Weight management industry, a multi-trillion dollar business –Adedamola Ladejobi, lawyer-turned weight loss expert

From the first time you meet her, she identifies herself as,”I am the Damz of AskDamz”. A restless yet purposeful soul, her list of accomplishments leaves in awe. She is a lawyer, health specialist, consultant, teacher, to name but a few.

Her real name is Adedamola Ladejobi, Coach Damz. She is a certified personal nutritionist, weight management expert, idea-preneur, and Wellness and lifestyle coach.

She is the Founder/CEO of ASKDAMZ, a premium  weight management company, and the Askdamz Wellness Institute, a virtual health and wellness institute with a global wellness community of over 2000 members.

As a wellness enthusiast, she works full-time as a wellness coach, using her successful lifestyle change and platform (both physical and social media) to touch the lives of thousands of people around the world.

She is a lawyer and Solicitor of the Nigerian Supreme Court with an LLB Law degree from the University of Exeter and a Bachelor of Law from the Nigerian Law School as well as a Diploma in Nutrition from Shaw Academy, Ireland.

In 2017, her brand, ASKDAMZ was featured as one of the 100 most Innovative female-owned businesses in Nigeria due to her wealth of knowledge and experience in her area of expertise. Over the years, Coach Damz and her brand has been a recipient of multiple awards and accolades.

She launched the ASKDAMZ App, a first of its kind in Africa; aimed at helping people live a better lifestyle.

Adedamola spoke to The Nigerian Xpress in her office at Victoria  Island, Lagos.

Let us look into the trajectory of your life before you veered into the weight management and wellness lane?

I am actually a lawyer and I went to school in University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. I came to Nigeria in 2008, finished Law School in Bwari, Abuja because as an International Law student you have to go to Bwari. So, I did my Bar 1 and 2 then graduated with a Bachelor in Law. I started working at the Ministry of Justice; I did that temporarily but I felt empty like there was more to me than being a lawyer. By the way, I studied Law because I was always told I was very intelligent but my highest grades even in secondary school were always in Biology and Food and Nutrition and those were the times that I would literally light up and I am at my happiest moment.

Initially, before I entered the Umuniversity, I told myself I would be a pharmacist or doctor but I ended up studying Law. After becoming a graduate, I got bored with the idea of being a lawyer. An opportunity to  teach came up  at a nursery school, I took it. In fact, I was head of the nursery school. It felt good because teaching is actually one of my hobbies. I worked there for five years, monitoring the staff, the teachers, playing and teaching the kids. But later on, I realised I didn’t really like teaching kids, I liked to teach the adults more than the kids. So, imagine being a lawyer, who works in a school but doesn’t like to teach; it didn’t make any sense and the kids there were 0-6 years old. So, I was in a quagmire. I literally  became one of those that people call NFA (No Future Ambition).  At that point, people kept asking me, so what are you going to do with your life? You are a lawyer, a future Justice but that was not the trajectory of my life. It was not just going the way I wanted it to go. Some people kept asking me, what are you doing? What is the next step from here? I would just look blankly and say I don’t know!

I tried to get back into the legal field but at that point in time, I was already doing AskDamz on my own and for myself. I was already making a lot of money from AskDamz. However, one statement that somebody made to me  was that weight management is very fickle, I give you six months and your business will die down. The person didn’t say that in a bad way; he didn’t  mean any harm. The weight management industry, the nutrition industry as at six years ago was really nothing big. So, because of that even though everything was going well at AskDamz, in fact, I had already hired about five graduates at that point in time, but because I was scared that this weight management and nutrition business was not going to last long, with that thought  in mind, I  tried to get into the law field again and all of that. I did the magistracy exams, I scaled through, did the interview and lo and behold, I wasn’t confirmed. At this point, I thought to myself, let me even put myself in something life-long but God had bigger plans for me. So, here I am today and I am a weight loss/management expert, certified personal nutritionist and being here in this space alone speaks volumes. I am the Damz of AskDamz. AskDamz is made up of many professionals,  we have certified personal nutritionists, dieticians, doctors that come in, biologists.We are a full team.

Prior to your involvement, what was your view about weight loss and now that you are an expert, what is the big change between then and now?

