REAL LIFE

From fat girl to Batgirl!

Casey had a heavy fight on her hands, and would have to be her own hero.
Casey Gemmell

Walking around, I was in awe. I was at a comic book convention with my husband Julian, 36, and daughter Willow, six.

Everywhere we looked, people were dressed in amazing homemade superhero costumes – it’s called cosplay. Julian has a bit of an obsession with comics and we’d heard about the convention after moving from New Zealand to Perth a few weeks before.

I pushed him and Willow towards someone dressed as Wonder Woman. ‘Let me get a photo,’ I said.

At 171cm tall and a size 28, I preferred to be behind the camera. Over the years, I had tried dieting, but the weight always piled back on. Now, seeing the beautiful women in their revealing skin-tight costumes, I couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous. But Julian was in his element meeting other enthusiasts, so I plastered a smile on my face.

At 171cm tall and a size 28, I preferred to be behind the camera.

Inspired by the convention, he started building his own Iron Man costume for the next one. When we had a boy in 2011, Julian chose the name Xavier after the X-Men character. For his first birthday party, my hubby picked the theme. ‘Superheroes!’ he grinned.

I bought a Batgirl dress in a size 5XL online. But trying it on, it was more like a top. I even struggled to get the wristbands on.They must’ve sent me the wrong size, I thought, pairing the clingy spandex outfit with some black leggings. The next day, I saw the party photos. That can’t be me, I thought, horrified. So much for Batgirl, I was fat girl!

When I took Xavier for his yearly check-up a few days later, I weighed myself. I couldn’t believe it. I was 159 kilos – morbidly obese!

‘I’m going to lose weight. And this time, I’m going to keep it off,’ I told Julian, feeling determined.

So much for Batgirl, I was fat girl!

I downloaded an app to help me build up to run five kilometres in eight weeks. Terrified I’d have a heart attack, I asked Julian to come with me. While he pushed Xavier’s pram, Willow rode alongside us on her scooter.

On the first day, I had to jog for 30 seconds, walk for two minutes and repeat six times. Shuffling along, I couldn’t lift my feet off the ground and grunted like a wild boar. The next day, the program instructed me to jog for a full minute without stopping.

‘I can’t do it,’ I sobbed.
‘Keep going, Mum!’ Willow cheered.

My heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest, but one thought spurred me on – I want to look good next to my Iron Man at the next convention. Amazingly, after eight weeks I ran the full five kilometres in 30 minutes!

(Credit: Casey Gemmell)

When the day of the convention arrived in April 2013, I still wasn’t confident enough to dress up myself, but Julian looked unbelievable. Hundreds of people queued up to have their photo taken with him! When the pictures appeared online afterwards, Robert Downey Jnr – who plays Iron Man in the films – shared one!

It got me thinking. Rather than just being next to Julian, I wanted to dress up as strong characters myself. So while I continued to work out, Julian created a new costume – Deathstroke, one of Batman’s rivals.

‘Willow could go to the convention as Catwoman,’ he suggested.
‘And I can go as Robin,’ Xavier piped up.
I took a deep breath.
‘Maybe I could wear that Batgirl dress from Xavier’s birthday party,’ I said.
‘Only if you feel comfortable enough,’ said Julian.

By the time the convention came around in 2014, I’d lost 35 kilos. I slipped on the Batgirl outfit and this time, it hung like a dress – just as it was meant to! ‘You look amazing!’ Julian smiled.

Willow, Casey, Xavier and Julian (Credit: Casey Gemmell)

After the convention, the pictures of us went viral. It gave me the drive to carry on. I cut my portion sizes and didn’t snack before bed. By June this year, I’d shed a whopping 68 kilos, weighing in at 91 kilos.

At a convention that month, we all dressed in matching Punisher-themed outfits. In tight size-14 jeans and 
a size-10 top, I felt like a real-life superhero. I’d done it!

(Credit: Casey Gemmell)

I now run five kilometres three times a week, and run a Facebook group, ‘Beautiful U’, documenting my journey and helping others. I still love dressing up as a superhero – in fact, as a family we now visit children in hospital and attend charity parties in costume.

Willow, now 11, says she wants to work with bubs with disabilities. If I hadn’t lost the weight, I never would’ve had the confidence to do any of this.

I feel like Superwoman!

(Credit: Casey Gemmell)

As told to Rachel Williams

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 34, 2016

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