The Pell City woman was tired all the time and depressed about how she looked and felt.
Now, thanks to a hula-hoop, she is a changed person — inside and out.
Hughes has lost 120 pounds and is in the best shape of her life, even after having a baby just a month ago.
Today, Hughes is a professional hula hooper.
“I quit my day job in December 2009, and I never looked back,” Hughes said. “Hoop dance is what I do fulltime and it has changed my life.”
Hughes said she had always been overweight and attributed it to being “big boned.”
After years of failed diets and workouts, she gained even more weight, which started taking its toil on her heath and wellbeing.
“I picked up my first hoop in August, 2008, and have not put it down since,” Hughes said. “I have gone from a size 24 to a size 4, a size I never thought I would see.
Hughes said the fitness benefits from hooping have been great, but what she truly loves is how hooping has transformed her entire life.
“I feel centered and whole inside my hoop,” she said.
“My hoop has given me courage beyond my wildest dreams. Hooping has helped me with depression and has taught me to embrace who I am — flaws and all.”
Hula hooping is something Hughes does every day, even if it is only for 10 minutes.
“Just 10 minutes burns 150 calories,” she said. “It makes me feel good, gives me energy, gets rid of my stress and helps me focus on me so I can forget about everything else.”
Hughes now teaches hoop dance classes every Monday at the Pell City Civic Center. She has had as many as 20 in the class.
“I want to do something that brings joy to peoples’ lives,” Hughes said.
“I want to help them get healthy. I teach exercise in the class and how you can hula-hoop on your arms, your knees, your head and your neck.”
Hughes also teaches classes in Birmingham, Homewood and Munford.
As a hobby, Hughes and three other ladies go out and perform at different locations. Currently, they are preparing to perform at Atrox in Leeds in October.
They use hoops with lights inside them and also perform with hoops that are on fire.
“We will entertain the crowd at Atrox every Friday and Saturday night,” Hughes said.
Wendy Curvin, who started hooping last October, said the first official fire performance will be at Atrox.
“We will street perform, which is basically free-style hooping,” Curvin said.
“I like the attention hooping brings. You cannot be shy and do this. I’ve always enjoyed being the center of attention and hooping does that for me. I like entertaining people and they seem to enjoy it. It’s fun and I enjoy being part of this group of girls.”
Another lady in the group is Curvin’s daughter, Melanie, who just turned 17 and is a senior home-schooled student.
“My mom got me involved and to me, it looked like a lot of fun,” Melanie Curvin said.
“I took ballet when I was little and I stopped performing for awhile. Hooping has really helped me come out of my shell some.”
Dawn McAdams joined the group last October after having surgery to remove cancer in August.
“I was having a hard time dealing with the cancer and they encouraged me to come out and try hooping,” McAdams said.
“I instantly fell in love with it and it turned my life around completely. It helped take stress away and I was getting the exercise I needed. Afterward, I noticed I had more energy. In the first three weeks, I lost 12 pounds and two jean sizes. It has totally changed my life.”
Contact Gary Hanner at email@example.com.