Hannah DeBlock, ArtSmart mentor news article
Mentor Hannah DeBlock has been on a personal journey for the last 3 years that has resulted in an incredible 85 pound weight-loss. However, her success is far more than just skin deep. Read below about her incredible path to finding her inner confidence, self-acceptance and a new found joy for life that she now uses to inspire her ArtSmart students in their own goal-setting endeavors.

Commitment, hard work, dedication, discipline. These are not always words we want to hear, and these words are certainly not easy. I had been wanting to lose weight for several years before I actually committed to this journey. I hit my heaviest weight, 240 lbs, in fall of 2014. I knew that something had to change, but I didn’t know what. For the rest of that year and all of 2015, I yo-yoed back and forth between losing and gaining weight. I would lose 8-10 pounds and gain 5-7 constantly. I got all the way down to 209lbs, just to go back up to 225. I felt really hopeless that I would ever be able to accomplish my dream.

However, everything changed in July 2016. One of my closest friends and roommate at the time, who had just turned 29, found out that she was diagnosed with cancer. My whole world was shaken. I thought, how could she, someone who was so healthy otherwise, receive such terrible news. My eyes were finally opened, and I was really hit in the face with the brevity of life. Thankfully my friend is fine now, she beat her cancer and is in remission, but it was the jolt that I needed to wake me up to my own health issues and   needs.

The biggest thing that changed for me this time around was the notion that I was not trying to lose weight for some kind of aesthetic goals or because my friends and family thought I needed to lose weight. But that I really needed to do it for me and my health. I was having trouble doing small things like climbing flights of stairs or walking long distances and my right knee was constantly in pain. I knew that I had to set quickly achievable goals for myself, so I started with 5 pounds increments, from 225 to 220 to 215 and so on. I had an end goal in mind, but I chose never to actively think about it because I was afraid that that number would be too scary or daunting. Every time I hit one of my goals, I congratulated myself, but I never celebrated. I would tell myself, okay, Hannah, good job, now on to the next goal.

When I first started, I really threw myself into losing weight (probably a little too hard). I began going to the gym every day and exploring different and new types of nutrition. I explored Paleo, Whole30, vegetarianism, etc. Finally, I found a balance of foods I enjoyed and ones that were healthy. I started to pay attention not just to what I was eating, but how much I was eating. Something that really helped me was meal prepping. I could portion out my meals to be the exact calories I knew I needed for the day. But one thing I never did was deprive myself of or reward myself with my favorite foods, aka ice cream! If I wanted something sweet, I would let myself enjoy it without judgement. And while this may have slowed down my weight loss progress, it has made my journey more stable because it was and is sustainable.

After working really hard for about 8 months, I was down to about 195 pounds. I had found a rhythm and sustainable eating situation. I was beginning to tackle my personal issues that were lying beneath the surface and that were a huge component of the reason I was overweight in the first place. I had joined a Zumba class and cardio kickboxing class and was feeling good. But then I began to plateau… weeks went by with no change in my weight. I started to feel that former and familiar feeling of hopelessness and doubt creeping back in. Voices that told me, “See, we knew you couldn’t do this. You will fail at this like so many others. Why did you think you could succeed?” And yet, despite these seeds of doubt, I pushed forward and pursued what I set out to accomplish. Every day I told myself, no judgement, just keep going, just do it. Even when you don’t want to.

Enter martial arts. One Friday while at the gym, I happened to wander into a room which I thought was empty. But instead I happened upon a karate club that was meeting, and sure enough they invited me to join. And, very much unlike myself, I agreed to say. Boy, am I glad that I did! Not only did my weight loss resume, but I made new friends, learned a new skill, and began to grow confidence that I had never had before. Things clicked and felt right for the first time. Since then I have plateaued several times, again at 180 and 170. I made it down to 160, and then during the holidays I was back up to 175… back and forth, back and forth. But something had changed in me. I never lost faith that I would achieve my goal. I knew in my heart of hearts that I could and would do it.

Since then I have moved around through several mixed martials arts gyms and have just fallen in love with the sport. It has given me courage, confidence, and discipline like I have never had before. I have learned so much about myself through this process. I would be lying if I said it was easy. It wasn’t. I had many nights full of tears and frustration. I constantly worried that what if, even after losing the weight, I would still be the same broken, inferior girl I was in the beginning. But as I shed the physical weight, something else more important began to disappear, my emotional baggage, the true weight that was holding me down, the layers upon layers of lies that I had heard and told myself throughout my life. I began to see them as an opponent and not as part of me. The same way when a fighter is in the octagon, her opponent wants destroy her. So too are our insecurities. They are an enemy that wants to break us down and knock us out. Take us out of the game so that we cannot live up to our full potential. But it is up to us to keep our hands up, guard our face, take the punches as they come and wait for the right moment to strike.

Through this whole three-year process, I have come to appreciate how resilient we can be. We have the strength lying within us to achieve our goals and dreams. But it will not be easy. There are days when you want to give up and throw in the towel…days when it is easier to not get out of bed or to hide from the world. I promise you, the hard work is worth it. You will grow so much more than you ever can imagine. When I started this journey, I did not know that I would come to truly love, appreciate, and accept myself as much as I have. Flaws, quirks, imperfections and all. I’ve come to learn that these things are actually what make us special and unique and one-of-a-kind.

Each of us is our own precious gem that cannot and should not look like any other. So don’t judge yourself. Treat yourself with grace and kindness as you would a best friend. Because in the end, that’s who we have to be to ourselves. When we can do this, the possibilities are endless. I reached my original goal of 155lbs earlier this month and I couldn’t be happier. But why stop there? I am still learning and growing and getting stronger every day. I am excited about the future. I feel full of life and excitement and energy! My next goal is to get back into singing, both classically and my own songs, most of which I have written during this transitional time. I am so grateful to be able share this joy of life and music with my students and encourage them to do the same! So, come on, pick up your gloves. It’s time to fight! Because you are worth it.

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By Hannah DeBlock, ArtSmart Mentor  |  Published on 01/16/2019