Crusader Trying to Whittle Away the Negative Image of Fat People

Associated Press

Overweight Phyllis Nilsson campaigns for fat people, saying they don't want diets or sympathy--just acceptance.

"The only reason they are not happy is because they're not accepted," she says.

"If they were accepted by society, I can't see any reason why they would not be happy about the way they look. It's a matter of being accepted by this world."

Nilsson, 49, is somewhat of a crusader for fat people. She works as a medical transcriber at a Toledo hospital and has organized three singles groups, one for the overweight.

"Overweight people have been so maligned for so long. We need to stop sitting back taking cruelty and insensitivity," she says.

"I've been turned down for jobs when I was a lot thinner than I am now. I've seen an overweight woman laughed at in a bathing suit on a beach. I have heard her own mother say to a woman, 'Why bother wearing makeup? You're still going to be fat.'

"I would love to get back to the time of Rubens and Botticelli, when larger women were considered healthy and attractive."

Since that's not likely, Nilsson is devoting her time to changing the way Americans perceive the overweight. She is the founder of several dating services and Very Special People, a group for overweight singles.

Nilsson, who was divorced for six years, knows firsthand the loneliness of being fat and single. She married her second husband eight months after meeting him through Very Special People.

"What beauty used to be has changed, and it's sad that we've allowed it," she says. "So many people are so unhappy because of the way they're treated. The weight doesn't make me unhappy, but I deplore people looking at someone who is overweight and making a snap judgment as to why, and treating a person differently because of it.

"If a thin woman sees an overweight woman with a man in her life, she thinks it isn't deserved.

"They think overweight people don't deserve anything in life--that they are all gluttons. People are uneducated. Metabolism does play a part, and genes are inherited. You cannot change the stock from which you came. If you have two overweight parents, you have an 80% chance of being overweight."

She says overweight people are just like anyone else: "They need to learn it's what's inside that is important. If you lose 50 pounds, will you be sweeter or more loving? Before I die, I hope I have educated people to look for more. You don't have to be thin or fat. You just have to be you and be willing to accept other people for what they are."

A weight problem is not a problem unless it becomes a health concern, she says: "The only time weight becomes a problem is in morbid obesity, or 100 pounds overweight or more. I am considered to be grossly obese--that's the physicians' term--but I am healthy."

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