t changing. To some degree I felt as if this young youthful body I was supposed to have in my 20s was taken from me because of early motherhood. Don’t get me wrong I’m so grateful for my kids, but having a child at 21 was definitely not in my plans. We made it work and our life is amazing because of it.
My husband and I got married and had our 2nd daughter. Life was grand, I “had it all”. A new career, a home over our head, a new dog, a husband, and two wonderful kids. However I was living in and out of depression for 18 months not understanding why. Until one day my eldest daughter and I were getting ready in her room and she said to me, “Mom, you’re so beautiful.” I quickly answered the same way girlfriends would talk to each other in a dressing room trying on clothes, “No I’m not. I’m ugly and fat.” The look on her face is one I’ll never forget. She turned and left the room. I had robbed every ounce of truth that she knew of this woman that in her eyes was a queen. It was that moment that I had realized I wasn’t happy with the person I was becoming. I was consumed with work, our photography business, and raising a family that I had forgotten to take care of myself, my mental and physical health, and quickly became out of shape. I wasn’t terribly overweight, but I was so out of shape that I couldn’t run after Olivia at the park who was two and a half at the time.
The relationship I have with my body is constantly evolving and growing. When I first started my fitness journey I said to myself that I wanted to become the healthiest version of me in my 30s both mind and body. This was the first time I had committed to a fitness goal that wasn’t defined by a number. In the past I would make goals around events like a vacation, my wedding, or to simply lose the 15lbs post baby weight. Those never seemed to work long term for me because I’d always find myself back and square one minus a few steps. I dedicated a lot of time and energy into my fitness journey the first 12 weeks. I was exhausted but so happy and thrilled that I was finally seeing and feeling results. I felt strong and I felt the best I had felt in a long time. I then went on to compete in several body building competitions because I thought to myself, “If I was able to do accomplish a goal I never thought I could, what would happen if I dedicated more energy into it, where could I go then?” This was pretty crazy for me because what it meant was me being judged by my aesthetics and physique on stage amongst other women while being tanned, glazed, and in an itty bitty bikini. Bikinis since I was 21 was a HARD NO for me because of the stretch marks. But something deep inside me wanted to see if I could overcome the fear and judgement I placed on myself.
In the past 4 years I’ve seen my body go through so many changes. From being heavy and overweight to being 14% body fat and leaner than I’ve been in my entire life. I’ve had to overcome recovery from surgery, shoulder injuries from work and stress, and learning how to break away from exercise addiction. In each stage I’ve had to learn to love my body in that present moment whether I was at my best aesthetically or feeling like I was in a major setback. Finding joy in each part has been the biggest learning lesson.
Could you talk about your stretch marks on your stomach? How did you start to embrace them?
For over 11 years I hated looking at them. Even during my fitness journey I thought to myself, “I’m working so hard in the gym, focusing on my nutrition as much as I can, and I’m still never going to look like some of these BBG moms who have perfect #morningabs.” Even during my competition training my abs were never as defined as others. My youngest daughter Olivia is the curious one. She speaks her mind, her feelings, and just wants to know everything in the world! It’s really quite incredible to be around her. One day as I was getting ready in my bathroom she came up to me and asked “Mommy, what are these marks?” referring to my stretch marks. I replied, “I got them from you and your sister, I call them my strength marks.” She replied, “Will they ever go away?”. I said, “No, baby they wont. They are my reminder to keep going for you and your sister. To never give up on my dreams because you’re watching.” That was when I finally embraced them. As the words came out of my mouth that day, I felt healing beginning to happen in my heart.
In life, we are surrounded by messages from the media and diet culture that we aren’t good enough. How do you navigate your way through those negative messages yourself? Does this impact how you parent?
To be honest, this one is a tough one. Trying to shut out the noise from media and diet culture can be super difficult especially as its shoved in our faces left and right through social media and traditional media outlets. I do feel that the message of body positivity, self love, self acceptance, and beauty standards are changing. You see so many of this movement happening online, in magazines, and even in major apparel brands. It’s such an amazing sight to see. However there are still moments where I don’t feel like I’m enough. They are few and far between but it does happen. When I’m going through something like that I face it head on. I ask myself why am I feeling this in the first place and almost go down a quick checklist of things to ask myself.
How do you combat negative self talk these days?
I try to shut it down as quickly as I can, but most important I refer to 5 self affirmations I wrote earlier this year when I need to lift my self up. In addition to trying to shut it down as quickly as I can, I pull back and do some self-distancing especially from what’s causing it in the first place.
What do you do for self-love?
Almost everything I do is a form of self love to a certain degree. The moment I became a mom I realized that my life was no longer fully mine. I had to share it with others who needed me most, but as I mentioned in earlier I never valued caring for myself until several years ago. I see forms of self love in how I put myself personal needs first. Training, eating whole nutritious foods, journaling, taking a bath, complimenting myself, and spending time with the people I cherish are all forms of self love for me. I always say, if it does not serve your purpose or give you joy it has no place in your daily life. This is a hard practice because I know we as humans want connection and to create a loving space for every single person, experience, or thing that come along our way, but the truth is until we figure out what we need to provide us joy, we can’t take other things in. Other things I do for self-love is daily journaling of my intentions for the day and the things I’m grateful for. I never realized the importance of this until recently. It’s been so nourishing and vital to my mental health.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about how you feel about your body that you would want to share with your daughters?
I would want them to know that fitness is not about the perfect body. It’s about overcoming insecurities, gaining confidence, and inner strength to face our biggest fears. I’d like them to know that their bodies will under go change at every season, learn to love it and learn to befriend it. We are the only ones who can push ourselves to better our lives, other people can be inspirations, but that’s about as much as they can be. Within us is the power to make a change in our lives. YOU GOT THIS!
If you don't follow Jo, go check her out at gofitjo. Thanks so much for being part of this series Jo! Always appreciate your love and support!
Just a girl writing down her thoughts on life post-trauma, body acceptance and wellness.