Adee Cazayoux is the CEO and founder of Working Against Gravity, an athlete who won the Bronze Medal in the 2016 Canadian National Weightlifting Championships, an artist, and mother of a 1-year-old son. We chat about the pressures on women to look a certain way, anti-diet culture and the healthy-at-any-size movement. We also get into Adee’s own struggles with her weight and the path that led her to her current role as CEO of a nutrition coaching company.
1:41: Pressure on women to look a certain way
3:49: Adee’s body image evolution
7:53: Importance of personal choice
12:19: Mindset shift
14:37: Initial plan—be a teacher
15:57: Pandemic lessons
18:26: How to motivate
20:34: Coaching athletes
22:20: Running a business with your spouse
24:17: Delineation of sacred/secular time
28:00: Motherhood experience
31:39: Adee’s entrepreneurial superpower
I’m Tiffy Thompson and Women In Fitness Business is my deep dive into the industry from the female perspective. In each show, I talk with fitness entrepreneurs, coaches, and executives about why they got into the industry and what’s keeping them there. I ask about the unique challenges for women in fitness, the balancing act of career and family, and the different strategies for success in a tough field. I’ll present big wins, lessons from failure and real conversations with real women who are improving the health of their clients around the world. It’s a spotlight on the great work of the women who know working out. Welcome to Women In Fitness Business. Today, I’m gonna be talking to Adee Cazayoux. She is the CEO and founder of Working Against Gravity, an athlete who won the bronze medal in the 2016 Canadian weightlifting championships and an artist and a mom. We chat about the pressures on women to look a certain way, anti-diet culture, and the healthy at any size movement. And we’ll also get into her own struggles with her weight and the path that led her to her current role as CEO of a nutrition coaching company. Adee, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I’m excited to be here with a fellow Canadian.
So I can’t think of any women I know who haven’t at one point or other, either struggled with their weight or struggled with some type of disordered eating. Is this just the cross we bear or is there something else going on?
First I’ll say I’m not an expert in disordered eating at all. But I’ve been involved in nutrition and fitness for over half my life and worked with thousands of people on their nutrition. And this particular thing, like women and disordered eating, it’s so complex of what is actually impacting our belief systems about ourselves, about our worth, about what makes us valuable, about, you know, how much mixed messaging we get on how to eat, to look a certain way and then how to eat to fuel ourselves a certain way. And then also these like beauty ideals that have been presented to us in wide different varieties, whether it used to be through, like, I think TV shows is maybe a little bit less than it was, cuz there’s more streaming now, but social media, for sure. And just being exposed to these like ideals that people, idolize or validate.
And then of course we wanna be validated. I think this is not women specific. I just think there is a little bit more pressure on women holding that like feminine polarity, which is not female or male, but more like the energy itself of beauty and like the physical realm of what you look like. And yeah, it just is a lot of pressure. I feel like it’s been my whole life, like reading magazines, watching TV, wanting to be liked and loved and there is somewhere messaging around your value worth and how you get loved is in part by how you look.
Do you think it gets better with age like you start to care less or your kind of priority shift or for you personally, how has that sort of played out?
Yeah, for me personally, I mean, this is something I think about every single day I have like my work, everyone has like their work in the world of what, you know, whether some like wounding from childhood that you’re still trying to heal for the rest of your life. One of mine for sure is on my body and how it looks physically. I went through this transition of, I was almost 200 pounds when I was a teenager. And then so for, in Canada, it’s, you know, grades 9, 10, 11, and 12. And so for grades nine and 10, I was overweight. And then for grades 11 and 12, I was all of a sudden attractive to the opposite sex. And this is like such a formative time of your life, where hormones are raging and you don’t have like your frontal cortex where you can make great decisions and your brain is still seriously developing and all of a sudden I’m getting so much validation for the way that I look and I still to this day battle with all of that, like I definitely used it to my advantage and used it to help me become successful.
And then now I’m like, does that actually serve me still? And there’s a shadow to every type of success. And I definitely still battle with it today. I just, I think my brain has developed a little bit more and I have more experience and with age comes wisdom. And especially as you start to take on more responsibility or maybe start a family and then you just start realizing what actually matters in your life and what matters to you. And I keep remembering that like what is important to me, what actually matters to me and is it so important to me that of the way that I look physically and then the concept that keeps coming up for me is that different phases of life choir, a different type of body. And it’s so amazing that the female body can actually change so much, especially if you bear children, it’s so amazing.