Before I became a weight loss expert, I was one of those who wanted to do anything and everything to lose weight. Even in the university, the moment I hear this slimming tea, this new diet..oh I would try it. I would literally spend my pocket money to buy the next fat burner, not knowing that there is nothing that you would actually drink that would melt the fat. If it was so, nobody would be overweight; you would just drink the tea. However, I realised that as with all things in life, to be a success at anything, it is very important to stay on your own lane so even with weight loss, it is very important to walk your own path. It is not about a diet, you have to find what works for you as an individual and if you don’t find what works for you as an individual, you are going to keep running from pillar to post. All of the things that I was told, that when you drink slimming tea, it will help you, none of these things helped me. In fact, I have horrid stories about some things I did when I was younger. I used to have this diet culture mentality. That if you eat bread, you will not lose weight, if you eat rice you will not lose weight. So, I used to try to go on fruits for like 3 or 4 days and by the time I get to day 4, I am sick and tired and I would just go on Chinese food. At that point in time, I was living in England, I would binge eat and one day I said, No, I am not doing this. I didn’t lose any weight and then I decided, you know what? Let me try and do something for myself, my health and also with a sprinkle of vanity because I don’t like to lie, I like the good things of life and I realised that clothes were not fitting me anymore. I walk into stores and I would tell my friends and other people that I don’t like to try on clothes at the store but meanwhile it is not that I didn’t like to try on new clothes but the humiliation of trying to fit into something and trying to zip…used to be so horrible, I decided to make a change, I decided to go at my own pace. I didn’t even tell anybody and that is the mistake that people  to tell people about the new diet that they want to do, that they are going to lose weight…it is one of the worst things to do. You put yourself under a lot of mental pressure and mental stress. Nobody told me to lose weight, my husband married me big. In fact, by the time he married me, so when I even hear things like I have to lose weight so I can get married or get a man I am like No, that is not a good reason; it should be for your health.

I am currently a judge on a TV show, called The Fastest Shredder, Nigeria’s first weight loss reality TV show and one of the most common things I heard two weeks ago during the audition was that I need to lose weight so I can get married. Diet culture mentality was something I needed to break free from so when I was still eating my bread, I was losing weight. I could also eat small chops, doughnut from time to time and was still losing this weight. So, it is not those things that were making me gain weight; it was too much of them that was making me gain weight. I also had to change my mentality with regard to food; it was no longer about counting calories like people do.I started to see food as medications. The moment you begin to see food as medication, there is something that it does to your body. When your body is getting optimum nutrition, the quality of food that you are eating, it starts to affect everything about you, your mind, your mood.You are no longer cranky because your body is getting all the vitamins that it needs, all the macro and micro nutrients that it needs and in doing so you find out that your mood is regulated, your appetite is regulated, your sleep is regulated and so even to go on a weight loss journey because you are stable, you are not cranky, your energy levels are good, you finally found what works for you. The quality of the food that you are eating and diet culture mentality, hoping for a medical tea or pill is what I broke away from and I duplicated this result with thousands of people all over the world. AskDamz is known in literally every single continent around the world. I didn’t know how huge it was until I entered a market in Tanzania and the market lady literally screamed,You are AskDamz! In reality, I am actually a very shy person but people think because of my personality, I like to go out, I like to, I do go out a lot but when I go out, I could be quite friendly, I am two extremes. People ask are you are an introvert or an extrovert? I am like maybe I am an ambivert.

What motivated you to build an organisation out of it because you could have moved on after achieving your weight loss?

I would go out to birthday parties where people would talk to me about weight loss. People kept asking how I did it. In fact, those times I used to tell my husband that I did not really feel like going to parties because when I get there, people would begin to ask me about weight loss. He then suggested l start making money from it but I wondered, who is going to pay me for weight loss? I just let the suggestion slide. Then a group of people, my sister-in-law and some other people, 13 all together in the days of BBM, urged me to please coach them. I was so passionate about it; these were different people in different continents – America and different time zones, I was so excited about it and sometimes in the middle of the day, I would drop tips for weight loss and before  they ate, they used to say let’s Ask Damz o. I did this for three months and by the end of these three months, the results were crazy good. Their blood sugar levels were regulated, infertility gone.My sister-in-law had  three unsuccessful IVFs but after losing five pounds and after 10 years of trying to have a baby finally conceived. It just goes to show you that it is not just about weight loss, it is about a lifestyle . That is why I take the holistic wellness approach. In 2015, I cracked a joke on Instagram one day on my page and wrote, you know what? Enough is enough, if you see me at a birthday or wedding party, you will pay me before I talk to you about weight loss but I was actually joking. I said nobody should ask me for any freebies again and I logged off Instagram. I will never forget because I just finished my quiet time at the school  then I went off. I had  six clients or more in less than 24 hours. I had my first physical consult, someone actually told me come to their house, how much do you charge? The person asked; I didn’t have fees or structure. I mean  this was not how I planned my life to be. So, I just called a figure; she didn’t even argue with me. That was how I started doing physical consultations/ virtual consultations and before I knew it, Ask Damz had two staffs; before I knew it, we had six, then we had eight, 10, 15. I am just grateful; my story would not be complete without me giving Glory to God because I am truly the definition of when God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wisdom of the wise. I studied Law. I  thought I was going to be magistrate from magistracy to being a justice and all of a sudden my life just diverted to weight loss. Initially i used to be ashamed to say I was a weight loss coach  that was in the first few months. People questioned my decision, they were like, you help people lose weight? My mum was puzzled;  you are going to leave Law to do what? Weight loss? After all the money I spent to train you in England?Weight loss is not it at all, she frequently exclaimed. But before we got to the ninth month or let’s say one year, my mum changed her tune. When I go out, everybody keeps asking me Ask Damz, is it my daughter they are talking about? You didn’t tell me you are a big girl. So, where can I find you?My Mum was surprised and at the same time proud of me.

