“I switched to whole foods and lost 20 pounds.”

The stress of first-year university led Angela Liddon to put on 20 pounds. But through a focus on whole, real foods she regained her health’and found her happiness through starting her own business

Growing up with the nickname Martha (as in the home-styling celebrity) among her friends, Angela Liddon, 25, knows her way around the kitchen. She made over 500 soft ginger cookies as wedding favours for her own wedding. “I’ve always loved baking up delicious goodies for social gatherings: cakes, cookies, brownies, squares, biscotti,” she says. “I do have a sweet tooth.”

But her love of sweets became a problem during her first year of university in Toronto. She turned to ice cream and candy for comfort to get her through the stress of deadlines and exams, and packed 20 extra pounds onto her petite 5’4′ frame. That was six years ago. With a healthy diet and regular exercise, she slimmed down and toned up, but that was just the start. Her success inspired her to launch an online bakery with wholesome and appealing treats.

The breaking point

During a routine check-up at the student health centre at York University, Liddon stepped on the scale and was faced with a 20-pound weight gain. “I felt embarrassed, defeated and ashamed. Right then and there I knew that something had to change.”

The challenge

There’s no magic formula to get fit and lose weight in a short time. Liddon had to come to terms with that fact. She struggled with eating too little-just 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day-while pushing herself for an hour on the treadmill or elliptical trainer. Some days she’d resort to overeating and snacking on junk food. Then there were days she felt like giving up altogether.

The haphazard routine was “bound to fail,” she says. “I decided to give up the scale and calorie counting. I realized that they no longer fit into my idea of what my personal health should encompass.”

The plan

Liddon focused on eating whole and fresh foods instead of processed foods so that she’d know exactly what she was eating, and be able to control the levels of fat, salt and other additives. She taught herself how to make her own versions of store-bought foods, such as hummus without the added fat and preservatives, and chose almond butter instead of buying peanut butter with added oil and sugar.

She started running and practicing yoga at home, incorporating exercise into five out of seven days each week. Most importantly, she overhauled her idea of what personal health is all about. “[Health means] waking up happy and energized in the morning and feeling positive about life in general,” she says. “I realized that health wasn’t just eating the right foods or working out a certain amount of time, but it applied to all aspects of my life.”

The biggest obstacle

“[My challenge was] the impossible standards and expectations that I placed on myself,” Liddon says. “Once I started to lose weight, my expectations increased and I wanted more and more progress. This can be a dangerous trap to fall into.”

After a while, she realized her drive to see results was undermining what she had set out to achieve. “I was unhappy, tired and uninspired. My focus was placed too much on my weight and not enough on my overall health and happiness.”

The results

The discipline needed in the beginning has become her passion. “I have always been interested in nutrition and health, but when I started to see actual changes in myself as a result of the adjustments I was making, it was like a light went off inside me.”

She completed her master’s degree in Social Psychology, moved to Milton, Ont., and created a healthy lifestyle website and custom-order online bakery with all-natural baked goods, including a rich, chocolatey black bean brownie made without oil.

Learning about health and nutrition made me happy,” Liddon says. “Eating good, whole foods made me happy. Moving my body made me happy. That is why I created OhSheGlows.com-because I wanted to save others years of strife and show them what I have learned along the way.”

Tips for success

Make a commitment
“I always say that you have to be truly ready to change your lifestyle. Without this desire to change, your efforts will be defeated.” Liddon recognized the need to change her habits and committed to taking the necessary steps.

Get informed
Liddon didn’t want to get lost among the sea of fad diets and infomercials for quick fixes. She started reading health journals and books about fitness and nutrition. “One of the books that changed my life was Foods That Fight Cancer by Dr. Richard Beliveau and Dr. Denis Gingras. It taught me the amazing health benefits that natural foods could give me.”

• Don’t be a slave to the scale
Don’t let a number on a scale determine your happiness for the day. At first, Liddon found it hard living without frequent weigh-ins, but it became easier. “Now I don’t even think about it.”

Don’t deny your sweet tooth

Find healthy versions of your favourite foods, such as Liddon’s Glo Banana Bars with dates, bananas, raw almonds and spices. When she’s cooking meals at home, she rarely follows a recipe. She’ll modify them by cutting oil or butter, adding more vegetables or lentils, or using whole wheat pasta.

Originally published June 2009.

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