And you know, in postpartum, maybe it’s actually important for you to carry more body fat so that you can be a soft place to land for your baby or, produce more breast milk or whatever it is. I don’t know the exact science behind it, but I think I started to value more of the range of what your body can look like, the range, there’s a wide range of what your body can look like and you can still be beautiful. And I think I’ve had two big moments in my life where I’ve actually learned this lesson and I don’t think I could have learned it when I was younger. It’s just like experience and wisdom that requires to actually learn the lesson. One was just meeting my husband and he, I’m so fortunate to have a man in my life who is attracted to me and loves me and shows me that appreciation and attraction, even if I have to remind him to do it, which I do sometimes have to remind him, he does that in all phases of my body.
And that is a gift. And then I actually went to burning man one year. And I was at this party at burning man, and I’m looking around and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen pictures of burning man, but people are very scantly clad all the time. Yeah. And I’m looking around and I’m like, wow, you are beautiful and you are beautiful and you’re beautiful. And every one of their bodies was so different, but they were all still so beautiful. So I’m thinking in my head, like if you’re all beautiful, then I must be beautiful too. And if all of these different types of bodies are beautiful, then mine is too. And I think the most beautiful thing is just confidence. Right.
That kind of leads into my next question. So in your view, there’s this like growing movement, healthy at any size that I’m sure you’re well acquainted with. Does it sync up with nutritional science and is the desire to lose weight kind of inherently wrong? Or what what’s your take?
I have a former employee. Who’s like one of my closest friends, her name is Dani Sheriff. And she, runs a company called the HA society where she helps women get their period back. And part of getting your period back is, is like dieting and being in a calorie deficit isn’t supportive of that goal. Yet at the same time, she worked for working against gravity for five or six years where we’re a company that primarily helps people lose weight. And she was asked all the time about the conflicts of interest. We talked about the conflicts of interest, Dani and I a lot. And, I personally think that you can want to lose weight because you love yourself. It doesn’t have to be because you dislike yourself, right. You can want to lose weight because you’ll feel better.
You’ll be, like maybe you won’t be happier, but maybe it’s a healthier decision. Maybe you lose weight naturally by changing your diet away from eating unhealthy foods, or from moving your body more or from practicing the behaviors that help you lose weight as a byproduct of just being a healthier human being. And I think it’s OK personally, to want to lose weight and self-improvement is OK. There’s just a stigma associated with it because there’s been this lifetime that we’ve had of many lifetimes of society, media people telling us, you need to be skinny to be valuable and be beautiful, or be lean to be valuable and be beautiful. I don’t care what the end result is, but if you wanna lose weight, whether that’s going from a size 18 to a size 10, or going from a size 10 to a size six, like whatever that is for you, it’s about, it’s a personal choice.
Right? And I think passing judgment on people’s personal choices is part of the problem in general. And so if someone’s a making a personal choice to lose weight, and they’re in touch with what is actually healthy for them and what is helping them live a better and a more fulfilling life then I don’t think it’s anybody’s job to pass judgment on that. And nobody is them. And nobody can know. Of course there are extremes, like we can fulfill this all the way to the extreme, where you have somebody who’s, you know, all the way on the side of potentially, toggling with anorexia. And then all the way on the other side where, you know, we’re in the realm of obesity or even further than that. And I think in those extremes, there are aspects that I think it would be really hard to make an argument for those being healthy. Right. And I’m not talking about those, I’m talking about the average human being who is making a personal choice to wanna lose weight. And it doesn’t have to be because they’re part of this stigma of diet.
Have you had interactions with proponents of kind of anti diet culture and what was your sort of experience there?
I haven’t had any like direct interaction, I think that we try and really present an open and welcoming and, self-awareness perspective when it comes to dieting. I don’t think at working against gravity, I know for sure as a culture, we are not promoting people to lose weight just to be valuable or be worthy. We’re helping people develop good habits to love their life and love their body at any size. And if they wanna lose weight, we’re gonna help them figure out how to do that in a way that’s healthy and allows them to maintain that lifestyle. So I think our messaging does try and say that. It’s a hard thing to say outside of a podcast like this, where we can have an extended conversation about it. But I think we do a good job of being presenting that argument.
In one of your videos, you talked about when you lost a bunch of weight, you still didn’t feel like that, I don’t know, contentness in yourself and you had to kind of shift your mindset. What were those internal changes and how did you bring them on?