There is this big distrust about weight gain and all, some are saying the field is filled with many charlatans.

And this is why I always say that it is very important to find what works for you because the weight loss and fitness industry is a multi-trillion dollar industry and it’s unfortunate because we are marketing to a bunch of people, who are extremely desperate and will do anything to lose weight. And that is why in 2021, you have people bringing up magical slimming teas and are cashing out because people are looking for the next magic. This is my advice for anyone who is trying to lose or manage their weight, seek professional advice; speak to your dietician or nutritionist coach about your specific issues.  My application form is so detailed; you will think you are applying for a job somewhere but there is a reason.

Tell us about AskDamz app

The AskDamz app, presently we have lot of upgrade to do on it but it was launched a couple of years ago. In fact, maybe the government would support us. The AskDamz app was founded because I wanted everybody on…so people asked me, what is your target market? I just want people to know, be informed. I want the average man, who has access to a smart phone to know basic things about wellness, their food so we have like the calorie counter, step counter, fasting tracker for those people who want to do intermittent fasting because it is a way of life for some people. The most important bit of the AskDamz app, which is available on Android but not on I-phone is the Wellness institute, where we have over 19 courses and 19 e-books that are available worldwide. The app is more of a gateway into beginner information so that you can get different information if you want to from the Wellness institute. The app and AskDamz are two different entities. Ask Damz is for weight management, weight loss, weight gain, nutrition consulting, diet consulting in general and health consulting while Ask Damz Wellness  Institute is our wellness institute where you can take courses or read books on nutrition for skin care, eating for good health. We have about 19 techniques for stress management. Everything about wellness you will find on the AskDamz Wellness Institute website literally. You can go through the course and get an Ask Damz certificate of completion because indeed it is a professional course. But if you don’t want the course, you can just buy the e-book, read it and get knowledge, that’s the aim, that’s the goal. The motto for ADLY is growing skills and achieving wholeness because it is one thing to lose weight, it is another thing to be whole. You can lose weight in a very nasty manner.  I am very careful because when you talk about slimming tea, pills, the promoters see me as an enemy but I am not. I guess when they grow older they will realide that this girl is not a common enemy she is just a friend trying to tell you that there are ways to do this thing. But you know there is that spirit of mammon and it is quick money. Some people have told me you know what you need to do right now? You don’t need to stress yourself to coach, launch a brand of slimming tea, launch a waist trainer. People have told me that from the beginning but integrity will not allow me to and longevity matters to me because I am growing a business that will outlive me, that when my kids are even in their thirties or forties, there is still Ask Damz. If my grandparents could do that, I come from the Aboderin family of Punch newspaper. My mum is an Aboderin; we believe in a brand that lasts.I think in terms of integrity, honesty, yes, I want to be wealthy. God has blessed me; I am very blessed but if I lived or did certain things I was not supposed to do, Ask Damz would have crashed maybe in the first year if I followed the way of dishonesty. But because I have a goal, I know my purpose.

I will not allow anything to distract me from that mission, which is to educate the entire planet from Africa with love to the world. From the high and mighty to the common man on the street, one meal and tip at a time.

How would you describe the response to your initiative?

