Looking back now, 34-year-old Katie Hug can pinpoint exactly when she started gaining weight: She was in college, where her diet was already less than nutritious, and she had just been prescribed a cocktail of drugs to treat her anxiety and depression — all of which left her feeling slower and sleepier.
"I was put on different medications that made me feel more sluggish, and then all I wanted to do was eat," the Kuna, Idaho native confessed to People.
By 2012, Hug was a mom to three young children, and her weight had crept up to 270 pounds. She knew she was on the heavier side ("I was shopping at the plus-size store and things like that," she said), but it wasn't until her doctor warned her that she may be "morbidly obese" that the severity of her situation set in.
"I think that's what did it," Hug said. "I just got sick and tired of being fat and being overweight and being miserable in my own skin."
And so Hug's weight-loss journey began. She started by cutting down her daily calorie intake ("I had no idea I was eating around 5,000 a day," she told Women's Health in 2015), swapping pasta and refined grains for lean protein and veggies, and prepping her meals for the week in advance. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Hug, however? Totally transforming her attitude toward exercise.
"[When I was heavier] I didn't find any joy in it; it wasn't fun for me," she told People. "I actually hated everything about it. My kids would go for a walk with my husband, and I would stay home. I didn't want any part of it."
So Hug started slow, following along with a 15-minute workout video once a day, every day, for the first 30 days of her weight-loss journey. Once those 30 days passed, she was ready for a bigger challenge, so she took up walking, which eventually turned into jogging and then running.
Today, she's not only ramped up her fitness routine to include five days of cardio and two to three days of strength-training per week, but she's even become a certified personal trainer and teaches multiple fitness classes a week.
Perhaps the best part of discovering her love for working out, however, is the effect it's had on Hug's mental health. She began seeing a psychiatrist at the beginning of her weight-loss journey to help safely wean her off her anxiety and depression meds and regain the energy she lost when she started on them, according to Women's Health. Thankfully, it worked — and for Hug, exercise proved to be the perfect replacement.
"You start to feel that serotonin and dopamine and all that from exercise, and I didn't have that before," she said. "I used that as the outlet for stress, anxiety, depression. That made a huge difference."
Since 2012, Hug has lost an impressive 137 pounds — and gained a better life, overall.
"Everything's easier when you're taken care of — when you're not taken care of, everything else falls apart," she said. "Overall, I just feel better and it's reflected so awesomely on my family and my marriage. It's just been great."