Primary school bullies caused teenager Margaret O'Donovan to comfort eat. A magazine article inspired her to lose weight and now she wants to motivate others.
"I didn't tell anyone for the first few months, but as the weight came off, I felt for the first time that I had something to look forward to," says Margaret O'Donovan (19).
"I didn't know what to do with myself the first time I went clothes shopping into Cork city. I wasn't sure where to go or what to pick up, and I had no notion of style. It was funny, in a way."
The bubbly Margaret is reflecting on how her life changed after she lost an incredible four-and-a-half stone in weight over a one-year period.
The pretty teen from Leap in Cork is now a slim size 10, which is amazing when you consider that her school trousers were a size 22.
She attributes her weight gain to being bullied in primary school, which turned her from a bubbly, happy child into an anxious one who ate for comfort.
"Even though my mam cooked healthily, and my family were never into takeaways or junk food, I began eating all of the wrong foods," she says.
"I put on weight, and once I got heavier, it made me back out of a lot of the sports I loved, as I didn't have the confidence to join in.
"My parents were worried, and sometimes suggested that I went for a walk or ate different foods, but I used to get so upset at that.
"Because I had been bullied at school, I thought they were kind of picking on me too, even though all they were doing was trying to help me. I didn't want to hear any of it, so it was hard for them as well."
Having confidence in yourself and your abilities, irrespective of how you look, is the ideal situation in life and should be strongly encouraged, but accepting and embracing your appearance generally comes later in life.
The focus on looks peaks during the teenage years, where young girls are bombarded with images of slim celebrities that they admire, and the emphasis seems firmly focused on weight and image.
High-fashion clothes are often only made in small sizes, which can make life very difficult for an overweight teenage girl who desperately wants to fit in.
For Margaret, secondary school was a much happier experience, because she made a great group of friends who loved her for herself. However, there were still a few things that bothered her.
The turning-point came for Margaret after she read Unislim ambassador Nicola Bleakley's story in the Sunday Independent's 'Life' magazine. Nicola, sister of TV star Christine Bleakley, was talking about wearing maternity clothes for her 18th birthday, which struck a chord in Margaret, who was then aged 17.
"I was crying reading it, because I could relate so much to it," she says.
"I'm really close to my mum, and I went downstairs and said to her that I didn't want to be like that. I had my 18th birthday and debs coming up and wanted to be able to wear nice clothes.
Health & Living