We are a global brand, we function presently in over 72 different countries worldwide. We get calls to speak all around the world, you name it, America, India, on International women’s day I remember being called to speak a few years back in India. I lost my dad at that point in time. We are recognised and we go around the world not only  Nigeria, educating people one million at a time, from Africa and Nigeria with love to the entire world and the response so far is amazing. What I wish could happen is this; we have a lot of brilliant minds in Africa but unfortunately, we suffer from something called crowd mentality where as opposed to coming together to form a force, we knock ourselves down because we want to be the better one, the number one – unhealthy competition. For me, I am just thinking that we have so many bright, beautiful minds and that is what made me start AskDamz Wellness Institute because I came together with about five other people to birth the institute. But do you know what it means for us to come together and do something? It will blow the world up if we can, we are so knowledgeable, our herbs by the way I have an e-book on the fundamentals of natural medicine. Things like our scent leaves is good for so many things. For instance, zobo is good for blood pressure issues; scent leaves is good for immunity and stress. We just want to do our own thing which is fine. It is good to grow your brand but even the bible says, one can kill a thousand but two can kill ten thousand, so we need to embrace collaboration and co-option as opposed to competition in Nigeria and Africa for us to grow the way we want to. We have come a long way; AskDamz on its own and I am not trying to brag, we are Africa’s number one weight loss and weight management company to the glory of God.

You are well known as a weight loss and management person, what happens to your legal career now? How do you joggle the various areas of your life to achieve a balance?

Everything happens for a purpose. So, I wouldn’t say my Law has been wasted. I am not in a courtroom but as a lawyer, you have to be able to write, you have to be able to journal, put articles and documents together. So, when I started AskDamz and I created my application form and other forms in minutes, hours, different forms, my law knowledge hasn’t gone to waste. If I need to create a form for anything quickly now, all my years of studying Law come in handy and that is why you can’t just come to me and say come and do this, I will ask you because I am also a lawyer; where is the contract? Currently, a specialist and weight management consultant at this hospital, when the contract was given to me, I had to read it. The average person would just get excited and say I am a consultant at a specialist hospital, then you don’t read anything. It is such an honour, I am privileged to be a part of the team here, for the Law has gone a long way because I am able to dissect documents, I am able to be very vocal about my thinking and for me one plus one is not equal to two, it could be hundred or one billion, depending on the situation and that is because I am a lawyer. So, I see things in different ways; I am multi-dimensional, I am also a multi-potentiality, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a coach and I do ministry work. I don’t want to sound spiritual but I would say that God helps me. There are definitely days when you feel overwhelmed because it’s like there is too much going on at once, that is where you have to prioritise.

Balancing can be a myth, something will suffer at some point in time so you have to make sure that when you spot something that is suffering because of something else, you have to quickly take up the ball as fast as you can and make sure the other part doesn’t suffer. For example, my children are on holiday and also I am currently working. My workload has increased, I have a bigger team but I have to be a present mum because now they are at home, yes there are activities, I realized that there was a working overdrive even last week that I didn’t even have time for my children. I had to call myself back to order and be like my children are very important and I have to make time for them. So,  I have shut down everything that I am doing, sit down, speak to them, watch a movie with them, they are currently at Vacation Bible School. I would go and pick them up. Ask them, what did you learn? What memory verses did you learn because I realize that just taking a few days out, it is like these children were just doing their own thing while I am doing my own thing. No it shouldn’t be that way. I will say God helps me out, the Holy Spirit helps to keep me in check, I know what area is suffering and what to kick off. Even my marriage suffers sometimes. Before I used to work round the clock because I used to pride myself in being a workaholic; it is something I am still praying about because I am still in workaholics anonymous class. I used to work around the clock and sometimes I would put my phone down and be like you know this is family time, I have been married for twelve years, I need to have time too for my husband. When i am on my phone 24/7. I remember he used to complain that I was always on my phone always working and I used to say to myself, no man is going to tell me how to live my life but I realised that this guy was not just saying it for himself but actually for myself because I realised that I was just working and working. He said, Damz you need to go off your phone so you can enjoy this money that you are making and so I started to do that. We don’t joke about our date nights, I am very intentional about my date nights, my family dinner when I put my phone down and just be like my husband, a human being. At that point in time, I am not AskDamz, I am Damz the wife, the mother, child of God. My happiest moments are actually when I am in my room praying, worshipping, where I am just Damz the child of God where I can be open, honest and vulnerable. I am also big on friendships and my best friends have been my friends for more than twenty years or more. I am Damz the good friend, the present friend, it takes a lot to balance things out but so far, so good, I am doing a good job.

What are your big entrepreneurship lessons?

