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September 03. 2013 12:30AM

Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: She's walkin' the walk and talkin' the talk

I have been working out with Deb Allen for almost a year. She's strong, fast, fit and has a ton of energy. I never would have guessed that she used to weigh 323 pounds.

Allen's story of losing 185 pounds without weight loss surgery, a fad diet or miracle pill is featured in this month's issue of Prevention Magazine.

She said people who knew about her transformation kept encouraging her to share it with magazines looking for success stories, but she never seriously considered it until she saw a Prevention Magazine Facebook post looking for stories.

Allen, 52, shared with me the information she sent to Prevention.

She is starting her 30th year in the business office at The Derryfield School, but she definitely needs to think about a second career in writing.

She shared her story beautifully and simply — describing her long struggle with over-eating and obesity, why previous diets didn't work because they never addressed why she was addicted to food (she actually lost and gained back 100 pounds three other times in her life), and how she understands that maintaining her current weight will require eating smart and exercising for the rest of her life.

"That's a very long commitment, which takes a significant amount of trust," her submission said. "I had to learn to trust that it was the right thing to do and that it would eventually pay off, even when I wasn't seeing immediate results. One of the most important things I learned, which I didn't understand before, is that I couldn't control the scale or my weight loss, but I could control the process by being mindful of the actions I took every day."

About five months after submitting her story, Allen got an email from a Prevention editor.

It led to a phone interview and then a photo shoot. Allen, who said she had never worn makeup or heels before in her life, said it was a fun day and an amazing experience.

The magazine sent a wardrobe stylist, hair and makeup lady, and two photographers to her home in Goffstown. They took pictures at Fitwise Personal Training, where she works out with Mary Wiseman, and Stark Park.

"It felt like someone picked me up and dropped me into someone else's life for a day," she wrote to me.

Allen's story is inspiring, and the Prevention article and this column only scratch the surface of the wisdom she has to share with others about changing from the inside out.

She shares her story of new-found self-respect and healthy living with individuals in need of encouragement and has also spoken publicly to groups several times.

Public speaking is scary, and speaking to 350 teenagers about a personal story of obesity has to be the most terrifying prospect ever.

But Allen accepted the challenge to stand on a stage for the first time and speak at The Derryfield School's Thanksgiving Assembly.

"I wanted to express my gratitude for being part of such an amazing community, and to convey to our students the importance of treating all people, regardless of body size (or any differences), with dignity and respect," she wrote in an email.

"Teenagers today have grown up with a very negative portrayal of fat people in the media. Everywhere they turn, whether it be in ads, cartoons, reality shows, movies, the news, Facebook or YouTube, obese people are ridiculed. Actors dress up in fat suits, mock the obese, and earn millions of dollars doing it. Kids grow up thinking that fat people are solely responsible for their condition as a result of gluttony and laziness, and that they get what they deserve, which is laughter and humiliation.

"What I hope students took away from my speech is that we all need to be more sensitive to comments about weight, and recognize that fat humor is harmful. I wanted them to understand that people don't get to 300, 400, 500 pounds all by themselves. My experience is that obese people suffer from much more than just overeating and lack of exercise. It's way more complicated than that. I encouraged our students to be kind to everyone, especially those who are struggling, but most importantly to learn to love, respect and take care of themselves."

I am sure it was an important message for the students, but also one we all need to be reminded of. I look forward to reading the full story.

Good time at Gill

I have been a spectator at Gill Stadium many times, but I have never actually been on the field.

The city is giving children of all ages a chance to experience the sensation of being on the big field during its celebration of the stadium's 100th anniversary this weekend.

Among the many activities planned, is a free "Play on the Turf" event on Saturday. Sue Capano, a member of the stadium centennial committee, said the event will promote athletics and healthy lifestyles from 1 to 4 p.m. with live entertainment, a climbing wall, bungee jumping, races, food samples, crafts, face painting and so much more.

For more information on all the events planned for the celebration, visit intownmanch.wordpress.com.

NH365.ORG Event of Week

A sure sign of the end of summer is the colorful sign on the front lawn of St. Pius X Church on Candia Road announcing the parish's annual fair.

The fun includes a rummage sale, penny sale, raffles and food. It all starts Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. and continues during the day on Saturday and Sunday.

For more information on this and other events around Manchester this week, visit www.NH365.org.

If you have an interesting item for Scene in Manchester, write to Scene@UnionLeader.com.


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