Yeah, I lost like over 50 pounds and I just didn’t have this crazy different life that I imagined. I imagined, you know, you lose weight and you can wear at the time it was, like Lululemon pants, Lululemon was like only a thing in Canada for a while. And then all the girls in my elementary school were wearing Lululemon pants, but I was just, I was, there was no way I was gonna wear those pants. They just hugged your body in a way that I was so uncomfortable with. And I was like, when I can get into a pair of those pants, I’ll be happy and my life will be amazing. And it just wasn’t. And I think the mindset shifted for me was what actually made me happy was the way that I treated myself and not the way that I looked or how much I weighed.
It was way more the fact that I could move my body and I could work out and I could do well at the gym, I could have more energy with my friends or I was eating food that actually made me feel good after. I didn’t feel good eating, you know, pizza and junk food all the time. It feels great for 10 minutes. And then I kind of hated myself after. And so it was, I started to realize that what was making me happy was not this end result. It was actually the journey on the way. And so my focus ever since has been on the journey. And I tell people all the time that it just doesn’t end. You don’t reach this destination, you’re on a fitness and nutrition and health journey for the rest of your life. Like until you’re dead. It’s not, if you think there’s an end, you’ll just, OK, so we get to the end and then what, do we get to go back to the way that we were living? And if we go back to the way that we were living, we’re just gonna end up exactly where we were. So that shift for me was a game changer in my life.
It was this struggle that you overcame that got you to this place now of running a nutrition empire. Is it weird when you think back on how far you’ve come from when you were a teenager? Like, did you ever envision yourself as like an entrepreneur of a nutrition business?
My gosh, no, absolutely not. I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher that was 100% like my dream. I wanted to have kids and I wanted to live to have the job where you could have the summers off and the winter breaks and the March breaks. And you can pick up your kids from school at three o’clock or whatever. That was like my dream. And this kind of took over my life. I call myself like an entrepreneur by accident. it just happened where people were asking for help and I wanted to help people. And I knew the impact that it had had on my life. And I just wanted to pay it forward in a way. And so, yeah, it’s super weird looking back. I still have moments of how on earth did we get here? And it’s like, as I look back, it’s just one step. You just keep taking step, step, step, step, and then all of a sudden you’re in a place you that’s nothing like where you took that first step.
You operate a business that the model seems almost perfectly situated to help during this pandemic, especially like you’re offering remote coaching and coaching people in their nutrition and training coaches. What have you learned during this time? That’s kind of stuck with you/
Man. I’ve learned probably things that are totally unrelated to nutrition, but definitely related to health as a whole. I’ve really learned the value of social interaction and just like humans are such social creatures and we need each other to survive. Like it’s just because Amazon can deliver to your door and just because you literally don’t have to leave your house, you can just stay home, be on your computer work there, just be with the people in your house. But I’ve just really the value of having community and having friends and seeing them and being able to hug them. And just how big of an impac, that has on people in general. And so, you know, it’s just like been just a major lesson of being grateful for my friends and being grateful for my family and my community and changing my life to prioritize that.
So that just really made me super grateful. And it’s hard. It’s hard to isolate for days or, you know, luckily it’s five days these days, but it used to be 10. So yeah, it’s been, that’s like my biggest lesson of since the year and you can see it when people are checking in where they’re not getting that social interaction. They’re not going to the gym. They’re not physically seeing people at the gym. They’re not actually, you know, it’s so much easier. I work out so much harder at the gym. The people that can work out hard at home, like Games athletes that work out in their home garage, you are freaks, like absolute freaks of nature. I don’t understand. Cause when I go to a class at the gym, I just push a hundred times harder than I would at home. I would actually probably stop at home if I’m like, I gotta go do something. I would just stop. So not being able to go to the gym, not being able to see the people at the gym, the camaraderie, it’s just had a huge impact on the way people want to eat for comfort instead, or the way people just don’t have motivation to move or to exercise the same way. So there’s been a lot of support around that.
How do you motivate them in nutrition coaching when they’re in this blah state?
It’s hard. And my go-to is always to find the lowest opportunity for someone to be successful. So what does success at the lowest, lowest, lowest potential look like so that we can start collecting wins instead of thinking that I can do all of the same things that I could do before things were shut down or before I could, when I could see all my friends or go to the gym. OK. What is actually the smallest step of success right now? And how do we commit to that? Maintain it and then use that positive momentum to start building upon on it. Just cause, you know, when you like set a goal and then you achieve it, even if it’s tiny, it has this feeling inside, I call it progress juice, just like squeezes inside you, get all these hormones in your head of, yeah, I did it like I’m winning.
