Working Out Through Heartbreak: Joanna’s Story
I met Joanna 14 years ago while we were both involved in an intensive learning and serving experience with a Christian non-profit in Vancouver, Canada. We were two of 10 girls living in a house for three months—Joanna and I shared a bunk bed—and, this being 14 years ago, I believe only one girl in the house had a cell phone so the rest of us shared a landline. Having one to two bathrooms for 10 girls for three months was also a lesson in patience and compromise. I liked Joanna since she was warm and funny—but she also had a “cool” factor—and it was nice to have a fellow Californian around.
Fast forward 14 years and Joanna is 35, married, and has an adorable 5-year-old daughter named Marlowe, who she calls, “Mo.” Joanna, who has her own nickname “Jo,” spends her days as a stay-at-home mom and Beachbody coach while she goes to school for UX design (technology user experience design). We haven’t seen each other in all these years, but thanks to Facebook we’ve stayed in touch and gotten a glimpse into each other’s lives.
What I admire most about Joanna is that she isn’t all about the posting the “perfect” photos and persona for social media. She keeps it real, but in a way that’s helpful for her and others. She’s shared about the fun times and the struggles of being a mom, gaining 80 pounds during pregnancy and working her butt off to get herself healthier. But some of the toughest times were ahead.
In January, Joanna’s daughter Marlowe was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Joanna mentally broke down and she and her husband Evan were instantly launched into a whole other level of parenthood as they navigate how to best help and communicate with their sweet beloved daughter.
After a few months, Joanna started working out again and recommitted to her health. Then, she suffered a miscarriage. She revealed all this in a painfully honest Instagram post that she titled, “Working Out Through a Heartbreak,” in which she talked about starting to work out and prioritize her health again after a devastating few months and eating her feelings. After seeing Joanna share some of her story I asked if I could ask her more questions about her journey and share her answers here. She immediately responded that she was on board.
When did you first try to get healthier a while ago and what did you do? How did that feel?
About 3 years ago I did a program called 21 Day fix. I had gained 80 pounds while pregnant with my daughter. I was depressed and sad all the time and knew something had to change. So I started the 21 Day Fix diet through Beachbody and lost 60 pounds with that. I felt amazing and in control for once in a long time.
What heartbreak led to you getting off track with your health and what did that look like when you got off track? How did that feel?
I began getting way off track with my health and fitness the end of 2016. Come to find out, I had postpartum depression for 5 years! My anxiety got so bad I couldn't leave the house. In January, my daughter was diagnosed with autism. It was then that everything seemed to fall apart. I finally went to the doctor for help. As someone who has never been on antidepressants and would try to manage my depression and anxiety through diet and exercise, I was hesitant but I knew that something had to give! I needed help. I decided to give it a go, not just for me, but for my family. They need me at my best, I needed to be at my best! I was on that for a few months and things seemed to be getting back to normal, then in May I suffered a miscarriage. I was devastated! Heartbroken to say the least. I felt myself sliding back into a hole. I was the heaviest I've been in years. I felt AWFUL and like I had failed.
What has helped you to start healing and processing that heartbreak?
For me, it's been my husband. He has been so strong and encouraging through this entire process. Some days are worse than others, and when they are bad, he just hugs me and lets me cry.
What motivated you to get healthier after heartbreak? What does getting healthier look like to you?
I knew I needed to find my way back to health and fitness. When I am eating healthy and working out everyday, I feel my best and I can be the mom that my little girl needs. When I heard Beachbody had a new diet and exercise program out I knew I had to dive in head first with it! So, I did. It has helped me shed 12 pounds so far and has renewed my love for fitness. It has also helped me heal in so many ways. When I workout, it's my time to sweat, think, cry, pray, etc. Lord knows we mamas need a little time alone!
How has it felt to get healthier again? What is helping you focus more on your health right now?
Getting healthy again has felt AMAZING! I feel myself again and I am getting my confidence back. The fact that these programs are all done at home makes a huge difference. Between taking my daughter to her appointments, school and general life, there is no way I could go to the gym. Having a home-based workout program keeps me on track and excited to stick to it.
Do you have specific goals for the health of your body, mind or soul that you are working on right now?
Right now I am just trying to get to a place that I feel comfortable. It isn't about vanity anymore, it's about being healthy and happy and my gut not spilling over my 501's.
What would you say to someone working through heartbreak who is trying to take better care of themselves?
Even if you don't feel like doing it, do it. Working out helps with so many things! Take every day one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. Be kind to yourself! Know that it takes time to heal and everyone is different and we all heal in our own way.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?
Heartache can bring something beautiful. I have learned a lot about myself and my husband through this.
THE GOOD STUFF.
We asked Joanna about some of her favorite things.
Fave workout/way to move: My favorite of all time is Turbo Fire! I love Chalean Johnson and all of the workouts she puts out.
Fave wellness practice: Yoga in the evenings after everyone has gone to bed
Fave self-care practice: Haircuts. Doesn't sound like much but that's the only time I get 30 minutes to myself.
Fave hobby: Baking and sewing
Fave food: Cheeseburgers and fries from The Habit Burger
Fave drink: Diet Coke
Fave snack: Fresh cashew butter with apples!
Fave kitchen gadget/appliance: My KitchenAid mixer
Fave place in the world: Thailand!
Who or what inspires you? My grandmother because no matter what life throws at her, she has faith that God is in control. She is an amazing lady and has been one of the greatest influences in my life.
Fave quote/saying/mantra: “Not everything is meant to be, but everything is worth a try!"
Fave podcast: Your Mom’s House
Fave workout song: Anything by Queen!
Fave book: Anna Karenina
Fave website: Does Zillow count? I love looking at houses and dreaming.
Fave movie: Currently, “Lion”
Jessica Hamlin is an LA-born and bred journalist and editor who started taking pictures of food back when everyone used film cameras. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s health coach training program, she’s passionate about wellness and enjoys making and discovering delicious and healthy food. Her work has appeared in Clean Plates, NPR affiliate KPCC, AOL, and Eater LA.