A Belfast student who was overweight in her teens says school bullies who also trolled her online left her depressed and with no body confidence.
Anastasia Edwards (22), from north Belfast, was 14 stone when she was 16 years old and turned to exercise after suffering relentless taunts from her classmates about her weight.
But, having shed several stone, Anastasia then had a traumatic neck injury at a yoga class in June, which left her unable to exercise for over a month, just weeks before she was due to jet out to Greece for a sunshine holiday. The injury, she says, sent her fragile self-esteem crashing again.
But thanks to Holywood-based Cinch Clinic, a holistic fat-loss clinic which uses the latest Harley Street treatments to help people of all ages and sizes get back in shape, Anastasia was able to be beach-ready on time.
The previously sporty teen says the bullies, who were girls at her secondary school, taunted her both in the classroom and online with cruel jibes about her weight.
Now an Ulster University student doing a degree in politics, Anastasia says the vicious bullying campaign forced her to leave secondary school at the age of 16.
And the more she was bullied, the more she took comfort in food: "My weight wasn't really an issue for me when I was younger, although I tended to be on the heavier side. It started when I turned 14 and I was getting bullied - I started to eat more and the bullying got worse and I just kept on gaining more weight."
Every day, Anastasia was targeted online, too, by the pupils: "I was silly enough to have an app which everyone (at school) used to have when we were younger. It wasn't beneficial in the slightest towards me."
It all became too much for Anastasia when she was in fifth year. "I ended up leaving the school because I just couldn't put up with it anymore. It was too bad."
Despite leaving school so young, she managed to continue her education at further education college. "I ended up getting four A-levels and I'm studying politics at university now. I'm doing pretty well, so it was probably the best option."
Now working as a bakery assistant to pay for her university degree, Anastasia says she rediscovered exercise, which helped her shed the pounds: "I used to play Gaelic football for St Bride's and rowed for Belfast Rowing Club, so I was always into fitness. In the beginning, I started going back to the gym and slowly but surely got myself into the way of exercise.
"I found a love for exercise in mixed martial arts, yoga, gym classes, polercise - you name it, I loved it," she recalls.
Anastasia admits cardio work-outs are not her favourite, so she decided to give mixed martial arts (MMA) a go: "I've only recently started MMA and I really like it. My boyfriend does it, so I thought I would try it, too. It's fun and challenging."
And she says there are other benefits: "If I'm ever feeling a wee bit down or stressed, I go to the gym, it really picks up your mood 100%. I think it's the best thing for you, mentally. You're keeping your body fit as well as your mind because it releases endorphins." But just before she was due to go on a sunshine holiday to Greece this August, Anastasia damaged her neck ligaments at her yoga class.
"I was doing a headstand when I slammed to the ground - it was not good. I damaged ligaments in my neck and had to wear a heavy duty plastic neck brace for quite some time."
The neck injury meant her usual round of exercise was out of the question: "There's no way I could lift heavy weights."
She adds: "My neck is still sore, although it's better than it was, but I'm easing my way back to exercise again. I've just been walking and doing stretches, so I can get my body used to movement again."
But with a beach holiday just weeks away, Anastasia was worried about getting out of shape again. "I was doing as much as I could to aid weight loss and tone up, but obviously it was limited because of what I did to my neck. But then I saw a female bodybuilder I follow on social media, The Sculpted Vegan, Kim Constable, who is from Northern Ireland.
"I think she's amazing and admire her so much - I noticed she had gone to Cinch Clinic in Holywood, so I wanted to find out more."
Anastasia liked the credibility of Kim's posts following a review of several treatments at the Co Down clinic. "I'm always hesitant about clinics which promise brilliant results from their treatments," she adds. "Being a student, I can't throw money about willy-nilly and the non-surgical treatments are a massive investment for anyone."
With certain single body treatments costing £120 each - or £600 for a course of six - Anastasia wanted to ensure she would get good value for money, and the results she desired.
She was particularly self-conscious about dimpling around her thighs: "I've got quite bad cellulite because I'm half-Greek. Because I've got a Mediterranean figure, I hold my weight on my hips, bum and thighs."
But after having two Targeted Tummy Tightening and Cellulite treatments at Cinch Clinic, Anastasia was impressed with the results: "I lost three to four inches off my waist alone. When I was on holiday, I was able to run up and down the beach and not have one bit of cellulite. I was completely blown away by the results.
"When it was sunny here, I wouldn't wear a dress because of the cellulite at the top of my legs, and you could see my body wobble when I moved. But on holiday, I was confident enough to wear short-shorts and cropped tops - I didn't feel embarrassed once."
She adds the improvement in the orange peel skin was noticeable: "The difference and improvement in my cellulite was visible straight away. The lumps and bumps were massively reduced, my skin tone had improved and my stomach wasn't bloated and reduced by inches.
"The treatment actually uncovered a six pack I never, ever had before, and I felt so amazing about my body for the first time."
Anastasia was so pleased with the results, she signed up to a full course of six treatments.
She says her self-esteem was also boosted by the therapists at the clinic, who made each treatment enjoyable: "I felt that they had my best interests at heart and recommend treatments that are right for you."
The Cinch Clinic did a full consultation, explaining what options Anastasia had to achieve the results she wanted.
Now her body confidence is soaring: "In a world where there is so much pressure to look good, I feel the treatments gave me the extra confidence boost I needed to actually feel good about myself and in my own skin."
Each treatment lasted from 45 minutes to an hour: "The therapists give you a massage before each treatment with dry body brushing and exfoliation to prep your skin."
Anastasia says she will go for repeat treatments to maximise her body shape, alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle, adding: "This could also be for someone who is not keen on exercise. For me, it was about building up my confidence, which went back to the bullying I suffered when I was a teenager." She adds that the toning treatments have also bolstered her self-esteem prior to going back to the gym.
"I tend to get badly bloated and the treatments have helped alleviate this. I feel a lot leaner and more toned afterwards, I'm able to do more things and feel great in my clothes, so I will definitely go back."
Anastasia also recently tried the Epionce facial for a post-holiday pick-me-up: "It's a deep exfoliation treatment and my skin is so clear and glowing now.
"I've been getting lots of compliments.
"The facial is hydrating, firming and helps reduce any fine lines which are starting to show."
Emotionally buoyed by the treatments, the student adds: "I'm motivated to get back to the gym and work that little bit harder than I normally would as I had seen such amazing results and I know that by working out, this will only get better."
The Targeted Tummy Tightening Treatment and Cellulite Treatment uses a trio of cutting edge techniques including Vacuum Suction, Ultra-Sound Cavitation and Radio Frequency to reduce fat cells, improve skin tone and promote inch loss. The treatments include dry brushing, salt-scrub exfoliation and deep lymphatic massage.
Price for one treatment is on offer at £120, a course of six is £600 and a course of 10 is £800. Cinch Clinic, top floor, King House, 39 High Street, Holywood, tel: 028 9099 5388. Visit www.cinchclinic.co.uk for more information or to book