33. Little Girl, Lost and Found

33. Little Girl, Lost and Found

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Little Girl, Lost and Found

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

~E.E. Cummings

I locked the door behind me in the bathroom stall, pulled down my pants and sat on the toilet. And that’s when it happened: my shapewear camisole flipped up while my tummy fell out. It was actually quite comical! But the laugh I stifled in my throat died off as I stared down at my stomach, now resting on my thighs. How had it come to this — my wearing a tight-fitting camisole to hold it all in?

Growing up, I was a confident girl. I was always riding my bike, climbing trees, and building forts. I preferred to play with boys. If anyone gave me a hard time, I was quick to retort, be it with a cheeky comeback or even a decent shove. I could hold my own with anyone. I felt strong and capable.

But at some point, all that changed. Around age twelve, I became aware of different body types. Playing with boys suddenly wasn’t as appealing, but I didn’t fit in with the girls in my class. They were slender and already wearing make-up. I had an athletic build and didn’t have a clue about make-up. I had the sense that I was missing out, as if all the other girls had a secret but I was not a member of the club. They were moving forward, and knew how to do it, while I was standing still. I ached to fit in.

Fast forward several years, and I was married to the love of my life and we had been blessed with two beautiful children. But I was still busy comparing myself to others. Everyone seemed to have self-confidence, while I felt unsure and critical of my body. I still longed to feel like the confident child I used to be. How would I get back to that place?

I realized that part of my problem with self-confidence was my weight. Having had two babies, plus a plethora of poor food choices and very little exercise, meant that I had watched the scale go up and down, and then go up and stay there. It wasn’t just that I wanted to lose weight — there is diabetes in my family and I was scared that I was on track to developing it, given my lifestyle. At thirty-four years old and 197 pounds, I was not healthy. I was worried about the example I was setting for my children.

I still longed to feel like the confident child I used to be.

I bought a book online which addressed different types of metabolisms. I felt an instant connection with the author; so much of what she was describing resonated with me! I had many of the symptoms she discussed, including carbohydrate cravings and lack of energy. I believed her eating and exercise plan would help me attain my own health. I decided that I would enjoy Christmas and then on the morning of December 26th, I would start my new lifestyle. And so I did!

I revamped my eating habits entirely. No more muffins for breakfast. No more chicken fingers and fries, or two plates of pasta, for lunch or dinner. No more bowls of ice cream for dessert. These items were to be treats, not a daily habit. My eating plan now included grilled chicken, steamed vegetables, salads, nuts and seeds, smoothies, and high fibre breads and crackers — all in proper portion sizes. I cut out fruit juice and increased my water intake. I started walking five kilometres four to five times a week. The scale began to move down. My hard work was paying off!

Eight months after my Boxing Day start, I was 50 pounds lighter! My husband Russ and I went shopping for new clothes for the “new me.” I remember picking pants and tops off the rack and asking his opinion. He looked at me with a smile and said, “That’s your OLD size. Let’s find you something in your NEW size.” I frowned, looking down at the clothes in my arms. What was wrong with me? After all my hard work, I still didn’t feel like I deserved a smaller size.

Here’s the trouble: I was new on the outside, but not on the inside. My mind needed to catch up to my body, but how? I wanted to find that confident, feisty little girl inside of me. What had made me feel good about myself when I was younger? I couldn’t put my finger on it.

It was some time later that I was walking on our treadmill in the basement and suddenly had the urge to start running. I’m not a runner, and had always assumed I just couldn’t do it. But something made my finger press the buttons and the belt sped up faster and faster . . . and suddenly, I was running! Five minutes passed, then ten minutes and the next thing I knew, I had been running for fifteen minutes straight! I was literally shrieking with joy!

It wasn’t long before I ventured outside to run. I initially felt awkward and self-conscious, but as I kept going, my attention shifted to my breathing, my heart rate and how my muscles felt. The blood rushing through my veins made me feel alive! I felt strong and purposeful. Well, hello there, little girl! Welcome back!

The following year, I signed up for a charity 5K run. Standing there at the starting line, I began to compare myself to the other runners. Then I gave my head a shake; the only person I was competing with was myself. There were going to be runners in front of me, and runners behind me. And that was okay. I wasn’t going to worry about anyone else. When I crossed the finish line, I felt amazing. The following year, my goal was to beat my time from the previous year. And I did!

When I look at my daughter Julia, who is seven years old, I am reminded of myself as a little girl. Julia is whole; there are no cracks in her confidence. She loves to ride her bike and climb trees. She is healthy, strong and confident. Julia is beautiful! I want Julia to love her athletic build, just like I learned to love mine, and to feel good about herself. If she ever has doubts, I will help her rediscover the things that make her feel her personal best.

Close your eyes, and think back to your childhood and the things that made you feel confident and beautiful. Find that little girl inside of you. You go, girl!

~Carole Johnston

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