Everyone loves winning. And so how do we get that? Even on the smallest scale. Or convince people that that’s even good enough. Cause that’s hard. When people are like, oh, you know, just going on a walk is not good enough. And I used to be able to do a CrossFit workout every day, or I used to be able to run a mile or run many miles. It’s like, they’re like, it’s not good enough to just walk. But you know, right now, if you actually do it and you commit to it every day, it’ll feel good. And so it’s convincing people that even though it’s small and it seems insignificant, it’s not, it really is very significant. And it builds over time because you realize that just getting that walk in becomes hard when you’re like I just don’t have the time, where am I gonna fit it in. All of a sudden this super small thing that you thought was insignificant becomes difficult to actually commit to.
You coach regular people, but you also coach pro athletes. What’s the crucial difference. I’m sure there’s a lot of them, but what’s the crucial difference when it comes to your approach in nutrition coaching?
For a professional athlete, they’re preparing for a particular day, a particular event. And they’re in a lot of cases doing things that are not necessarily healthy, like working out that much, probably isn’t healthy like for your whole life or, there like athletes that are trying to make weight for a weightlifting competition. Like sometimes we do some weird things that are just not normal in order to do that. We’re really paying attention to their body weight in those cases, trying to help them stay above their weight class so that they can gain their strength and then cut down. There’s a lot of like weight manipulation, it’s totally different. And for, like a professional athlete, it’s playing with really small factor because everything else is already completely dialed in. Right. So it could be, they’re dealing with a knee injury and we’re gonna try cutting out anti-inflammatory or inflammatory foods and seeing if that impacts their recovery around their knee. But we also can’t dial back training. So just like really dialing into the little details, where with an average person, those things wouldn’t even come up or make a difference because there’s so much else that we have to be committed to.
I wanna talk a little bit about your husband and your family and how you work together, because it seems like a real cornerstone of your business. Did he like, was it his intention to, to build a nutrition empire or did he just sort of go along with this crazy journey with you?
I started it before I met him. OK. So we didn’t start it together. And we met six months after he had started own business called Brute Strength. Which is an online, fitness programming for, primarily CrossFit athletes. And then, I started Working Against Gravity separate from him and then around like two or three years after we met, he left that business with his business partner and then, came and started working with me. I think that there were a couple reasons, one, we wanted to start a family and starting a family, you know, we’re both being the CEOs of these businesses. It’s how could I be the kind of parent that could take the time away and be there for our child and still be responsible at the same time. So there was like this balancing act and to us, it just made the most sense.
And then also Michael and I have completely separate and complementary skills. He is so not detail oriented. So like up in the clouds, visionary idea person, he amazing with relationships. He’s an amazing communicator. He has so much emotional intelligence and can help inspire and lead people. And I am, so the detail person down to the finest little details, can keep things organized, systems, things like that. And we just really, we work really well together. I don’t think all couples could do that. But we work really well together and we’ve seriously found that any issues that have come up in work have been just another expression of a problem that existed in our marriage to begin with.
Interesting. So there’s no delineation between your kind of your work time and your home time, or do you transition?
There’s super clear delineation. So we have what we call sacred time and secular time. During off hours we do not talk about anything secular. So like that includes bills, taking out the trash, anything that could considered like work related. We do not talk about it at all. And if somebody breaks the rule, which is easy to do, we just like gently nudge the other and be like, Hey, can we talk about this another time? I just wanna keep things sacred. And we honor that, but have to have clear boundaries around or we ask like, Hey, I know we’re not supposed to talk about work right now, but can I, and then that person, they’re allowed to say no.
And you have children now.
Yes. I have a one and a half year old.
Peak of movement, and then peak also of, he can communicate 80% of what he wants. And so there’s this still trying to understand what he’s even trying to say. And then also the peak of he can, he hasn’t fully grasped that, danger and, you know, it’s not that he hasn’t grasped danger. He knows when something’s dangerous, but he doesn’t have the body control. Yes. So he could try something and then he just fails at it. And the fail is pretty bad. Yeah.
My son had a, he was similar when he was that age and I just remember just these huge, like bruises on his head. And I would hate to, like when we brought him to the doctor or whatever, like we’re not like beating him up. I swear. He’s just trying to climb everywhere. Do you, was it a big adjustment when you were like a new mom and trying to figure out how much you would work on the business or did you kind of have that mapped out in advance?
