This interview is part of the Real Talk Real Women interview series, where we bring you the life-changing, heart-warming and inspirational stories behind the most successful women in health and fitness. Make sure to follow us on Instagram for the latest interviews! For this installment, we are joined by Joanne Giannini.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
By the time I was 39, I was a mess both mentally and physically. My life revolved around taking care of everyone else in my life and putting my own needs and wants last. As a result, I was depressed, severely overweight, and just not at all comfortable in my own skin. I went through the motions everyday, feeling like I was practically invisible.
I was 40 when I finally took back control of my life. Working out in my own living room, I totally reshaped my body while losing 60 pounds. But the changes in my physical appearance were only the very beginning. Taking care of myself changed me, giving me confidence, energy, and focus beyond anything I had ever experienced before.
My goal is to “pay it forward” and work with people on a one-on-one basis to help them get past the hurdles that have stopped them from becoming their own personal best. In support of this, over the past few years I have obtained numerous nationally recognized fitness certifications, including certification as a nutritionist, and worked for years in area gyms as a personal trainer before opening my own studio in Norwood, Massachusetts.
I have also participated in regional physique competitions and teach an adult continuing education class that I developed on lasting weight loss.
And the physical transformation and losing 60 pounds were only part of the story - what happened on the mental and emotional side of things?
It was a truly amazing transformation. The extra weight and how I felt about myself as a result were holding me back from being who I “really” was. I just was not confident before and it affected every aspect of my life. Once I lost the weight I felt a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt since my teens.
Before the interview you wrote to me that back then you felt practically invisible - for those out there who can identify with that feeling - what would you say to them when you now look back?
I just wish I had taken care of myself sooner. When you are living in the situation it just seems impossible to really change. There is always SOMETHING that takes precedence over it – the job, some family crisis, etc., etc. I think women especially feel almost selfish when they put themselves first. But everything really does start with you.
If you don’t feel you are the best version of yourself you can be, then how can you effectively help everyone else? I also suffered from an “all or nothing” attitude, which prevented me from starting up a weight loss program because I felt if I couldn’t be totally immersed I couldn’t do it. I wish I had know that if I had just made little changes along the way it would have been much easier – things like skipping a dessert, making reasonable choices when I went out to a restaurant, etc.
You also highlighted that your life revolved around taking care of everyone else in your life and putting your own wants and needs last - to a degree I think this is in our caring nature as women - how did you learn to take care of yourself first so that you could take care of others in an even greater way?
Once my marriage fell apart, I realized that he had lost respect for me because in many ways I had lost respect for myself. We all have to set boundaries with everyone around us. It also isn’t necessarily a good thing to take care of other people too much because then they don’t have an opportunity to grow themselves. I was amazed with the amount of things my ex-husband could actually do for himself once we got divorced and realized in many ways my attempt at caring for him had held him back.
You are 50 years young and I know you believe that it is never too late to be in the best shape of your life - what would you share with women reading this - who feel their age is holding them back or that it’s simply too late for them?
It is never too late, and in fact, it’s even more important to be as healthy as we can as we age so we can be independent. I have worked with many women in their 60’s and 70’s and am truly amazed at what they can do once they have been continually exercising for a few months. Their strength and cardiovascular endurance improve dramatically. Please never let your age hold you back!
Like many of the remarkable women I’ve featured on Real Talk Real Women, your goal is to pay it forward and help others get past the hurdles that are holding them back from becoming their personal best - what drives you to do this?
I just know how I felt personally and never want anyone else to feel that way, especially since it’s so unnecessary! Just stop making excuses and take the steps now to be healthier.
Aside from wanting to motivate and inspire others, where do you find motivation and inspiration yourself to keep pushing forward and to grow as an individual?
My motivation mostly comes from my personal training clients! I am blessed to share in their successes – whether it be losing a significant amount of weight or just doing a few more pushups than the week before – and work alongside them in their struggles. We are all so much more alike than different and I learn as much from them as they do from me.
You’ve also done several competitions - what has that experience been like and if you had to pick 1 thing - what would you say has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned through that process?
What I learned in the process was absolutely fascinating and, interestingly enough, not common knowledge in the general public. What you do in the kitchen is actually more important than what you do in the gym!
First and foremost, all that crap you hear about “calories in and calories out” being all that matters is just plain wrong. Calories are important all right but 1,500 calories of Fritos, hot dogs, and pizza just doesn’t cut it. To get that body of your dreams your diet needs to be super clean. What this means is no processed food, no diet soda, no artificial sweeteners (or artificial anything for that matter). If you can’t pronounce the ingredients you just DO NOT eat it – plain and simple.
And second, the specific amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats you eat, as well as when you eat them, are what makes the difference between having abs of steel or abs of Bud Light.
Over the past years you’ve worked hard to obtain numerous fitness certifications - how important is educating yourself when it comes to health and fitness and for those just starting out, where do you begin?
I am continually trying to gain new knowledge because there is just SO MUCH to learn! I gained the most knowledge to date from Ben Pakulski and other members of the MI40 Nation. He taught me how to effectively and safely lift weights for maximum growth. For those looking to start out, I would suggest joining the MI40 Nation and getting involved in the community.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?
Stay tuned for the next interview of Real Talk Real Women!