If you want to go far as an entrepreneur, focus on the quality of your goods or service. If you focus on the quality and the presentation, money will come, you will attract money. But what happens to a lot of us in business is that we are so focused on hitting monetary targets and goals and end up selling rubbish services and products and that is what I hate because that is the image that Nigeria has painted to the world. When people join AskDamz from abroad, some people will tell me they can’t believe that they are dealing with a Nigerian organisation. It hurts me to my bone marrow because there are a lot of good businesses, we can do better but it hurts me to hear that they have dealt with a lot of Nigerian vendors and businesses, their customer service is horrible. I can’t believe you are Nigerian or maybe because you schooled abroad, that is why you are like this,they say. We have a long way to go with regards to honesty, integrity, customer service, giving value for money. If you give value for money, people will come.

What is your advice to young women to avoid weight-related health issues as they go into adulthood?

First of all, you have to love yourself enough to live a healthy lifestyle. I mean Kate Henshaw turned 50 few days ago, that woman doesn’t play with her nutrition; she is very active also. People like to see exercise as a tool for weight loss; it is actually not. I lost a bulk of my weight without exercising. And even up until 2020, was the year that made me decide I was actually going to start getting active and I did that because I realised that each time I would work out, it was like stress relief. Please to all the ladies around the world not just young ladies, eat healthy as best as you can and this doesn’t mean only fruits and vegetables. As long as it grows from the ground, it is good and there is a reason God has put it out there. Your rice, yams, potatoes, fruits, vegetables are all good. Drink water, stay hydrated, less fizzy drinks, love yourself enough to put good stuff in your body as opposed to bad stuff.  I do something called the 80-20 rule it means that 80% of the time I am on my A-game, I want to nourish my body, I want to live long but also because I am a human being, 20% of the time I take ice-cream and cake, which are not great for my body but I will eat it because I am craving it. I don’t feel guilty, I don’t feel bad, I will eat it and move on. Eating salad for a while day will not make you wake up skinny the next day so why do people think that eating puff-puff and ice cream in one day will automatically make you gain weight the next day? It doesn’t work that way, there needs to be a balance; balance is key and then love yourself enough to live a healthier lifestyle. Choose progress over perfection, the issue is that a lot of us want to be perfect but guess what? Even Damz the weight loss coach, the weight loss expert is not perfect, I progress every day, my plan is to out-do the Damz that I was the year before, the month before, the day before. I am able to out-do that Damz, all well and good. If I am not, it is okay. Little drops of water make a mighty ocean, that’s what I think and that’s my thought pattern.

What do you think society can do to further awaken consciousness about the importance of weight management to the overall well-being of society?

I think the government has a huge role to play. The truth of the matter is, a lot needs to be done about the health care system in Nigeria. Before all this reformation takes place because we don’t know how long it will take, we need to start sensitising the common man in the street on what to eat, what not to eat. Things like blood pressure, what does it take for the government to put together a team to test for eye-checks, blood pressure issues, diabetes. A lot of people have these ailments and they don’t know. All you hear is that they slept and didn’t wake up or they just slumped. Meanwhile, their hearts have been giving signs, their bodies have been giving signs. I believe that every organisation and also the government, we need to start sensitising people about the importance of eating healthy. Let’s start from the basics, let’s go down to how our ancestors used to eat a hundred years ago. They lived way longer than we did before we started introducing chemicals into our bodies and all of that. But we need the help of the government to be able to do so because for an individual alone, it is going to be very hard. So, individuals, corporate organisations and the government need to come together and start sensitising everybody from the layman to the creme de la creme in the society.

Going forward, what are the initiatives or offerings from AskDamz that women can especially get?

AskDamz is for everybody not only women,  I coach children because child obesity is very real, there is also child depression, which leads to obesity for a lot of children but it is taboo to talk about it in Nigeria, there is a stigma attached to it. Most parents don’t like their child to see a psychiatrist or counsellor; most of them do it behind closed doors but in dealing with children, teenagers and even adults,  I realise that mental health has a lot to do with so many things.  Over the cause of my years at AskDamz, I have found out that sometimes the root of a lot of people’s problems are actually emotional eating. If you don’t deal with the root, you can do nothing about the tree. If you break off a stem, certain branches of the tree, the root is still there and it is still going to grow. I am very big on mental health, we are already doing it but I want us to take it a step further to actually offer therapy and counselling for people who are on a weight loss journey. Most people are currently doing bodywork liposuction and body sculpting but they don’t know about the impacts.  For body sculpting if you take fat out of one part of the body, and you don’t put it somewhere, it will show up in another part of the body so if you take out fat from the thighs and you don’t put it somewhere else in the body, it could show up anywhere like your arms, your face. You find out that you have just caused more problems for your body.

Part of the reason i started AskDamz is that some people believed that I did surgery to lose weight. I call them my Judases but hey even Jesus needed a Judas to push him out. So, I am grateful for them also.

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