Yeah. I mean, I’m a planner, so right. I definitely planned this out almost like two years in advance. And thought about it, talked to our team about it, really started to figure out what that would look like. And that was a really big deal. Big part of bringing Michael onto our team was to help with that. So I really, I had a very thorough plan and we have an amazing staff that was, they want the support back when they have kids, right. We’re most women, it’s like, right. I think we have like five men. So very few men on the team. It’s mostly women and mostly of childbearing age, not saying that all of them will have children, but many of them probably will, and they would want that support back. So they’re just so ready to be like, yeah, whatever, like that is the most important thing for you to do in your life right now and go and do that. And I would do the same for them.
Did anything surprise you when it came to motherhood and balancing motherhood and work?
I found it a little bit surprising that the narrative that was fed to me and maybe this isn’t the narrative that everyone gets is that like, your life is gonna be over and you’re never gonna have sex again. You’re never gonna sleep again. And, but it’s worth it.
Sacrifice yourself on the altar of this divine motherhood.
I, the like whole martyr story that was fed, I have not found that to be true for me. And I could totally see that this is another one of those really controversial, tricky things to talk about because every experience of motherhood, motherhood impacts everybody differently. It’s a right of passage. And I’m not saying that it’s not challenging. It’s very, very challenging. And it didn’t impact me in the way that others had told me I would be impacted. I found that actually my sex life has gotten way better, like way better. My relationship, my marriage has gotten better. And, I mean, we’ve gone in and out of being able to sleep and not being able to sleep, but that’s like, it hasn’t been as challenging as I thought it would be. And it’s been like the greatest joy of my whole life.
I really think that when people say, oh, it’s so challenging, but it’s worth it. It sounds to me, like they’re saying it’s worth it in spite of it being challenging. When I, in my experience, I think it’s worth it because it’s challenging, because hard things are meaningful. Like things that are meaningful and fulfilling in your life aren’t easy. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be meaningful and fulfilling. And the fact that it’s challenging makes it meaningful and fulfilling. So I just remind myself that all the time, like this is a rite of passage and this is why raising children is meaningful is because it’s hard. And it’s also amazing. Like he brings so much joy into our life. I can’t even explain it.
And it gets even better when they start talking.
I can’t even imagine, like once you get to like two to four and then you’re like.
It’s pretty amazing.
Whoa. You can like sit there and play by yourself.
So what’s ahead for you with WAG and what are you kind of most looking forward to when you look at your future?
I think we’re always working on ways to improve the service as a whole. We’ve bee, playing around with video coaching, which has been exciting and new, and just like, what does that look like and how does that impact the structure of how we do things? Cause we don’t do any video coaching at all right now.
Do you mean like zoom coaching or like prerecorded videos that they watch as part of a course or?
Zoom coaching, like actually being able to interact way that you and I are right now. Right. So I’m excited to see if exploring that we’re not like exactly sure where that’s going or if it will continue, but we’re having a lot of fun, just trying new things. And then I really think the core of what we’ve got going on, can always use adapting, can always use improving and, it’s awesome and we love it and it works and, just, you know, continuing to be there, to serve as many people as we can, and also support our staff in living the best lives that they can too.
You are active across a lot of like social channels, like you YouTube and you have your own podcast. Do you think your ready sort of acceptance of trying out those different ways of communication have helped you as an entrepreneur kind of adapting to those new?
One of my superpowers as an entrepreneur is trying something. And then as soon as I think it’s not serving me anymore, I just let it go. Like I don’t have this attachment to well we put so much time and energy and effort in that. So we have to keep doing it. I just kind of like, it just doesn’t make any sense. Gambler’s fallacy, just cut it, like we’re done. So I think I do really well with that. I just like communicating with people in general, so in my personality type, I think it would be so hard. We have like a couple people on our staff that are definitely more introverted and this would be more challenging for them. But, I love people. I love helping people. I love talking to people. Like my favorite thing to do at work is actually to coach, like, it’s my favorite thing to do. So any opportunity that I can, like scale coaching, like podcasting or videos or things like that, where you can take, distill your knowledge and give that to more than just one person, is fun for me. So I think it’s helped me.
Kind of in a way, it comes back to your old dream of being a teacher. Like it’s a lot of that, those things play in to like helping people and teaching.
I think being a kindergarten teacher specifically helped me where I learned a lot about how to teach people very simple concepts in very different ways and adapting. OK. They’re not understanding that a penny is 1 cent. Like how can I explain this in a hundred different ways? Right. I think those skills really did serve me in coaching in general.
That’s super interesting. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you today. Thanks for coming on the show.
Yeah. Thank you for having me. Great questions.
Thanks for tuning in today. I’m Tiffy Thompson and you’ve been listening to Women In Fitness Business. If you like what you hear, subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts.